I am so exhausted. But I’m feeling good, because my wonderful singers, the General Motors Employees’ Chorus, put on a whiz-bang performance at the VA Hospital in Detroit for all our deserving local veterans last night, and it was the final concert in a brilliant season for us.
The GM Chorus is unique in that we perform about 20 times a year. Not content to do just one show for Christmas and one show for spring, this group likes to do 10-12 concerts every December and April to reach a broad audience and spread the love over a large area. Many of the concerts we do are at senior centers for people who can’t make it to orchestra hall or the opera house to hear good music. The VA obviously falls in this category as well, as we sometimes sing carols for the residents who cannot even leave their beds. It’s a really satisfying way to present choral music, especially the repertoire we do–large doses of classical works, sacred music, patriotic songs, and popular songs from the early decades of the 20th century. These are the kinds of pieces that older audiences respond to, sometimes with clapping, bobbing around and singing along. A couple of years ago, one performance of “Twentiana,” a fun medley of songs from the 20’s, caused a standing ovation in a senior center–and I mean people getting up out of their wheelchairs to clap! It was unbelievable.
My singers are also unique in that everything they perform is memorized, with no scores on stage. And because they work so hard on memorizing over 60 minutes of music every season, they feel like doing only one concert is wasted work for all the time they put in. They want to enjoy this music for as many concerts as possible. Even though it’s a high demand for most choirs, I don’t blame them for their reasoning; performing this way reminds me of the choir tours that I took as a student years ago, when we would visit a handful of different cities over spring break and do concerts everywhere we went. Trucking around with the GMEC feels like a choir tour every weekend, and the bonds we form with each other are just as strong as those of a touring group.
We also form bonds with the music itself, and the last concert of the season always feels like a sad goodbye to every piece. Oh, there will always be the tough pieces that give us headaches and that we are glad to be rid of in the end, but you always remember the beauty of each one and how much the ensemble has grown in singing it. There’s always that one measure, that one chord or rhythm, that NOBODY gets until the very last concert, and the sound of that element falling into place is sweeter than a homemade molasses cookie. (Those of my singers who remember that one tricky measure in “The Virgin Mary Had A Baby Boy” know exactly what I’m talking about!!)
And speaking of cookies, we are always greeted with a cookie reception after every church concert, which is another benefit of being involved with this choir! It feels like you’re party-hopping every weekend. Many of us have become cookie connoisseurs, even judging each venue by the quality and variety of the cookies! (Right now, New Beginnings Church in Washington Township holds the #1 spot, although Sterling Heights United Methodist is not too far behind with the longest table spread on record.) One of my sopranos even designed a T-shirt for us that reads: “Will sing for cookies.”
Our rehearsals for the spring season start on January 9, and I’m really excited about the music we’re doing: another healthy handful of patriotic songs, a choral medley of the music from “Mama Mia,” and lots of other stuff. (And if I see a handful of new men in the bass section, that will make it even sweeter, as we were a tad short on basses these past few months.) We welcome new members on the first 3 rehearsals of the year, and we’re always up for having patrons, donors, admin help, or any other support that people can give, because we want to continue making a difference for our communities and growing the family. Go to the GM Chorus website for further information.