Sunday, October 26, 2008

Gospel Choir in disarray

OK, so the choir I did join, just for a weekend: I'm glad I did it, but it was wild.

First of all, it was truly on the other side of town. But of course, first of all, everything is, and besides, the trains are great. So I read.

I got there and found it, trusty map in hand (going straight from a boat trip for our whole institute, families and staff and all), and made my way inside a forbidding-looking large double wooden door with bars on the windows at the far bubble end of a round cul-de-sac (not like a cul-de-sac in the States with countryside all around - somehow here they fit cul-de-sacs into the middle of nonstop streets and buildings and playgrounds and stores and more streets and people, people, people, bikes, kids). Found a lovely far-from-forbidding inner courtyard there, with a woman standing in the large arched (I think) entryway to the courtyard looking at signs, and asked if she was there for the choir. Long story short, she was, she was early, I was early, but we went in together, found the bathrooms (important: we were going to spend hours upon hours upon hours there), and found our seats together.

Being all proper and playing it safe I Siezed her (pronounced Zeetsed), i.e. used the formal you. And in the gradually filling room around us (filling almost exclusively with women), people were buzzing and talking and mostly using Du (familiar you) but I kept playing it safe. (Later it became clear the choir director was calling us all Du and I asked: people told me, "in choirs you always say "du" to each other.) 

(Aside about that: in my Nordic Walking group on Wednesday (striding through the woods with long poles in our hands) I also asked about it,  because the previous week our leader, who officially/formally would be Frau Doktor somebody-or-other, seemed to have called me both Du and Sie at different times. I asked, and she said "Yes, well, athletes always say "du" to each other". But then she added "But sometimes I slip and say "Sie"." Very confusing. More on this later.)

I don't want (actually, I do want, but I'm restraining myself) to tell all about the choir weekend in gory detail. In a nutshell, there we were, and first we suddenly found out that we were going to be learning choreography, not just songs.

Then we found out that our choir director's choir (she was brought in from Bremerhaven), which was supposed to have come along, which would have made our lives easier (they would know what they were doing, and we would lean on them), wasn't coming after all (their sponsor dropped out).

Then it became abundantly clear that the choir director herself had the flu and was getting sicker and sicker as the weekend progressed. She was going to belt out the main parts of a lot of the songs and we were just supposed to be the backup on the choruses and things. And she was fabulous when she did belt, but she could do it less and less and clearly also had less and less oomph and energy to teach us things, do things with us, help us out.

Then she kept saying, trust us (she had two assistants with her). Trust us. 

Well, we sang twice for people on Sunday, after 3 hours together Friday night and about 10 hours on Saturday. And we never did trust her and we were right not to. It wasn't a complete fiasco because some of the songs were nice, and my family and my neighbors, who came to church on Sunday morning to hear and see us, thought it was just fine from the outside. And mostly, I made a couple of friends, for which I am extremely glad.

However, as a choir, we were very insecure and missed an awful lot of cues. We altos really had a hard time remembering what we were supposed to sing (we were tempted to sing along with either the sopranos or the poor tenors, who were made up of a couple of young men (who were there sporadically) and maybe 6 or 8 brave women), and we couldn't see or hear the director very well (in the afternoon concert, we could not see or hear her *at all*).

Everyone was annoyed because on the Saturday afternoon we spent a number of hours playing sort of get-to-know-you games, playacting games, things like that. We were in a circle of 50 people or so and spent a few hours doing this, when our director had promised us we would be practicing our individual parts, which we sorely needed. A lot of the others, who unlike me are busy tied-in people in Berlin, were truly irritated because they had put all their busy things aside to do this choir weekend, but we were really, it felt like, just marking time together. (I thought getting-to-know-you games might not be so terrible but it did end up being poorly run, and we spent a couple of hours playing some game where basically 6 or 7 people participated and everybody else watched. Not so good.)

And we felt dissed in many ways - Sunday afternoon we were supposed to be there at 3 to practice, at 3:30 we hadn't started and she threw us out of the church so she could concentrate on something; she never told us what we were about to sing; she never really gave us a clear account of how many times we would sing the various choruses in a row, which seemed to keep changing, so that when we were actually performing on Sunday afternoon, since we altos couldn't see or hear her, we were pretty lost!

However, I went somewhere new, did something different, met very nice people, and so I'm glad of it. I thought since it was so far from where we live I'd never see these people again but in fact I exchanged contact info with three of them (one soprano, one tenor, and my special alto buddy) and on Friday I went for a wonderful long walk with my alto buddy, and we talked German about 1/3 of the time and English the rest, because she doesn't get as many chances to talk English as she'd like (she's an English teacher when she isn't organizing and leading bike tours around Berlin). 

But what a chaotic weekend!

No comments: