Creativity, Community, and Joy

Last Saturday night, the Oregon Chorale hosted a fundraiser featuring a diverse collective of tunes from musical theater. The 80-voice group performed 4 numbers, and the balance of the program featured soloes, duets, and small group acts assembled by members of the Chorale. I was privileged to participate in one group act and lead another (Hail Holy Queen from Sister Act). We put on a great show and raised a bunch of money. Yay team!

I’ve written previously about the benefits of choral singing for mental health, community building, adaptability, resilience, and more. But these treasures are not without its costs. One must commit to attending rehearsals, working on parts outside of practice, and being a good team player in the run up to and during performance. (I really have to draw on my reserves of team spirit during lengthy tech rehearsals!) Even though all aspects of music making can be fun and rewarding, it’s still effortful to do them.

Leadership brings additional challenges. One must visualize the end product, organize the material, recruit singers, schedule practice time, and provide inspiration to help singers bring their “A games.” It can be frustrating when attendance proves spotty and/or rehearsal time must be negotiated with other groups. On the other hand, it’s incredibly energizing when group members lend their creativity to the effort and bring that extra spark of enthusiasm that makes the performance really pop.

I very nearly passed on the opportunity to lead the women’s ensemble. I’d been consumed with putting our house up for sale, downsizing (big time!), finding a new place to live, and moving. I felt overwhelmed by life and thought that I just couldn’t add one more responsibility to the mix. But I changed my tune during the inaugural rehearsal. The project had been my brain child, I knew had the wherewithal to pull it off, and, at the end of the day, it brings me joy.

At the start of our rehearsals, I only knew a few of the folks who signed up for the group number. Things came together musically rather quickly. As we started to have fun with the material, we transformed from a random group of singers to a tight little community. Casual acquaintances became friends. And with a successful performance behind us, we have a shared memory that will sustain the bonds we formed. A real blessing!

The show also helped me go from being a “new kid on the block” to someone who feels like a solid member of the group. A similar dynamic took place in my former group. Small group interactions really do build connective tissue that makes the whole organization hang more tightly together. I must have forgotten that lesson when hesitating to leap into the fray.

I know, I know. I just finished writing a piece about my tendency to be the “girl who can’t say no” when taking on organizational responsibilities. But setting and sustaining boundaries must consider what makes me feel creative, alive, joyful, and connected. I need to make sure I have plenty of that amidst all the other things on my “to do” list and start weeding out elective activities that don’t measure up.