Thursday, December 29, 2016

Altogether Now

On Rosh Chodesh and Chanukah, I cannot help but remember my schoolgirl days when reaching Hallel. The institution's policy was that for Hallel, all the girls would gather in the auditorium, and would sing it altogether.
I have been told my singing ability is questionable, yet when hundreds of children belt the tunes out, it doesn't matter. Singing together was an uplifting experience. No matter what was contributed, a softer voice, a jarring bellow, a mellifluous harmony, a discordant squawk, the end result was the same: Beautiful unity. 
I feel an additional pleasure, though, greater than flow, when I sing in a choir. It’s a mode of singing that strikes a balance between feeling necessary — each voice must participate to achieve the grand unified sound — and feeling invisible, absorbed into the choir, your voice no longer yours. I can work hard, listen hard and disappear, let the ocean of sound close over me. It is comforting to disappear into all that sound and to know that no one else will hear me, either. The performance feels like a secret.
So writes Sarah Manguso, in Letter of Recommendation: Choir. Whilst Jewish (I think), she joined a church choir in college for the above experience. 

That transcendence stays with me for the rest of the year following Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. I dare to presume that everyone's favorite piyut is "Ki Anu Amecha." There is an increased surge in the room's energy when it is reached. The words are simple for such eloquent yearning—where we all join together, on various levels and beliefs, as one. 

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