If you’ve been a choral singer for any length of time, you’ve had it happen. A beautiful song is flowing from you and you’re deep within its meaning and it reaches out and climbs on in and sticks in your throat. There’s nothing you can do about it, the lump forms and you’re nearly brought to tears (or they start streaming a bit…it happens). Of course, the sound you’re making is immediately choked off and the best you can do until you recover is a not-so-lovely bark/caw/squawk/croak thingy.

Sadly, there’s no magic wand to be waved and you’re doomed until the emotion has passed enough for you to get a good lungful of air and forge on ahead. All you can do is keep mouthing the words and hope that 1) the rest of the people in your section didn’t come unglued at the same time you did and 2) nobody notices that you’re lip-synching.

Personally, I don’t think this is a bad thing. Yeah, the music-making takes a little break, but if we don’t sing beautiful music to be moved by it (and bring that emotion to our audience), why are we singing it? If I’ve rehearsed a piece a hundred times and then it brings me to tears all of a sudden, that means I did it right and I absolutely refuse to be ashamed by it. Music, especially choral music, has a power in it that I don’t think we tap enough and when emotion overtakes the singer, it might just be some of that power making itself known.

I don’t know about you, but I have a short list of songs that I know I’m not going to get through. All I can do is try to keep the lump as small and short-lived as I can, but I know I won’t avoid it. The can’t-miss tunes include a couple that we’ve performed with the Windward Choral Society:

“The Star-Spangled Banner” – Francis Scott Key (it gets the veteran in me every time)
“Eternal Father Strong to Save” – William Whiting (same thing)
“Na Ke Akua” – John McCreary (it got me the first time I sang it and with John gone, it always will)
“Kyrie” from “Memorial” – René Clausen (maybe the most powerful thing I ever sang)

For me, the message and music of these songs remind me why I love to sing.

What’s on your list?