May 23, 2015 by Jean
Is it possible to be addicted to something that is good for you? If you are, does it become too much of a good thing? I’ve sometimes wondered this about my heavy consumption of tea. I felt both relieved and smug when scientists began to report the health benefits of drinking tea; it turned out that my most serious addiction was good for me. Since then, though, I’ve noticed that when doctors ask me just how much tea I drink and I tell them, their eyes pop open – suggesting that this may be too much of a good thing.
The addiction that’s on my mind these days, though, isn’t tea but singing. Specifically, singing in a group. In the 46 years since I graduated from college and stopped the kind of choral singing I did throughout my school years, I can’t say that I was aware of missing it. Well, maybe an occasional bit of wistful longing –but no sense of a big hole in my life. Nevertheless, in the two months since I began the creative aging singing workshop at the Portland Public Library, I have gotten hooked. Our workshop director is fond of sending us links to articles about the beneficial effects of singing on aging brains, so there seems to be evidence that this is a healthful addiction; but it is an addiction all the same.
Our singing workshop is about to come to a close; we have one class left this coming week and then a performance the week after that. And then it will be over. As I contemplate this ending, I am filled with a sense of loss. I can sing on my own and have done so almost every day of my life. (According to my mother’s reports, I was two when I acquired a little golden book of nursery songs. Although I couldn’t read yet, I would open the book to a page, look at the picture on that page, and sing the associated song.) What I can’t do on my own is sing in multi-part harmony. Okay, I can (and do) sing harmony with recordings by favorite singers. But what I have gotten addicted (re-addicted?) to is the feel and sound of standing side by side with other singers and hearing the twining of our voices singing different parts. My favorite moments in our upcoming choral performance are when I get to sing one of three parts in a trio performance of a Finnish folk song, “Who Can Sail?” and singing one of the four parts in Sinead O’Connor’s beautiful arrangement of the Irish ballad “In This Heart.”
So, like an addict, I am worrying about where my next fix will come from. Some members of our little choral group have been brainstorming ways to raise the funds to keep the workshop going for another session in the fall. I have also been looking online for information about community choruses in my area. The only choral group close to my home is The Androscoggin Chorale, a serious group that sings serious classical music and accepts new members only through an audition process. I think I could pass the audition, but I don’t know how long it would take after that for a space to open up, and I’m not sure this level of seriousness is quite what I had in mind.
Recently, though, a friend pointed out to me that, since I am already traveling to Portland to sing, I could continue to do so; I don’t have to limit myself to what’s available in my local area. When I searched for choral groups in a larger geographic area, I found a much broader range of possibilities. I will continue to explore these possibilities and try to choose a singing opportunity that will continue to benefit my health while also filling my need for harmonizing.
Those who’d like a better sense of the kind of vocal harmonies I’m addicted to can click below to hear singer Erik Linder’s wonderful rendition of “In This Heart.”