On the drive home, Will and I were explaining to the two non-singers riding with us how the singing went. Will summed it up best when he said that musically it wasn’t the greatest experience, but we went a long way towards building community.
None of the people who regularly pitch for us came today. Erika did most of the pitching for us during the Other Book singing in the first hour, in many cases pitching songs that she had never seen before, a difficult task which she did quite well. But at first the class didn’t always give her the time to think through a pitch, and make necessary corrections. It was a variant of the problem the Berkeley singing has been struggling with for the past year: we have not been listening to each other, and paying close attention to all the sections, and all the singers.
Erika had to leave at the break. Suddenly leaders found themselves pitching their own songs, and discovering how hard it is. When you’re pitching, you really need everyone in the class to listen to you, waiting until you really have the pitch you want. We’ve gotten used to having very able pitching in Berkeley, so the class has the bad habit of latching onto a pitch, and sounding the chord, before the person pitching has actually settled on a pitch. Early in tonight’s singing this led to a certain amount of frustration: the person pitching would sound a tentative pitch, then rethink that pitch, but before he or she could sound the new pitch, the class was sounding the chord for the initial pitch.
But in the second half of the singing, after the break, the class began to relax and wait until the person pitching had really decided on a pitch. We started listening better — listening not just to the person pitching, but also listening to all the other sections while we were singing the notes, and then if we heard one or more sections struggling with the pitch, we paused until the person pitching could revise the pitch.
This, I think, was at the heart of the community building Will was talking about on the drive home: listening to one another, and working together so that we all sounded good.