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By ana (Thu Dec 01, 2011 at 07:40:37 PM EST) (all tags)
Perhaps you have A.

Advice, if not an answer. 

 So the church choir I'm in, dubbed the world's oldest children's choir by one glib member, is composed of a dwindling number of volunteers, the occasional new person (under 30! wow!), and, when our numbers dwindled below two on a part in some cases, hired "section leaders," also known as "ringers."

There's another choir at the same church, composed entirely of professionals, so there's an abundant pool for section leaders.

Over the years, the paid staff has not been asked (or paid) to appear at the Wednesday rehearsals, leading to the effect that the group at rehearsal and the one at Mass are often very different people.

So our esteemed leader decided to fix that. Section leaders, and volunteers, are now required to be at rehearsals. In order to finance this in a revenue-neutral kind of a way (wouldn't want the 9 o'clock to exceed 5% of the music budget!), there's an occasional Sunday with no choir but only a soloist, and we have many fewer rehearsals. I think there've been 4 so far this fall, so every 3 or 4 weeks on average (more leading up to Christmas, which means less in the wilds of October). Volunteers who are unable to attend the (now rather arbitrarily scheduled) rehearsals are not welcome to sing with the choir until the next rehearsal. And the rehearsals are now 2 hours of solid work, and Sunday morning warm-ups are 45 min of solid work.

The social side of choir is gone. Not just with the director, who after all has a responsibility to provide quality music for Mass, but with the rest of the choristers.

Right about when the social side of everything else in my life is gone. That's a personal problem.

Another personal problem has to do with my parents, who are not getting any younger, and began to require more help than they were getting in their very stair-intensive house (which they built themselves, 35 years ago now). So last August we moved them into a retirement center. They're adjusting pretty well, but we thought it important to come visit this winter around Christmas time. In years past, I've sung for Christmas Eve, flown on Christmas Day, spent a week-ish with the 'rents, and come home sometime around the New Year.

This year, for reasons mostly to do with my sister and her family, we're doing the winterval visit 13-18 December.

Back to the choir... This implies that I'll miss the rehearsal on the 14th of December. I sent the director a heads-up e-mail when we were arranging all that, and the response was cold: don't plan on singing for Christmas Eve. If I make an exception for you I'll have to make one for everybody. Like, shrug, whatever. Turns out my buddy the section leader and only other tenor is also out for the afternoon mass on Christmas Eve (family stuff; he'll be around to sing for the midnight).

And so I'm fretting about what Christmas will be like, utterly alone.

Today, I get this little gem of an e-mail:

Hi $ana ---

 You got the Ledger carol in last night, and you've seen the Byrd O magnum on Sunday mornings. I see no reason why you shouldn't sing if you are in town on Xmas Eve, and I certainly hope you can. Let me know.

Apparently we're having trouble hiring enough tenors for Christmas Eve. Or something. That's the cynical take on things.

So my questions are legion, but among them is this: Does anybody else see an abusive dimension in this relationship? I feel like I'm at the end of the line in a game of crack the whip.

So, I don't really know how to respond, and I can't really imagine what Christmas week will be like, however I respond.

All this, plus the really strong message of welcome for families, especially with children. Full stop. No apparent realization that half the congregation are not in the family way and might feel a tad left out. Especially my demographic, the mad woman in the attic nobody wants to think about. Or go too near, because after all, dissolution of marriage is (quite possibly) contagious, and, uh, nobody really knows what to say so they say nothing.

I really am trying to make this work, but I'm not getting much, if any, response. I guess the squeaky wheel isn't squeaky enough.

I haz a sad. But at least it's a looking-forward kind of a sad. That's better, right?
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this will sound strange by clock (4.00 / 3) #1 Thu Dec 01, 2011 at 09:43:08 PM EST
especially coming from me (or maybe not) but here goes.  Think less.  Will it be fun to sing on X-mas Eve?  Yes?  Then do it!  Otherwise?  Well, there are other things to do.  That guitar won't play itself.

That's all I've got.  I wish I had more...or better.

I agree with clock entirely --Kellnerin

I second this by LilFlightTest (4.00 / 1) #2 Thu Dec 01, 2011 at 10:30:28 PM EST
only somewhat related, I now have "O Magnum" stuck in my head.
if de-virgination results in me being able to birth hammerhead sharks, SIGN ME UP!!! --misslake
[ Parent ]
I quite like by ana (4.00 / 1) #5 Fri Dec 02, 2011 at 06:58:58 AM EST
the Byrd setting, which I hadn't done before. I've done the Victoria one many times. 

I now know what the noise that is usually spelled "lolwhut" sounds like. --Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
The same director sent that email to you? by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #3 Fri Dec 02, 2011 at 12:35:25 AM EST
That's a bit schizo.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

Same guy, by ana (2.00 / 0) #4 Fri Dec 02, 2011 at 06:58:11 AM EST

I now know what the noise that is usually spelled "lolwhut" sounds like. --Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
Drop it like it's hot. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #11 Fri Dec 02, 2011 at 03:22:29 PM EST

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Occupational hazard by lm (4.00 / 1) #6 Fri Dec 02, 2011 at 09:10:09 AM EST
It seems to me that directors (whether of choirs, theatre troupes, or something else) have to actively fight to not slip into treating people like just one more means to the end of producing their artistic vision.

