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Choral Grief Reflections

Updated: Mar 11, 2021

It was about a week ago that I came in from my evening “porch sit” with tears in my eyes. I cherish that time to read, pray, and reflect on things. That particular evening, a sadness that had been growing just burst out from under the surface. When I walked through the door, the flood gates opened-- I ran to hug my husband and cried: “I miss choir!! We should have been singing Beethoven next weekend.”

I am just one of millions of people who are experiencing grief over cancellations-- graduations, musicals, sporting events, weddings, and the list goes on! After I allowed the sadness to break through, I started to realize it was much more than the fact that our performance was cancelled. What I was really grieving the most was the rehearsal process to get to the performance. Before our worlds were all turned upside down, we had one rehearsal to practice Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. I remember leaving the rehearsal thinking, “hmmm, that was really hard.” But I was looking forward to the rewarding challenge of tackling this piece of music with my fellow choristers. That is what I really miss.

I’ve been in choir rehearsal since 6th grade. This is where I learned to listen to people, to share a common goal, and to understand the beautiful balance of how an individual can contribute to a group. To me, choir rehearsal has always been a microcosm of how I believe God created us to commune with one another. There is a common goal that we all share-- and that goal is beautiful and worth working toward. In rehearsal, you learn to hold in tension the things that make this goal possible. It is a space where you learn that your commitment to individual growth and artistry is ultimately to serve the whole. You learn to value deference, humility, and listening as well as boldness, creativity, and personal responsibility. It’s hard for me to accept that while these are the things we so desperately need right now, the space has become unsafe. That is difficult for me to wrap my head around, and I must admit that I feel a tinge of anger every time I hear the phrase “new normal.” This is anything but normal. As thankful as I am for creative ways to have virtual choir performances, live streams, Zoom hangouts and the like, these are shadows (and sometimes exhausting ones!) of the way that we were meant to connect.

For now, I hold on to the lessons that choir has taught me. By submitting to what must be at the moment, we are serving the whole. I cling to listening to pieces I’ve sung with choirs over the years on my walks, and I am reminded of all the wonderful moments that still bring me joy even though we are apart. I am praying for the day we get to meet again.

-Perry Houck, Soprano with Atlanta Master Chorale

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