One of my first loves is choral singing. My friends know they’ll find me raising my voice in different venues throughout the year, such as my local church choir, the annual Handel’s Messiah community sing, the Skagit Symphony Orchestra at least once a year, and various cities around the country. Two such special experiences included singing at Carnegie Hall, a truly unexpected opportunity, I never expected. More recently, I’ve discovered Road Scholar Choral Participation programs that involve singing. (To check them out, go to https://www.roadscholar.org.
This past year was my first attendance in tiny Abingdon, VA, population, approximately 8,200, and home to the wonderful Barter Theatre (www.bartertheatre.com). If you live within range and haven’t enjoyed its offerings, do yourself a favor and take in a show there. You won’t regret it. Do these names—Gregory Peck, Kevin Spacey, Ernest Borgnine, Patricia Neal, Larry Linville—ring a bell? They’ve all played there. Their pictures are on a wall near the gift shop.
Back to Abingdon. This particular musical experience included learning songs in Spanish, Latin, and Quetzal, as well as English, and included tunes from the sixteenth century as well as more modern pieces, including a special arrangement of “They Dance Alone,” by Sting. The singers, many of whom return year after year, were especially welcoming when I finally wandered in after three flights and a small shuttle ride across the Tennessee-Virginia line.
The director, Andrew Walker, was a fabulous find, knowledgeable, skilled at bringing out our best efforts, and appreciative of even the most off-the-wall comments during rehearsals. We probably laughed almost as much as we sang. As one who’s always believed that laughter is one of the most healing of medicines, I have to say that my time in Abingdon was a delightful way to improve my mental health.
We sang 5-6 hours/day. Non-singers might think that’s too much, but singers love to sing and our rehearsals did include breaks.
What made Abingdon even more special was the celebration of one couple’s first wedding anniversary. They exchanged wedding vows last year at this same venue with many of the same singers in attendance. I don’t know how many other Road Scholar events have included a wedding, but that this one did speaks to how special this group is for its participants, at least half of whom include new people each year. I count myself among those who have recently discovered this group and who intend to return.
If you’re interested in this and other groups, look us up in the Road Scholar offerings for the month of November. Even if you have to come from more than 2,5000 miles away, as I did, you won’t regret it.