Connections: Sing, Sing, Sing

The best part of being an amateur among professional musicians is the joy it brings

For four days last week I was immersed in beautiful music with the Choral Society of the Hamptons. At concerts held at the East Hampton Presbyterian Church and the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Manhattan, we were privileged to take part in a rare and rousing work — Rossini’s “Petite Messe Solennelle” — alongside virtuoso soloists, a visiting choral director, and gifted musicians at the piano and organ. It was an extraordinary experience.

The best part of being an amateur among professional musicians is the joy it brings. The worst part is that it empties the mind of all else . . . which, of course, isn’t much of a downside. It can be a wonderful thing to stop think, think, thinking and be overtaken by the present tense of music. This must be why monks chant as meditation. 

Although the two rehearsals and two concerts took up only several hours each day, between Friday and Monday, the experience was mentally and emotionally overwhelming. Professionals go on with the rest of their lives; with them, even the most beautiful musical effort can become a matter of fact. Amateurs, like me, sometimes have to struggle not to be totally knocked off our feet.

I’ve been in hundreds of concerts over the years, and tears don’t come easily to me. The assembled performers have to be at least close to perfect and the soloists have to be superb. But flow they did during “Petite Messe Solennelle.” John Daly Goodwin, the conductor on this occasion, helped all of us involved share the emotional, and perhaps moral, fiber of the music, conveying authority, emotion, and humor, as the music demanded, through facial expression, body language, and an occasional smile of pleasure. Although biased, I feel comfortable in reporting that the chorus followed his lead well.

It’s hard to compare a musical experience in which many perform as one with other artistic endeavors. The members of a successful theatrical cast or a ballet troupe must sometimes enjoy similar experiences, I suppose. There is something sublime in being part of a work of art that requires the best of many people, a blended community of singers and instrumentalists and conductor. Do those who take part in deep religious rituals feel similar bonds? I bet they do.

Last weekend we were uplifted by four stunning soloists from Mexico as well as the Choral Society’s own extraordinary professionals: Christine Cadarette at the piano and Thom Bohlert at the organ.

For me, worries disappeared and happiness reigned. If any of you out there think you might have an inclination to sing, I can promise you you won’t regret trying out for the Choral Society. It can be divine.