In the past couple of years I’ve gotten used to being on stage, but this July I’ll be doing it in a different way: for the first time in three years, I’ll be on stage singing, with my buddies in a choral competition: the World Choir Games, in Cincinnati.
So tonight, for the first time in three years, I stood on the risers and sang.
Longtime readers know singing used to be a big part of my life. I sang in school and college, and ten years ago I joined the Nashua Granite Statesmen, a men’s barbershop chorus. (Lots of people have heard of barbershop quartets, but not many know we do it in choruses too!)
For years they (we!) were the perennial New England champion and would go to international competitions. I’m no soloist but because of this great group I got to compete at internationals in Montreal, Indianapolis and Nashville.
At my diagnosis, five years ago this month, I asked Dr. Sands if I should stop singing to conserve energy, and he told me no – it’s not good to drop life activities that you love. (It seems I’d, um, talked about it a bit…)
The World Choir Games are a huge music festival with 100,000 people spread over a two week event. (Last year’s was in China!) It has all styles of music; my heart’s in the distinctive harmony of the barbershop style, and that will be our category.
Importantly, there’s more to barbershop than the music: it’s a community with strong ties. During my illness these men were an incredible source of emotional support – some came to my house to give my wife some time off (we called them “Davey-sitters”), and more than once I visited rehearsals, looking like hell, when nobody knew if I’d make it – and they sang to me: “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” It was powerful.
I hope to post more as the months of preparation go by, but for now, teach yourself about barbershop harmony – and its role in my cancer year – by reading this post about why when I published my cancer book, “Sing” was in the title: Laugh, Sing, and Eat Like a Pig. The post has some video clips of great barbershop singing – and the story of the men who supported me in the worst of times.
In that post last April I said
These days my crazed speaking schedule makes it impractical for me to attend rehearsals, much less put in the hours it takes to learn the repertoire. (Barbershop is flying naked: a capella with no sheet music allowed on stage.) This video reminds me of one reason I want to adjust my business, so I spend more time at home: I want to be back on stage with my guys, making chords ring again, in the barbershop style. It takes work, but boy does it pay off.
Do you sing? On the Barbershop Harmony Society’s site Barbershop.org you can find a chorus and much more. And if you’re a singer in New England, we’re looking for more men for the World Choir Games – we want a chorus of 100! Call 603-886-SING for details.
Comcast customers – there’s now a Barbershop On Demand channel.