Monday, August 23, 2010

Choir cheating

I was in a choir once, and lip-synced my way right through it.
For two years.

(Successful lip-synching is not just a matter of moving your mouth to the words. You have to also take fake breaths, to fool the director.)

What was I supposed to do? I didn’t want to be in the choir in the first place and my singing range is straight up embarassing. But, I had no choice. My middle school and mother forced me into it.

At least my twin sister, Joy, was also forced into it with me.

Everybody in the entire seventh and eighth grade was automatically enrolled in the choir, an unfortunate offshoot of attending a small, private all-girls school.

Like Spanish and math, choir was mandatory unless your parents wrote a letter saying you don’t have to be in it, and our mother would rather die than opt her children out of choir.

She happens to be a good choir singer and had high expectations for us.
If asked, I’m sure she would have joined us on stage in singing a musical adaptation of the poem Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day.

(That song was particularly hard to “fake breathe” to, by the way.)

Since there was no audition process (everybody’s in!!) Joy and I didn’t have to sing solo ever, thank GOD, and we were shuffled into the soprano section for some reason, expected to sing high-pitched notes.

It was positive torture to make everyone join the choir. Singing is not something you learn at age 13, like grammar. You're either good or you're not.
And, if you’re a bad singer, practicing for an hour every other week isn’t going to make a difference.

(It didn’t take long for us to find other choir members who were also on board with the lip-synching.)

Despite at least four members of the 30-person choir fake singing, the choir still won all sorts of awards and competitions and we even went to the STATE finals.

We were pretty much riding on the coattails of ten or so girls who could actually sing, and they stood closest to the microphone.
The director asked a lot from those girls, who often had to carry the whole choir by singing Italian sonatas.

Man, did I feel bad for them.

But us fakers didn’t have it easy, either. The "singing" and "breathing" bordered on nerve-wrecking at the STATE competition, where we stood on a stage with spotlights and had to “learn” a new song in 20 minutes.
(Learn how to pretend to be singing, that very uncomfortable white silky blouses and red skirts, blech!)

Fortunately, we were experts at breathing fluctuations by that point, and our cover was never blown. The choir may have even won something that day.

Joy and I transferred to another high school that didn't have a mandatory choir policy and singing in a group was never mentioned again. The silky shirts and red skirts were quickly put in the giveaway pile.

This past Saturday, I saw a choir perform the national anthem at the Saints game (in the dome, y’all!!!!) and I was reminded of the years I used to be a choir member.

I studied the small group of singers on the large screen in the dome and tried to pick out any fake singers/professional “breathers,” but I didn’t find any. Perhaps it’s a dying breed.

The girls didn’t remind me at all of my choir experience. They were talented, confident and happy to be there with a spotlight and microphone.

Granted, their outfits still looked horribly uncomfortable: floor-length velvet green dresses in the middle of summer.

But they got a loud round of applause from the crowd, especially during the crescendo: “for the laaaand of the freeeeeee”
They hit that note perfectly. It was impressive.

I could have fake sung it brilliantly.



  1. rough winds do shake the darling buds of may, thou art more lovely and more temperate

  2. How do I not remember choir at McGehee?? My only musical memory of my two years there was the atrocious gingham dress I wore for Pirates of Penzance...


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