I have a persistent furball in my throat. My mornings are spent hacking and “aheming” until I can settle it into an acceptable place. This mucous meatball significantly crimps any singing I might want to do.
During a Very Low & Lonely Time last year, I discovered Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir performing “Sleep.” http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/eric_whitacre_a_virtual_choir_2_000_voices_strong.html. Here was this cool composer guy talking about souls on virtual desert islands, going to any length to find and connect with each other. The individual singers, connected in the video by nebulous bands, showed me that distance and isolation could be overcome. The music itself was painfully gentle, and healing. Through my ocean of tears, Scarlett O’Hara-like I vowed to take part if another virtual choir assembled. I wanted desperately to be part of something that mattered.
Even in my long-ago, pre-furball days, I never sang solo. I was an alto who could sing well within my section. The alto line of “Water Night” is too difficult for my current voice, so I chose the tenor line. Then I procrastinated ordering print music. We went out of town over the holidays. I waited weeks for practice videos that turned out to not meet my hand-holding neediness. My voice could support only a limited amount of practice before disintegrating. I had to relocate my aging laptop with its very noisy fan closer to the router so the conductor video wouldn’t hang. My laptop had no webcam. Mike’s newer laptop did but wouldn’t play the official recording video without downloading a new browser. The submission deadline was galloping toward me.
Virtual Choir 3.0 (VC), as the “Water Night” project is named, had an active Facebook page with people posting their accomplishments, encouragement, and tips. I saw a suggestion there to use a camera and upload to YouTube rather than record at the VC website. I had never used a web cam, filmed a video on a camera, or uploaded to YouTube. I didn’t know if the camera microphone would capture my voice or the noisy computer fan, or record the entire song. But I figured if all those people all over the world were doing it, I could too.
On the day before the deadline, I set up shop in our recording studio (Mike’s office), beside the wireless for best reception. Lights meant to illuminate my face gave me a Blair Witch Project appearance. I ditched them and turned on the recessed ceiling lights with their broken dimmer switch, leaving me with an orb on my head in the video. I stacked jewelry boxes beside the laptop to raise the camera so the video would not be solely of the inside of my nose. After falling off a couple times, the camera found its own niche and stayed in place. I then discovered it had developed a lingering lens motor noise after being turned on. But I was now a train not to be stopped. I clasped a wedding-gift necklace from Mike around my throat, donned headphones, and started singing.
I recorded four videos. They were all equally bad, or rather, I’m equally bad in all of them. One filmed me walking into the room in my underwear. I’m rolling my eyes at being out of tune on another. All of them have a beer bottle and antique insecticide containers in the background, as well as drywall patches and bursting book cases. Every one has off-tune notes, and I’ve discovered that, like Homer Simpson, my upper lip is far too long for my face. After the third attempt, my voice began rasping significantly. There was no way I was going to improve my performance, despite alternately sipping water and swallowing honey. In the final video, I am literally gasping at times and lip-syncing at others. But I’m smiling at the end.
The YouTube upload took a relatively unattended hour while I watched “Being Human.” The audio portion came out surprisingly clear at the website — and the visual was flipped on its side. No amount of button pushing could get me upright. I posed my dilemma to the Facebook support page, and had the instant answer that the VC techies could get me to sit up straight at their end.
I surrendered control. I let go, and my video went into the Virtual Choir cue.
And the hammer on my happiness meter came down so hard it nearly blew out the top.