Singing in high school and college was fantastic. It really was. But, alongside the fantasticness, do you know what you find in choirs in high school and college? Egos. Drama. Divas. An obsession with every note being perfect and the best and all that jazz. (I’m including myself in all those descriptions, so you know.) Which seemed normal because, y’know, perfection and wanting to be the best are great things to strive for.
But then something comes into your life and makes you realize: oh, silly me. I’ve been looking at this the wrong way this whole time.
Would you believe Hallmark Cards has a singing group made up of some of their very best writers, editors, and designers? And that it’s named “The Thank You Notes,” which is super-cute-OMG-clever-squee? And would you be surprised that they go around town, spreading the healing power of music to those that need it most? Yep, it’s exactly everything you think a singing group from Hallmark would be.
So, many years after I stopped performing in high school and college choirs, I joined the Thank You Notes because somehow I convinced them I was good enough to join. It was great—we rehearsed once a week over lunch, and it was really laid back and everyone laughed and had inside jokes and was witty and nice. It was great, it was fun…but I had quite a bit of angst about my performance. My crystalline high notes were showing quite a bit of craquelure. My pitch tonality was more of a guideline than a rule. But still I went and sang and agonized quietly.
Every so often, The Thank You Notes went out to hospitals and senior centers to do little shows. We did a handful of those during the year, but our real time to shine was at Christmas.
We went to Children’s Mercy hospital, where we caroled in the lobby as volunteers set up Christmas trees for the kiddos, and went up to the floors where the little ones could hear us sing their favorite songs (bonus, our songs got a bunch of crying babies to calm down, too). We visited senior centers, where the guests sang along, danced a little, and shouted out requests from their chairs. We sang in the soaring lobby of a hospice house, and did impromptu mini-concerts in the work café.
And all of a sudden while performing one day, I had my own little Christmas miracle.
No one was angsty if we missed a note or flubbed the words to that one verse. When it came to spreading joy, the details didn’t matter, because the end result was this imperfectly perfect bundle of awesomeness ringing forth that resonated in the ears—and the hearts—of everyone there.
Plus, it was fun. Fun to see the joy on the faces. Fun to hear the applause, too. But even more fun to look from side to side and see some of my dearest friends singing their hearts out, smiling, and just reveling in the music and the moment. Because we were happy, and we were making others happy by extension, and that transformed our singing into the most glorious thing I’d ever heard.
And when it comes down to it, what’s a more joyful noise than that?