Singing for joy

Listeners packed all available space in Baltimore’s Walters Art Gallery for the annual Christmas concerts by the Peabody Junior Choir in the years during the late stages of World War II and following the war’s end. The choir, numbering about 80 carefully selected young women of high school age, always drew big crowds to these exquisite concerts that featured music of the season, much of it familiar carols set to lush arrangements crafted by Anna K. Zink, the choir’s accompanist.

Marie Spillman Meurer, PJC’s no-nonsense conductor, lovingly prepared these young singers in arduous rehearsals for a full season of appearances that culminated in the Christmas concerts. My sister Peggy sang alto with this choir for several years. To this day, she considers the experience a cherished highlight of her life. Naturally, our family eagerly attended the choir’s concerts, particularly those in the Christmas season. We thrilled at the warm, heartfelt sounds they delivered.

That set the table for me. My life since those early years has plunged me into an eclectic mixture of jobs and leisure pursuits, but whatever I was doing, I always made it a point  to scratch that itch, that persistent need to make music, mostly by singing with others. This has ranged from solo recitals to musical theater to quartets and competitive choruses singing barbershop, a cappella groups both professional and amateur, church choirs and large choruses performing major works. Singing with others is hard to beat.

Few experiences can match the thrill of a ringing chord or the shimmer of 150 voices singing a gorgeous, centuries-old musical phrase, hushed in a perfect pianissimo. Raises the hairs on one’s arms, brings tears to those who hear and oh, yes, to those who sing. Singers’ hearts beat faster as they rehearse and sing the bountiful supply of music written and arranged for the Christmas season. So much of it is upliftingly beautiful.

I hope my voice never gives out.

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