One of the things that has kept things fun and interesting for the Windward Choral society has been collaborative events with other groups. It’s always educational and enjoyable to see and hear what other choirs are up to. The recent holiday concert hosted by the always-energetic Dr. Fan was a great example. There was everything from the Honolulu Chorale to church choirs singing in multiple languages. As I enjoyed the diversity something struck me: we were the only ones not wearing uniforms (which in Hawaii means matching mu’umu’u and aloha shirts instead of the whole evening-gown-and-suits thing).
It got me to thinking about who we are and what we do and our “look” and you know what? I’m glad we don’t all dress the same. One of the magical qualities of our merry band is our blend of unique personalities and voices and the sound that we create. If we stuffed everybody into the same outfit it would just be wrong.
It’s kinda like the no-audition-necessary policy that we’re so proud of. A friend of mine once did a short stint with a barbershop quartet that was directed by a seriously awesome director who had been a barbershopper for decades and I was really amazed at how unique that style is. One of the really, really important things is the blend of the voices. A great deal of effort is made to have all four voices be identical in timber and volume to create a single four-part sound (it’s also really, really hard). A key part of the audition process was to try to find four voices that sounded pretty much the same.
The same is true with other choral groups, I bet. The auditions are more than just a can-you-sing and can-you-read-music adventure and there’s another piece of the puzzle that the director is looking for, trying to build an overall sound. I suspect that the Hawaii Vocal Arts Ensemble and the Honolulu Chorale have a sound that was specifically created using the audition process (and they’re both very, very good).
Not so with the Windward Choral Society, everybody is welcome. If you can’t carry a tune in a bucket we’ll all work together to find you a bucket that works just fine. As for blend, we get what we get and it changes as new folks join in. The original 55 voices didn’t sound anything like our current 100+ and no two semi-annual concerts are going to be the same. Susie has the enjoyable/bizarre task of trying to make it all work and (knock wood or, if there’s none around, the top of my pointy head) it’s been awesome every time. The “Frozen Friday” version of our gang was particularly good if you ask me.
So back to the uniform idea. No thanks, we’re not that kind of choir. Nobody has tried to make us sound like anything, Susie just does her best to teach us how to get the most out of our individual voices. The result is uniquely us and stuffing us all into the same shirt would take some of the joy out of it (at least that’s what I think). We are a group of individuals who band together to make music and I prefer that we look like it. It’s a reflection of our mix of sizes and ages and ethnicities (and, for some of us, questionable fashion sense) and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
(And seriously…some uniforms are really horrific. I ain’t pointin’ anybody out but if I’d be afraid to wear a shirt in public when I wasn’t singing I’m not going to like it when I AM singing. Yikes.)