It was great training. I sang alto in all my school and church choirs, in trios and quartets, and with my friends and family. I can hear the alto part as naturally and clearly as I can hear the melody.
But inexplicably a couple of years ago my voice changed. I am stuck in a no-woman's land between tenor and bass (in the baritone range) warbling hoarsely as I search for a tune. Baritone notes aren't written in the hymnal, and I don't have an ear for how it should sound. I croak now. I squawk.
It's heartbreaking to have one of my main talents, actually one of my great joys, disappear from my life. I brood about it every time I try to sing in the car, or at church, or to my grandkids. I've lost part of the rhythm of my personality.
It has gradually occurred to me that people lose abilities all the time and then rise to the challenge of change. Women have strokes and learn to walk and talk again, men go blind and learn to read braille—surely I can learn to sing a different song, too.
So I've started a new interlude. I got some Cd's for my car along with coordinating books of music, and this morning I sat at the piano and picked out parts for ten songs, combining the tenor and bass notes for my new range. I rehearsed the unfamiliar harmonies, and now I can practice with the Cd's as I drive.
My friend Sarah was telling me how her voice has changed. She still has one, but nobody's listening to it anymore. After being a full-time mom for thirty years, the kids have grown up and moved out and the techniques she's perfected seem unnecessary. Grace's audience has disappeared, too. She had leadership responsibilities that have passed to someone else's shoulders, and she's not ready for the tempo of her life to slow down. Many of us seem to have a whole repertoire of songs we won't be singing anymore. Thank goodness there are a million new ones to learn.
An interesting thing happened while I plunked out the solid, repetitive, low notes on the piano today. I realized that while I had been crooning my familiar refrain, other voices had added a rich, dependable quality to the chorus. The high notes need the low notes to resonate.
My tune has changed. Maybe I can become one of the voices singing "Dong" at the end of Carol of the Bells, or "Pum" to finalize The Little Drummer Boy. A sonorous "A-men" always thrills the congregation. It's time for me to be the accompaniment and let someone else do the solos.