When I was young, Musical Theatre was my life. While my friends spent their Saturday afternoons choosing lipstick in Woolworths, I was rehearsing for my next show. When my job sent me into a frenzy of boredom, the excitement of finding out which show we would do next and what part I would play kept me going. My husband and I met doing Musical Theatre together and we had a huge network of theatre friends. Now that family life has taken over those days are long gone but I miss it.
It took me a long time to realise that my voice didn’t always need to be the one that stood out in a group and that I could enjoy singing even if I wasn’t a soloist. Once I encountered the sheer pleasure of singing in a perfectly blended chorus, I realised what I had been missing. The end of Act One chorus from ‘The Pirates of Penzance’, the nuns Gaudeamus from ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘Requiem for Evita’ all send shivers down my spine as I remember the moment I sang them on stage.
Even though singing was my hobby, I never sang at school. The only avenue for singing at school was choir but choir was for geeks. My perception of choir was of singing ‘boring hymns’ probably because church was the only place I had encountered a choir. As I grew older my perceptions changed but I still felt choir wasn’t my thing.
I tried to continue with theatre once I had children but the weekend rehearsals, complicated schedule of babysitters and the week of the show nearly killed me. So now I have broken the mould and joined a choir. Choir is so much simpler, I no longer have to stand at the back of the stage silently oohing and ahhing, I don’t have to learn dance moves (or sing in the wings with the old people because my dancing isn’t good enough),I don’t even have to learn the words because we carry our music with us.
My perception has changed about the people too. Recently we went on a weekend choir retreat – a large group of women in one house, singing, eating, drinking and getting to know one another. I was quite excited about making new friends but being in new company isn’t my strength, so was also a little nervous. The choir is very diverse, there is a huge mix of ages, nationalities, cultures and backgrounds but without exception each member sees choir as their ‘thing’, their chance to be themselves for one evening a week. Fuelled with the euphoria of a whole day of singing, ocean views, relaxing in hot tubs and a few glasses of wine, we began to get to know one another. There is something extraordinarily powerful about getting people together in one place away from their ordinary lives. I used to feel it on my annual blogging conference weekends in London, the connection with like-minded people and the sense of relief that we all have the same insecurities.
I felt a connection with every woman on the retreat, many of whom were very different to me. It made me wonder about judging people by appearances; often people who we perceive to be ‘not our type’ based on appearance, become our closest friends. The openness of the choir members was refreshing and sent me home with the feeling that it is ok to be imperfect. All of the women talked of their very different and complicated lives and for a brief moment we were able to leave them behind.
In the modern world there is an immense amount of pressure to be perfect. When everyone admits that they are not it’s like you’ve been set free. Nobody is a perfect, wife, mother, career woman, friend, cook, housekeeper or icon of beauty and on the whole nobody expects you to be either. The pressure to be flawless comes from within.
I returned from the retreat with a new perspective, with a belief that it is okay to be flawed, we are all flawed, people like me for who I am and I like them more because of, not in spite of their imperfections.