I sing in a choir. It is mostly made up of French people, that's why I joined, to exercise my French speaking skills. It hasn't improved them much though. Everyone talks so fast that I can hardly make out any single words, let alone make sense of entire sentences. Not to worry. At least I feel I am making the effort at joining in with the local community.
We all went to Bayonne, on the South West coast of France, last Spring, and a fantastic time was had by all. But the host choir was top notch, leaving our Mabourguet choir a little in the shade. We did our best, but was out flanked by the quality of the other choir.
That other choir is coming to visit us on Saturday. They will stay for the weekend, be shown round the local wine chateau, will sing, will be fed. It is a big weekend for our choir and Mabourguet.
I like to sing. I have not done much singing during my life, though. Music, yes, mostly via the piano, and now my keyboard, but singing has not been a big thing with me. And then, last year, something happened, I don't know what, but I started finding my voice. It is not a marvellous voice, but it can hold a tune, and has a power. It is not a 'thin' voice. It can make a big noise if it has to. This might be because of not having neighbours, that I can yell my head off if I feel like it without anyone hearing. This is a novelty after years of living with neighbours who are sharing the other side of the connecting walls, of still using a raised voice but all the while aware that the people on the other side of the wall could probably hear every word I was saying. Perhaps that is why I have found my voice.
Or perhaps it is because I am in a good space in my life. Perhaps my voice is reflecting my general state of well being despite the battles with living in a foreign country in a ruin of a house. Perhaps my voice is telling me that I am where I am meant to be.
I have always been a bit of an entertainer, and yet I am quite a shy person at heart. I seem to blossom when in front of people, and can do public speaking quite well. I can't do a lot of things, but I can do this. And I miss this side of me. It is absent here. Not because I don't want to let this side of me see the light of day, but because there is no opportunity for it to be used. Back in the UK, this side of me was busy, but here, with a changed lifestyle, it is not.
It is almost as if there is a hunger in me to be up front. Is this my ego? I don't think so. After I have done my bit I tend to quietly withdraw, leaving as quickly as I can. I don't like the fuss afterwards. Last December I was the chef d'orchestre (conductor) for a choir whose normal leader had debunked back to the UK for good and all. At the last minute I was asked to fill the vacant space. I did. With heart beating wildly I stood in front of that choir, with the church, on the two occasions of the Christmas concerts, packed to the rafters, full of people. With them at the back of me and the choir in front of me, I made the place rock. Jingle Bells will never be the same again for some people.
But after it was done, and I had given of my best, I left, leaving everyone else to partake of the food and wine. I had done the job which was asked of me, and I did it well, maybe a bit too well because there were lots of priests about the place and I did have cause to wonder if perhaps this lightness and jollity was a tad over the top for them to cope with. It must be hard being celibate. They must have to put an iron fist around parts of themselves.
A few weeks ago, that 'entertainer' side of me was given light of day again, as I was asked by a friend to sing 'Amazing Grace' with her. This was with the Mabourguet choir. Crikey but my heart was pattering at a fast rate as I stood in front of the choir on the evening of the concert. And I managed, not as well as I might have done, and my voice did do a crackle once or twice but with my friend singing away beside me and the choir harmonising behind me, it went largely unnoticed, I think. It was the first time I had sung in public. It was a big thing for me. I loved it.
And now this concert on Saturday has arrived. It is a big concert, quite prestigious, and I am to sing. I have been practising. I am more confident.
Rehearsals last night. No pianist. Gone away to England for a holiday. Not to worry. Last time they rented a pianist when they didn't have one. Nope. Can't do that this time as the choir has run out of money.
So me and my friend sang. She was very wobbly as she sang through the solo of the first verse. Was better when I joined her for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th verses. The choir crashed effortlessly behind us, totally out of tune by the end. It was a disaster. It will be a disaster on Saturday.
So what did I do? I let go my opportunity to sing at an important function, and went and sat at the keyboard, retreating into the back room role which an accompanist has. For the sake of the honour of the choir, and to help my friend get a grip on herself, I stepped down, denying my other self, and letting someone else have the opportunity to take the spotlight.
I don't know what I expected from the concert. It would have been nice to sing. Now I shall have to content myself with singing as I spin away at my spinning wheel because for some reason I can't sing and accompany myself at the keyboard both at the same time. But spinning and singing seem to work. And I sing for myself. Perhaps that is better. To sing for one's self rather than others, but then there is still that other side of me who yearns to have their voice heard, whether it be by singing, speaking, or writing. Oh well, will have to put that side of me to bed for the time being.
One thing, though. When I am accompanying someone, whether it be a musician or a singer, in private or in concert, my eyebrows seem to drift about my forehead and my face seems to go all sensitive and rubbery. Why does it do that?
Perhaps it is just as well, therefore, that I am off to one side so no-one can see the antics of my face as I play away at the keyboard.
I have just started a new blog, which is about how we got to be living on a smallholding in France. You can find this blog here