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I'm not a very religious person in the conventional sense of the word, but I have a reverence for spiritual settings, and there is something about singing in a church that gets me every time. It doesn't matter whether I am singing alone or with a group. And it doesn't matter whether the music is secular or not. It's not so much the song as it is the SINGING. Something about the engineered raised spaces, the way the nave and the sanctuary draw your eye upward, exposing your throat and opening it up. Something about the acoustics, the way the sound rises, the way it fills the space, no matter how large; the way it expands like a cloud, like a whisper, like a wave.

In preparation for the huge 3000-member choral concert that I'm participating in next month, the organizers planned several extra rehearsals at various points around Sweden. Yesterday our choir drove up to Kristianstad,* about an hour away in the northeast corner of Skåne to join several hundred people. Our conductor is Kjell Lönnå, who is well-known in Sweden as a choir leader and television host. We started at 6:30 and had a 20-minute break somewhere around 8 p.m. for coffee and sandwiches and a quick run to the bathroom, and then we returned to our hot, sweaty seats to continue singing our hearts out. We went through the entire program and several songs were struck and one was added...I think we ended up with about 25 or so in the program at the end. The majority are in Swedish, but there is a handful in English, several in Latin and one in German, and it's a good mix of styles as well, everything from hymns to 50's pop to Mississippi blues.

My choir is a women's choir, and we have between 30-40 members at any given time. It's been years since I sang in a choir with men, all the way back to high school, in fact, and it was a treat to listen to the bass voices rumbling away on my left and cushioning the sound from the rest of us. There was no warm-up at all, we just dove right in to the first song, which started with a series of notes on "ahhhhhh" in 4-part harmony. And as the sound swelled and buffeted around the room, I realized all over again how important singing is to me. How it makes me feel more alive in every fiber, hair and cell, and how it makes me feel more me. It puts me in tune.

Really Great Writing Out There Right Now: Literary Diet

*Which, amusingly to me, is pronounced, in Skånska at least, in the following way: Ki-hfwan-stah. Most non-Swedes who have heard the name but not seen it written don't even realize it's the same word.
mood: cheerful
music: me singing Isn't She Lovely


oh, my! kjell lönnå... and interviewed by sydsvenskan. you jet setter! :-)

when and where will this huge choir be singing?

Globen in Stockholm, October 14th :)


One of the great sadnesses of my life is that I can't sing. I mean, at all. It's bad. It took me YEARS before I even got up the nerve to whisper-sing "Happy Birthday" to my mate. (He claims my voice is fine--but trust me, it's not.) It's been a life-long phobia--singing in public. Wish it wasn't so. Although I can largely blame it on Sister Mary A., our music teacher (not an elective--we had 'singing class' five days a week for 8 YEARS) would always make a sort of distasteful face when she'd look at us altos. Imagine getting the very clear message that your singing SUCKS...but are made to do it daily anyway. It may have been that she was just heavily biased toward the sopranos. Oh crap...another life-long belief I'll have to let go of. ;) ~Marilyn

You definitely have to let go of it. And darn that stupid Sister Mary A for the life-long trauma she engendered! My poor sister had to deal with that as well, she couldn't carry a tune and she had to live with my AND my father warbling all the time. She's still very self-conscious about it, although I know she at least does sing with her kids ;)


As the Seester who cannot sing I do have a lifelong problem helped on by my voice lesson teacher who told Mom "don't waste your money!" in front of me. I DO sing to my kids and Rachel loves it but Bryce keeps saying..." NOOO SEEENGING!!" :( with his face all scrunched up and hands over the ears. So I know I am still REALLY bad!!!!! But in a car by myself?????? AT the top of my lungs! : ) To hear my sister sing is like being enveloped by music... She just has a way of sending her voice to your very core. She sings phenomenally well! Love Sarah

oh poo *blushes*

Ahhh~~I'm so glad you're singing. I have spent years working through my phobia of singing in groups, or in earshot of others, and I'm in a mixed state of being over it and yet not. I love singing.
On the wish list:
someday a choir
[actually last year I joined my friend Gw in the potluck choir for a season. It was not a performing choir. I think I'd join the Peace Choir if it weren't a performing choir. someday]

wow, I just went to look up the Peace choir... I used to live in Eugene.. some of those faces look vaguely familiar~! (ahhh.. years ago... life was good, I was young... sigh. )
I live up in the Columbia gorge now east of Portland

singing is good! hurray for overcoming those darn phobias. Focus on the love!

"singing is good! hurray for overcoming those darn phobias. Focus on the love!"

I second that!

That Peace Choir in Eugene looks WONDERFUL!

You know, it's really weird. I get major stage fright if I'm going to sing alone or in a small ensemble (although it doesn't stop me), but singing in a choir doesn't give me at all the same thing. It's very comforting to be up there with so many others and know that you can efface yourself somewhat, and the group covers any mistakes you might make :)

It is wonderful.

The director is the same as the potluck choir I sang in last fall for awhile.

I get that about the larger group, but I have trouble just in the group.. no problem even worrying about getting to the audience and stage fright stage.
What about the people in my section? Standing next to me? eekk..

I do go to a monthly song circle. I sometimes feel exhilarated, sometimes majorly shy.

For my fiftieth birthday I had a talent show at my house and got up and sang a solo that I'd been working on so much that the kids were getting sick of hearing it [still had grown kids at home! again]
Anyhow, it was just a small group of really close friends, but I was a trembling! Did it though..

that's even harder, I think! Singing in front of family and friends. :) You're a brave, brave woman! :)

WOW! What an incredible and uplifting experience!!! Oh how I wish I could sit in the audience and hear this...thank you for sharing in words the incredible feeling that does come from singing well done, and the joy of all the voices working together. I do so love to sing, and my daughter leannan_sidhe as well... she is in music in school now... this reminds me of one time she got to participate in a multi-choir event in high school, and they worked so hard together practicing in a cold building at the fairgrounds with birds flying around inside... and when the performance came they sounded so heavenly, and on a very difficult piece! It really touched her spirit for sure!
(and I got to be in the audience for that one!)

I participated in several of these group choir things when I was in high school, too, and very nearly tried out for Up With People, but didn't do it for various reasons. I had some friends who did though :) I can't believe it took me SO long to get back to singing.

well, good job! you did good, kid! You didn't just get back to singing, oh no... you got into a 3000 member choral group!!!!!

LOL! Well, the choir I am in is 30-40 people normally...this concert is open to singers all over Sweden and is a benefit for Läkarmissionen (sorry, the English part of the site doesn't seem to be available), a non-profit charity organizations that supports mission hospitals in South Africa and India, although their scope is much broader than that nowadays.

What a wonderful thing to be a part of! You know that you are singing healing into the lives of others!

I've heard that it is normally televised, although I haven't had that confirmed yet...I know that they DO record it. This is the 8th year that they've done the benefit. :)

You all must sound exquisite. And your description of singing--of SINGING--was so beautiful. And I think you're right, there IS something sacred in the act of inhaling and exhaling through song.


I SO relate to the first paragraph you wrote, that is exactly how I feel about it too.

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