My dad, an accomplished musician and musicologist himself, has consistently encouraged me to foster my own appreciation for and skills in the musical arts. When I was a child, this came mostly in the form of my taking piano lessons—only briefly from him, though, since we quickly discovered that this kind of father-daughter collaboration wasn’t good for our relationship—and my participation in youth choral groups.
For a few years, Dad decided to further expand my musical horizons.
Our musical horizons, rather: together, we joined and sang in an enormous, non-audition choir whose repertoire was mostly gospel music and whose members ranged from children to the elderly.
I’m not sure how or where the idea to sign us both up for this choral community was born. What I do know is that I loved being a part of it. (He did too, I think, but I’m not going to ask; no point risking being wrong and having this particular illusion shattered.) Practices took place on a weekly basis in a church that was a twenty-minute drive from the housing co-op in which we lived, providing distance and reprieve from our microcosm of hippydom—reason enough to look forward to attending. It wasn’t, however, just that I liked having a mini-vacay from normal life. Indeed, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this choir and valued the sense of belonging that its fellowship through music fostered.
I’m not going to lie: the official choir uniform, a T-shirt purchasable in an array of colours (I chose purple), was an additional lure.
The director and accompanist had the talent, charisma, and warmth to assemble a multigenerational community choir that somehow managed to (more or less) master reasonably complex choral arrangements. As is right and just for such a magical being, she also hosted a singalong show that was broadcast on Vision TV. A singalong show on which Dad and I made an appearance in what was one of the most surreal and exciting experiences of my childhood. Yep, I’m basically a celebrity; yes, you can have my autograph, but only in exchange for LEGO or Pusheen stuffed toys.
Even now, twentyish years post-choir, a song that I learned during my brief stint as a gospel singer occasionally rings through my head. Next time I see Dad, I should hum the tune to jog his memory and ask him to be the bass to my alto. It’s been too long.