Digger Joins Choral Workshop as “Lead Velociraptor”


Digger steps out of his comfort zone to join a free queer choral workshop series with Holcombe Waller at Grace Cathedral. Friendly participants politely tolerate his cawing.

Two steps out of my comfort zone. First, in a cathedral. Last time I attempted to enter a cathedral I got struck by lightening as I touched the door handle. Second step out of my comfort zone: singing. It’s out of my comfort zone to sing in private, let alone in public. Plants have instantly wilted at the sound of my voice.

But this is an intriguing project including free evening workshops to sing with and meet others. Open to both experienced and inexperienced singers. Some participants will be invited to join the culminating project – a performance for those who have suffered at the hands of homophobia in November called “Requiem Mass: A Queer Divine Rite.” The purpose of this project is to create both art and community. One of my favorite combinations.

My past singing experience is virtually non-existent. OK, one time in high school I was recruited to lead sing for a friend’s new-wave band only because of my cool hunters-orange spiky hair. Lame selection criteria, I admit. After two rehearsals he acquiesced to my initial response: “but, I can’t sing”. So that was that.

Then, this one time, at fag-camp, I experienced a very powerful collective sing in a man-filled sauna. Within this tightly enclosed sauna our collective “OHM” morphed into an extended magical remix of resonance. This was the only time in my life that I experienced the truly spine-tingling magic of being immersed within collective singing, of vocal soundwaves cascading around like an aural whirlpool. It was a uniquely electric experience.

Singing with others, hearing our voices intertwined, hits at a core. An evolutionary core that extends back to our roots as tribal creatures, singing together around the campfire. Singing in a group imbues a strong sense of belonging, which we naturally crave and can rarely get in this culture. Any activity in synchrony with others elevates the mood. I can feel that power, I can appreciate it, and desire it. I just can’t sing. Let me rephrase that in an upbeat fashion: I haven’t yet learned how to sing very well.

But this life and this blog are all about exploring and trying new things so I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and deliver. Afterall, my participation was free for me (although other ears would pay a price). I arrived to a small, diverse, friendly group of a dozen. We got to briefly chat before the workshop and during the break, but divided immediately after the exercises ended, which was a shame because I would have enjoyed continuing a conversation. Holcombe graciously led us through some voice warm-ups and exercises.

I assumed, within a group, I’d be able to go undercover and unnoticed. And for some time that worked. These people had some gorgeous voices! Luckily, I’m not tone deaf, but due to inexperience it takes me a lot longer to find the where my voice matches what I’m hearing. Lost in a crowd of voices I can keep the volume low until I find it.

Group anonymity worked until an exercise put the attention on each of us separately for a moment. We were to spontaneously compose and perform our own 1-4 worded song out of the lyrics before us. This was certainly more intimidating to me than to those with experience.

Way out of my comfort zone for sure, but grin and bear it, Digger, you can do this. Channel that inner preschool child, the one without self consciousness who just tries anything, anyway, no matter the outcome. The child who doesn’t yet understand embarrassment nor humiliation. I psyched up my confidence and when it came to my turn, my voice cracked like puberty. HAHA! A truly ‘after school special’ moment, d’oh! But I held onto self-love and humor and that inner child and dumped that embarrassment and commended my courage. You did it, Diggy!

So yes, I’m glad I went. I’m glad I stepped outside my comfort zone. Holcombe is a great leader and the attendees were interesting and kind even in light of my painful voice. And it is a wonderful experience to sing with others. If you have any experience singing I recommended it. If you don’t, I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and I’d still recommend it. This is how we learn and grow.

There are more workshops on July 3 & 5 and Sept 18-27, although some may be at a different location (so take a look): https://www.facebook.com/events/216006532321715/

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