Yesterday afternoon, I attended an unusual performance of Handel’s Messiah. It was unusual in that the choir was the audience of about 200 people, perhaps 70% female.

When a friend of mine and I arrived at the church where this was being held, I picked up a copy of the score with my program. Inside the sanctuary, different sections of the pews were labelled with different voice types: Alto, Tenor, etc. My friend and I sat in the Alto section.

My speech therapist tells me that the pitch of my normal speaking voice when I am on my game is in the Alto/Contralto range (think the adult Judy Garland or Cher or Annie Lennox) and I do sing in church, but it quickly became apparent from conversations I overheard before we started and the familiar comfort with which those around me handled the bound sheet music that I was surrounded by singers who knew what they were doing.

I have only a slight knowledge of reading music,  was about to take part in performing a complex masterpiece of baroque-era music, and I didn’t know for certain how my singing voice would be classified.

No pressure.

But I went ahead, doing my best to keep my singing pitched at where I try to keep my speaking voice.

It seems to have worked! Either that, or I was simply drowned out by that magnificent amateur choir.

I have, of course, heard  Handel’s Messiah performed many times, some of them live. I own a recording of it. None of those hearings matched the exuberance and sheer joy of being engaged in making it happen!

After the performance, while waiting in line with some other women to get into the church’s bathroom, I chatted with another amateur performer who, like me, was still tingling and in awe from the experience.  We were both still stunned, but in the best possible way.

The euphoria didn’t wear off for some time. Simply amazing!




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