Slow fire

We had a good turnout at the Berkeley local singing tonight. Even though several of our regular singers who had attended yesterday’s singing school in Palo Alto didn’t show up tonight in Berkeley, we still had 8 altos, 5 trebles, 8 tenors, and 3 basses.

And the energy tonight was palpable. Perhaps it was because Carl rearranged the location of the hollow square slightly, so that the altos were up against a wall as they used to be. Perhaps it was because we had one or more excellent singers, section leaders as it were, in every section. Perhaps it was because we had a particularly loud and tuneful tenor section. Perhaps the stars were correctly aligned, perhaps the moon was in the right place in the sky. But right from the first song, we were rocking.

And it kept getting better. Will was visiting us from Kalamazoo, and in the first half to he singing he asked Greg to lead 285t “Arnold.” Greg is one of those people who can really get a class to sing. The energy of the class was up, and people had been leading songs at faster tempi than usual. But Greg led “Arnold” at a slow, strongly rhythmic pace. I’ve heard some traditional musicians call that kind of pace “slow fire” — a slow tempo, yes, but one where every note increases the power and urgency of the tune. It was one of those amazing experiences you have every once in a while when you’re singing: the class comes together as one unified whole, and you go out of yourself, you’re no longer an individual singer, you’re part of something larger than yourself.

After that, we were nearly invincible. People stood up to lead tunes at a faster-than-normal tempo, fast enough that normally we would start dropping notes or start singing out of tune — but tonight we didn’t. The tenors stayed loud, and kept the rest of us loud — but unlike the past several singings where when we got loud we drifted out of tune, that mostly didn’t happen tonight. And the energy stayed up.

Finally someone pointed out that it was nearly 9:30, time to stop. “I think we should just keep going,” I said, “we’re rockin tonight.” “A singing all-nighter!” joked Anna. But we stopped. Carl stood up to lead the last song, 39t “Detroit.” And we all left, smiling and laughing.

2 thoughts on “Slow fire

  1. Linda

    It was a glorious singing, one of those times when a local singing is as good or even better than a larger all day singing.
    In Quakerism, we speak of a gathered meeting when we realize we are experiencing the presence of the Divine amongst us. We don’t usually talk about such things at our singings, because why waste time talking when you could be singing? But if there is such a thing as a “gathered” singing, that’s what happened Monday night.

  2. Dan Post author

    Linda: Yes, and yes.

    Certainly better than some all-day singings I’ve been to, if for no other reason than we sing together every week, and there’s something that happens when you sing that frequently with a regular group.

    And though I’m not a Quaker, I have attended enough Quaker meetings to know it did have that feeling that you sometimes get in a really good meeting for worship.

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