I used to be one of the forty singers of a popular choir. It was not a church choir, but one which was conducted independently by the grandson of a Christian musical maestro, who composed many popular Christian songs we sing in church to this day. Our choir master, who is a seventy-something old man, weak and frail, was very particular and strict about English pronunciations, tones and every other technical detail of Western church music. We practiced two hours on Sunday evenings, and held concerts during Christmas, sometimes on Easter and on the death anniversary of our choir master’s grandpa.
The attendance of choir members was consistent, regardless of the choir master being extremely strict. When forty of us sang in a harmony, this old genius would know who sang the wrong note, and made us sing from the start.
The two words our choir master insisted on were ‘round tones’. He pressed on the fact that for good vocal output, one should open the mouth and let the jaws loose. But most of us in the choir never did that, and the choir master kept on accusing us saying that we were tight lipped singers who sang through the nose. He was so annoyed with our lip movements and said that we were more concerned of how our faces would look when we opened our mouths, than in the tone quality of the song. He used to advice us to stand in front of a mirror at home, open the mouth in round tones and sing so that we can feel the sound from the chest. Well, you know we can do anything but sing in front of a mirror.
Soon, our choir master became so infamous on this, that the church public commented that the dog at his house barked in round tones in fright.
One fine Sunday evening, my Mom was bathing my eight month old niece who was in turn, trying to crawl out of her grip. It was a usual ritual so my Mom kept on talking to turn her attention and said… “Does anyone want to see my little beauty here without clothes…no tickets required…it is a free show…free show…” . My grandmother also used to call it ‘free show’ when we were little one or two year olds and refused to wear any clothes. Anyway, after her bath, Mom and me quickly got dressed, waved at the little one, and sped to the choir practice.
Soon after, our choir master appeared with black notes of a new hymn and distributed it. Along with his copy of the song was an off white envelope which clearly was an invitation card. He opened it, put on his spectacles and read through it seriously. He then slowly put the card back in the envelope raised his small, thin head looked at us, and said,
“There will be a Russian church concert next Sunday; All are welcome. It will be from 5:00 pm onwards at the Parish hall next to the cemetery”
After a serious pause, he continued, “I repeat. This is no joke. I should see all of you at the concert next Sunday and learn how lip movement and round tones make a difference in singing”
Soon we all started whispering among ourselves. The choir master, noticed our concern, and proceeded,
“No need to worry about entry passes. It is going to be a free show”