“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” William Shakespeare
Like many of you, during these past 20 months, I’ve done much self-reflection. I constantly questioned myself, hoping answers will lead me to understand myself. What kind of person and choral leader am I, or do I WANT to be? What is important, truly important, in my life? And WHO is important to me? I’ve been mulling these questions around for a year and I believe I know myself better than I ever have.
Sondra* has also been self-reflecting during the past year. She never thought the Pandemic could be a good thing, but it has turned out to be a time of self-discovery for her. Her church job became lower key, so she was able to practice for as long as she wanted or needed, with no deadlines except those she set for herself. She could record her preludes and postludes when she was ready, and felt she was in better form musically than she has been in years.
Early in the Pandemic, her choir rehearsed regularly on Zoom, then recorded themselves. She chose simple music, often in two parts, which made rehearsals easy. Once a month, a nice man on the church council edited them together so the choir could participate in the congregation’s YouTube and streamed services. While not the type of music they usually sang, it was still something and kept the choir working toward a shared goal when they couldn’t be together.
Once the congregation and choir got on some sort of schedule during the beginning of these difficult times, for the first time in many years, Sondra had much more time to do other things. She (of course) baked and tried to replicate favorite family recipes from her childhood. Her dormant desire to write poetry was revived and she wrote one poem a day from March 2020 to December 2020. She found a sketch pad from her college days and drew small sketches right before or right after she practiced or had a Zoom choir rehearsal.
The funny thing was, the more she created in other artistic media—whether through food, a poem, or a sketch—the better she felt about what she was doing musically. Her poetry seemed to zero in on her feelings about what she had practiced that day and evoked real clarity. The sketches became visual descriptions of her pieces or the choral music her choir was working on. One of her singers mentioned Sondra seemed in sync with their simple anthems. Sondra told her she was sketching, and it was helping her relax and focus.
As restrictions were lifted, and her congregation was able to worship in person, Sondra has taken some of what she has learned and applied it to this transition time. Her practice times have gone back to what is normal for her, but she has been using a few new techniques she has learned to get more out of it. Her poetry and her sketching have been a new way of channeling her creativity and enhancing her musical performance.
She has begun to keep a small sketch pad and a felt tip pen in the organ loft, and occasional sketches during the Pastor’s sermons. He noticed one week and when she showed him what she was drawing, he loved her sketches so much they’ve decided to put together a small book of sketches and sermons. She continues to write poetry and that has helped her deal with some of the things we are all still dealing with.
Without the Pandemic, Sondra would never have realized how much she has missed sketching and drawing. And she would never have had time to write poetry, which she thinks helps her practice strategy. Having time to turn inward has been good for Sondra because she also realized just how many of her other talents, those other parts of her, she has neglected for music. But she feels her other talents—writing poetry and sketching—can enhance what she does and makes sure to make time for them every day.
Until next week, be well and be safe.
I am not able to take my Choral Ethics Blogs to my chamber choir’s Facebook page today. Hope to see you again next week!