Tuesday, April 13, 2010

How I learned the Hallelujah Chorus

Dear Georgia,

Happy Birthday!

My birthday story for you is coming, but before I forget I wanted to tell you how much fun it was to sing the Hallelujah Chorus this Easter. And how challenging.

First, I am an alto by choice and ability, but made the mistake of letting the choir director, Tom W. Harris, hear me squawk out some very harsh, sort-of high notes. He stuck me in the soprano section! My throat has been sore ever since.

Second, I don't read music. Not a lick. I still count up the number of notes from middle C both on the sheet music and on the piano. To cover my sad musical failure, I have developed a decent ear and I can get the tune of most pieces that I sing if I hear it a couple of times. It does limit the level of music I attempt to sing. I gladly confess I mostly stick to hymns, folk songs, and show tunes, poorly executed. I know this isn't the hardest music ever written (I remember Doug Bush saying once that Handle was for amateurs) but it was way beyond the way beyond of my ability to hear, play, or sing.

Third, because it wasn't MY church choir I was singing with I only started to learn this piece the Wednesday before Easter! I have proven myself as a procrastinator but this was beyond the pale! The Wednesday rehearsal I fumbled my way sheepishly through by not singing. I was so lost. I was so embarrassed. I was desperately trying to figure out a way to get out of my commitment. Couldn't one of my kids start throwing up? Or perhaps I could fall down the stairs and break my leg?

I went home and turned to my favorite library of music. Youtube. And low and behold, ask and ye shall recieve, the Lord doth provide, there was the answer to my prayers! No, not videos on how to fake food poisoning or how to start a temporary scarlet fever epidemic, but HOW TO LEARN THE HALLELUJAH CHORUS!!!!!

I played and sang with the following 3 videos so much in the next three days that I was sure the neighbors were going to call the cops. "Officer, there is a woman in pain next door. She is being tortured! Rescue her!"

So, did I succeed? Well, that depends on what success means. I still can't read music. I still am not a soprano. BUT I hit all the notes! My vocal range expanded! My confidence expanded! I increased my determination to keep trying to learn how to read music. AND I had fun! I had so much fun! I want to do it over and over and over again! What a great song! What a fun musical dance and puzzle and play! It left me positively giddy! Perhaps these videos won't give you the same experience that I had, but for your birthday I wish you that same feeling of accomplishment and joy that I felt on learning to sing the Hallelujah Chorus.

First: the s l o w e d d o w n version so I could follow along with the notes that I couldn't read.

Next, on tempo, with other people hitting the right notes.

Then, on my own with a bunch of people singing something completely different.

Last, with the choir and orchestra! Yeah me!


  1. I loooove this Heidi! And you have the best ear ever--I never had any trouble singing with you because you can sing on key because of your talented ear. Lots of speedy sight readers would trade with you.

    Hey, I heard from your fam that you and coming to Utah in August by plane rather than the great american (crazy) roadtrip. If this is true, we will miss you at Aimond-Bar-Seven Ranch, but we will come down to meet you, okay? So be sure to pencil us in for a day or two cuz we need some Egan fun, big time!

  2. Heidi, why is there no comment from me here? I spiritually created at least three. Didn't I leave one? Or did your comment box eat it? I yam so confused!

    And I am so happy about your story. I love Handel. Color me amateur. Actually, color me audience, because if YOU can't sing, honey, then I'm a croaking toad.

    I have always wanted to attend a Messiah sing-in, but they always cost money around here. One day I will. I think I inherited the longing from my ma.

    I am going to practice too, but I will not attempt the soprano part. I want to not ruin what croaking voice I have. But I will follow your excellent example and refer to YouTube (as I so often do) to learn my alto part.

    I love you and your sense of ingenuity and fun. I wish I was your neighbor. I would not call the cops when I heard you practicing. xoxoxo

  3. Heidi, I love you and I miss you and I blogged about you today. Hugs--jm