A cappella

My dad, as I've noted before, was an awesome choir director for several decades.  He didn't wear a robe or hold a baton, but with his smile and facial expressions and his hands always in motion, he managed to extract beautiful music from our relatively small choir.  One of his favorite things to do was to direct the choir in an a cappella song (without accompaniment, just voices).  Now, this is not an easy thing.  It would be hard enough for a soloist to hear a starting note, sing a song without aid of accompaniment, and end on the correct pitch - but a whole choir?  Very, very difficult.   All it takes is a slide up here, a slide down there, and the ending pitch may be off a whole note or more.

When Dad was ready for the choir to practice a certain song a cappella, he would have the organist play for the choir the starting notes for all parts - soprano, alto, tenor, bass.  There would be a general soft humming as voices prepared with their specific notes.  Then he would raise his hands, make sure everyone was watching, and he would start to direct.  The song would evolve (and believe me, most songs suitable for a cappella were absolutely gorgeous if everyone sang correctly and with emotion), and then came the end.  Dad would lower his hands and then give a motion to the organist, who played the chord of what was supposed to be the ending pitch, and Dad would react accordingly - if we were off, with a slight wince and a quick smile and an "Oh well, better next time" attitude - or, if the choir had kept perfect pitch, a wide grin that just radiated a "We did it!!" response.

I thought of that this week, as around this time of year I always enforce upon myself the fearful task of retrieving my New Year's Resolution list and giving my objectives a thorough examination as I evaluate how close I have come to fulfilling my dreams and plans for 2011.  Actually, I don't call them resolutions (I hate that word), but I call them goals for the year.  They cover all sorts of categories - my health, my hobbies, my work, my relationships - and under each one I list what I consider are priorities to concentrate on during the coming year, and I even have sublist of things that I wouldn't consider a priority but I would love to accomplish if I had the time or other necessary resources.

First, though, I start the page off with a list of accomplishments from the previous year - just to give me a little encouragement that I can be productive and get these things done, at least part of the time.   Most of the time, though, I have a long to-do list and never get it done.

Oh, I manage to get birthday cards off in the mail and Christmas card family pictures taken and sent, and I manage to pay all the bills on time and balance the checkbook and all the other things that if they didn't get done, we would be in hot water, but when I look over my goals and objectives, I have fallen so short. The year is over half over, autumn is in the air, Christmas will be here before I know it, and I haven't done any CEUs for my recertification, I never did enter a sewing contest at Pattern Review, I didn't even get close to piecing the top for Matt and Sarah's quilt, I haven't learned any new sewing techniques, I haven't played the harp much at all, etc.   We've been in this house now for 5 years and every year I put down "Paint the inside of the house" and we're still living with the white walls that came with the modular home.

It seems very much to me that I start off the year with perfect pitch, but somewhere, somehow, along the way, I always end up on the wrong note.   Don't get me wrong - the song of 2011 has been wonderful and adventurous with a lot of surprising twists and turns that have altogether combined to make lovely music, but I fear - no, I know for sure - that I will end up sadly out of pitch.

Of course, there are many reasons for this, chiefly my ever-present tendency towards procrastination and biting off more than I can chew, my propensity for having endless creative ideas but not much follow-through, my paralyzed response to being overwhelmed where I just sit and do nothing, and last but not least, my perfectionism that makes me afraid of doing anything if I can't do it perfectly.  But I will admit that this year has been rather unusual and has brought many challenges, with moving my elderly, debilitated mom and her dog up here from Tennessee (constituting two trips and a lot of planning), making a room for her out of my former exercise room (making exercise an even more inconvenient thing to accomplish), and trying to eat healthy when mom likes her starches and sweets.

I realize that I will never have a perfect pitch year.  And that's OK.  I will still make my obligatory goal list for 2012, if for no other reason than to focus my attention on priorities, and on January 1, 2012, I will start a new a cappella song on the correct note and I will sing my heart out through the year, belting out the highs and the lows and everything in between.  Sometimes I'll be sharp, sometimes I'll be flat, sometimes I'll be right on the note, and sometimes I'll take a good rest between the notes.  Sometimes I'll be singing along with a group of others, sometimes just by myself.  Some of the song will be sad, I'm sure, and some will be gloriously ecstatic. Some parts of it will be so lovely, it will make me cry in pure joy.  Some parts of it will make me wince and want a do-over.  Sometimes I will follow the music exactly as it is supposed to be sung, and other times I'll just make it up as I go along.

But - in the end, it's my song, and my wish is that it will be authentic, loving, patient, grateful, and full of hope and possibilities - with some self-discipline and flexibility thrown in for good measure.  So what if I end a note or two from where I should be?  If I concentrate on the beauty of the song and not on its imperfections, I think I'll still make my Daddy proud.  All I have to do is what The Carpenters advised:

Sing, sing a song
Sing out loud, sing out strong
Sing of good things not bad
Sing of happy not sad

Sing, sing a song
Make it simple to last your whole life long
Don't worry that it's not good enough
For anyone else to hear
Just sing, sing a song