This week saw the return of one of the major events that dominates my non-writing life, which is singing with the Twin Cities Women’s Choir (aka the TCWC). The choir’s season starts at the beginning of September and runs through about mid-May with multiple concerts per year, weekly rehearsals, and lots of side activities, fundraisers, and get-togethers.
The mission statement of the choir reads thusly:
The Twin Cities Women’s Choir is a diverse community that sings, performs, and affirms the voices of women.
Vision: We strengthen and inspire individuals and communities through song.
I have been a member of the TCWC since the September of 2006 and I can personally attest that this choir is everything it says it is and so much more. This choir is not just about a bunch of people getting together to learn and perform music, though it is that, obviously.
This choir is a true community, an extended family, a united group who strive for openness, collaboration, joy, fulfillment and peace. Also excellence in music, yes, of course.
I have been singing in one group or another since I was approximately 8 years old. I have participated in small groups, huge mass choirs, a rock band, and everything in between even before you start counting Candles Enough. I have sung in a dozen languages, performed sacred music from around the world, and the best (and worst) of pop and Broadway and Hollywood. Not a day of my life goes by without my singing to something somewhere, be it in my car, with my wife and partner in our band, at choir, or just to myself while washing dishes. I work with tunes playing on my iPod and my novels have all been written with their own soundtracks on repeat to keep me focused. One of the things I have learned about myself is that it is virtually impossible for me to do much of anything without music. Music is my heart and soul.
These things have been nourished, supported, and fostered in the TCWC until they shine more brightly than ever before in my life.
The Twin Cities Women’s Choir is an amazing place to make music with extraordinary women, but it is not only a place for me to make music. It has also become a surrogate family, a support network, a new home in which I have developed roots in a new place. This is a community of passionate, caring, dedicated women (and men too!) who would come running if a member or friend needed them. This is a choir that has stood with its members through the brightest joys and deepest pains of life, a choir that has sung for weddings and funerals and birthdays and anniversaries and parties. When I walk into the TCWC for rehearsal, I know that it doesn’t matter if I’ve had a terrible day or a great one — I will be welcomed and I will be cradled. I could cry on a shoulder or giggle with a neighbor and it will all be okay.
This is a choir that really, truly believes in the power of community, the power of women’s voices, women’s gifts, women’s hands and women’s hearts. I have learned more about music and more about myself as I see my spirit reflected in women of every age, every background, around me.
I have been honored to debut pieces for emerging composers that brought me to tears; I have sung songs of courage and fire and defiance and never doubted that our voices make a difference. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” (Attributed to Margaret Mead) If any such group exists for women in the Twin Cities, it is this choir.
The Twin Cities Women’s Choir has given me a home for my voice, a home for my heart, and a home for my passion. I am honored to be counted as a sister in song with every one of the women who have given of themselves to our organization.
This year is the TCWC’s 20th anniversary. It is MIND-BOGGLING to realize that I have been a part of this choir for half its life. And yet, I cannot imagine a world where I did not belong to the TCWC, where I did not spend Wednesday nights in a church basement laughing and singing.
I’m an author, yes, but even I’m not that good, you guys.
As the choir begins to rehearse for its 20th season, as we look back on beloved songs and look forward to new ones, I know it’s going to be an emotional ride. Some songs like “Music in My Mother’s House” and “Sister My Sister” can’t be sung without wringing tears from most of the women in the choir, myself emphatically included. Some songs stir memories of bad days or brilliant ones. Some songs are the WORST POSSIBLE earworms and I’m going to have them in my dreams for the next six months.
I’m looking at YOU, “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”
I don’t even sing WORDS for the first half of the song! I just sing the windy part in a different key from the melody (honestly, yes, it is) with its own special, irregular meter! But NO, I’m gonna have that haunting tune Jan put together for us in my head NONSTOP. Thanks, TCWC.
On the other hand — thanks, TCWC.
No, seriously. Thank you.
Because when I was in a bad downswing and could barely breathe, you found a song I wanted to sing and I remembered how to live.
Because when the world crashed down and the people in power were frightening, you stood up, one hundred women strong, and refused to be cowed or silenced.
Because when there was joy and celebration and the happiest of times, you lifted your voices to share the jubilation across the sky.
Or, I should say…we did.
There’s a line in the song Sarah and I perform called “Binary” that we wrote for our wedding that goes, “So stand here with me as you’ve stood all along; your hand was in mine before my first song and my arms will hold you tonight.”
I’ve been singing since birth. I’ve lifted my voice in happiness and pain, on sunny days and through winter storms.
But I’m pretty sure I was always singing with the TCWC, even before it was born. There is always music in the world, always — we just have to find it.
The TCWC found that music like catching a star and hauling it down from the sky, and we hold it together, nurturing it and breathing it brighter and sharing it far and wide. I think maybe my song was always a part of that star and it was just incumbent upon me to go find it.
Some people find a church home, or a team, or a company, or some other organization.
I found my choir home.
And as the Twin Cities Women’s Choir celebrates 20 years of making music, enriching the lives of its members and audience, contributing to the world of music for and by women, and standing as one more light to shine through any darkness, I can only look forward to another 20 years.
And I’ll be there all the way.
If you’re curious, the website is here.
And here’s something from YouTube in case you need a song of your own today:
Thank you, TCWC, for carrying me home.