Monday, March 19, 2007


One of the pieces we were given at choir practice was a tiny part of Bach's St. John's Passion, sung in four-part harmony. Since we were to sing it this past Sunday at Mass, and since it was challenging to sing a piece we weren't that familiar with yet, and in German, too, I decided we needed to practice a bit.

I don't know what I'd have done without MIDI files; my musical skills aren't up to playing a piece I've barely heard, let alone separating the four vocal parts. But I found a great website that had a MIDI file of the whole piece, plus four more files where each vocal part was emphasized, so Saturday evening I called the girls into the room where the computer is, and we practiced the piece together.

The soprano line was relatively uncomplicated; the German pronunciation gave us more trouble than the melody. A few times of reviewing the piece was all we needed to feel confident.

After the girls had gone to bed, I offered to go over the piece again with my husband. He's been having a few difficulties with choir practice, mainly because he's a baritone who's always sung bass before, but owing to the lack of tenors in our church choir the director has asked him to sing tenor. My DH is used to 'hearing' the bass line, and it's kind of difficult all of a sudden to transition into singing a bit farther up the scale.

I played the Bach MIDI file that gave all four parts equally emphasized. My husband shook his head. "I can't hear the tenor line," he said.

So then I played the tenor line, but kept singing, quietly, the soprano line; I wanted to be sure I knew the piece well enough to sing at Mass in the morning. My husband tried, but once again found himself lost, owing to the fact that the soprano melody overlapped the tenor line several times, making it hard to distinguish his part.

I nodded. I clicked on the tenor MIDI again; this time I stood beside my husband and sang the tenor line with him. We sang it several times, and though I couldn't really reach the lowest of the notes, I kept singing with him, until he felt like he knew the piece. When he was ready, I sang the soprano line again while he sang the tenor line, and as our voices mingled I knew he had the part down cold.

At Mass the next day I heard him singing the Bach piece confidently behind me, and I realized that the whole thing was an apt metaphor for one of the realities of our marriage.

My husband is the proud father of our three daughters, but we haven't yet been blessed with sons. Even if/when God allows us another child, there's no guarantee that a new baby would come home bundled in blue blankets. My husband doesn't really mind, though I think he's felt more deeply than I have our girls' transitions from the toddler/young girl stage to the preteen stage. As he stopped being able to get away with buying toy cars (so long as they were pink or pale green with flowers) or Nerf items (my girls all had a foam dart gun, at some point) and started noticing their interest in tinted, fruity lip gloss or their birthday requests for clothing or jewelry items, he's had to rely on other areas where his interests and theirs overlap: superheros, video games, and things of that nature.

But as the girls grow up, I've realized that if I don't want my husband to be 'lost' amidst a strong soprano sound, I might sometimes have to sing along with the tenor line.

I let the girls play video games with him, even the ones that involve impossibly large Turtles fighting cartoonish villains. I didn't raise objections to my husband sharing reprints of the earliest Spider-man comics, and we've all been sitting and watching these, which my husband remembers watching on reruns after school when he was young. I've gotten over my discomfort with video game arcades, too, but only if they remain a rare excursion. I've encouraged my husband to enjoy fantasy football for the past couple of years, thanks to one of my younger brothers (you know who you are!) and now that fantasy baseball is being added to the repertoire I may sit and watch a baseball game or ten this season.

I don't decorate my house in red hearts or pink flowers. I'm grateful for the fact that my husband sees several things as his jobs: the trash, the yardwork, anything involving the car. I'm glad that he's so involved with the girls and that they look forward to all the time they get to spend with him; and I'm glad he decided to join the choir with us, to make this excursion into music and service to the church a family affair.

In our family with all the girlishness and femininity, that strong confident tenor voice is a necessity. If I can help by singing along with the tenor line from time to time, I'm glad to do so. We sopranos might achieve a nice unison on our own, but we need our dear tenor if we're going to have harmony.

1 comment:

AnnonyMouse said...

All to often, I see in our society that instead of masculine and feminine we have a lot of neutral things which are good but we need our tenors and bass, flowers and superheoroes.
One thing I did not realize til we started homeschooling was that I put a soft or fuzzy spin on difficult topics especially when it came to our religion and in particular, sin. I am so thankful that our religion books are straight too the point with stories to highlight the points.