A few magnanimous personalities are able to pull this off naturally without much effort. But most are constantly pulled between making their vision concrete and respecting the human persons that help make that vision possible.

Not that this makes it feel any better if you're the lady being used. But, like others have mentioned, if it'll be fun for you, it might further your ends as much as the director's ends. In a way, I guess that kind of reduces you to the same level. But, taken from that perspective, at least everyone knows what's going on.

From another perspective, that of looking at people as persons instead of means to ends, I  can see why you haz a sad. Feeling like you're not really part of the community during Communion is powerfully dissonant. It's a neon lit billboard screaming out a message that something is fundamentally broken with the entire universe.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
This. by ana (2.00 / 0) #7 Fri Dec 02, 2011 at 09:30:28 AM EST
Feeling like you're not really part of the community during Communion is powerfully dissonant.

Yeah, exactly. That there fancy edumication of your'un is paying off. :-)

I now know what the noise that is usually spelled "lolwhut" sounds like. --Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
Yeah, it sucks badly. by ambrosen (2.00 / 0) #12 Fri Dec 02, 2011 at 03:46:18 PM EST
Just so isolating.

[ Parent ]
Thoughts by ks1178 (4.00 / 1) #8 Fri Dec 02, 2011 at 12:02:03 PM EST
From the bit that you've expressed in this post, as well as other posts that you've made in the past, I assume one of the main driving factors to your being part of the Choir is the pleasure that you derive from it, and this extends to the practices as well as the actual performance at mass.

I would hazard a guess that this is shared by many of the other volunteer choirists.

Now a few suggestions.

Do you think the other volunteers (or at least a majority) feel the same as you do in regards to the way practices are currently handled? While from a financial point of view it's not feasible to have more practices with the paid people, would there be harm in having a similar practice schedule as before (that the volunteers enjoy which is in theory why they've been volunteering), but only require the paid people to be there once a month. (I know nothing about the practicalities of singing in a group so I don't know if it's detrimental to do it this way).

Maybe sound out a few of the other volunteers and see if they would like to have more practices, even if they're mostly just an excuse to get together, sing and have a good time.

If so, I would suggest that after Christmas is over, and things go back to a more normal schedule to potentially bring it up with the director, and remind him that many of you do this for the social aspect, and to have fun, because you enjoy it.

As for his behavior, without knowing the director, but from your descriptions of why things have changed, it's probably just a matter of his trying to be fair to as many people as possible. On the other hand, as explained there are only 2 tenors and he may have only just realized that he's going to be short, and is trying to cover for that now. Probably not the best way he could of handled it (he could have said in the second e-mail, hey Ana, we're not sure if we'll have enough tenor's, and while the normal policy is this... which is why I gave you my initial response, but we're short, and need to make exceptions, and as you already know the material can you please help me out.

So I'd think part of it is just the stress of trying to arrange everything for all of the various holiday masses in December, and his being stressed, and overworked, and not pure maliciousness. Which is why I think you should wait until after the New Year to make suggestions to changing the way practices work yet again.

Plans for Christmas by marvin (4.00 / 1) #9 Fri Dec 02, 2011 at 12:34:25 PM EST
I had a friend who grew up with non-traditional Christmases. His dad did a lot of volunteer work, including organizing the collection and transport of a plane-load of toys and sporting goods for kids in remote northern aboriginal communities in the Arctic.

His family didn't do much, if any purchasing of gifts. Instead, each Christmas morning, they went down to the local homeless shelter, and helped out for the day. He has a few young daughters now, and is expected to do the typical hyperconsumerist Christmas by his wife. I think he misses some aspects of the Christmases of his youth, with the focus on people instead of things.

There are probably opportunities to serve like that in your area. It might be more rewarding than staying at home.

You Episcopalians.... Gettin all OCD and stuff. by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #10 Fri Dec 02, 2011 at 12:46:20 PM EST
Dad is in a choir at his Presbyterian church in Utah. Enough people to make it work. The choir director there is just happy to have a choir to direct.

Funny thing: Dad is a stone atheist. Goes to church every Sunday and sings in two choirs (the other is seasonal, doing the Messiah) purely for the social aspects. So maybe there's a non-church choir in Boston you could get into?

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

Update... by ana (4.00 / 1) #13 Sun Dec 04, 2011 at 08:12:46 PM EST
So maybe the squeaky wheel is making noticeably annoying amounts of noise. One or two of the other choir people I've talked to at some length allowed as how they were e-mailing the director, trying not to make him defensive by complaining. The timing may indicate the offer (which I accepted, again without significant whinging) may have been occasioned on that. 

I now know what the noise that is usually spelled "lolwhut" sounds like. --Kellnerin

my only christmas choral singing by garlic (2.00 / 0) #14 Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 01:01:27 PM EST
comes with the DIY Messiah. The popular choruses go well, the less well known are a struggle, and the whole thing is a blast.

I was introduced to it last year, and didn't realize how much I missed it. If you're singing because you still enjoy it, and not because it feels like a responsibility, take the opportunity to sing.

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