frenchpony (frenchpony) wrote,

  • Music:

Make Heaven's Portals Ring

What with the resounding six hours of singing yesterday at the Hyde Park All-Day/Annual/Anniversary/Whatever Singing, I have finally passed the test of chairing a semi-major singing event from the beginning. The Hyde Park Singing isn't a massive event, but it is big enough to require a certain amount of work.

The first issue we had to deal with was our venue change. After we got bumped from Quaker House, we searched frantically until we came up with Augustana Lutheran on 55th St. The Lutherans were very nice to us, though it was clear that they really had no idea what they'd agreed to let us do -- at one point, they thought we had planned to sing on Sunday, and offered to turn their worship service over to us, which would not have been a good idea. But they gave us the full run of their lovely, modern social hall, complete with commercial kitchen (two stoves, two microwaves, two dishwashers) and china to use at dinner.

The first time in a new space is always a little weird. You don't know how the chairs ought to be set up best, you don't know what the acoustics will be like, and you have to make a hundred little guesses about where people and things ought to go for the best flow. We'd decided to set up the singing slightly off-center in the room and arrange dining, sales, arranging/secretarial, and registration tables around it, and put the food in the kitchen. This seemed like it ought to work, and it kinda sorta did.

The other part of being chair is finding people to do the various jobs that need doing. Most people know what each of the jobs entail, it's just a matter of finding people to do them. lcohen had been last year's co-chair, and was helpful in determining things like scheduling. Our other outgoing co-chair agreed to be Coffee Committee. We had a volunteer from the North Side for registration. One alto very cheerfully agreed to be secretary, to the great relief of another alto, who does a lot of secretarying and for whom that job has lost much of its charm. I asked a friend from out of town to arrange, because he does it a lot and is good at it, and canyon_lady got to share the job and learn how it's done. Now she, too, has been initiated into the siblinghood of Sacred Harp arrangers, mua ha ha ha ha. rhobike couldn't make it to most of the singing, as she had a regular obligation elsewhere, but she hosted our out-of-town arranger, and provided a pot of tzimmes for dinner. There is one Chicago singer who is regularly called upon to be the Finance Committee and ask for donations, and he agreed to do it for this singing.

The biggest surprise was that plorkwort turned up on Thursday evening, all the way from Boston. I'd been sort of desperate to find someone to give a memorial lesson, because the people I'd originally asked hadn't gotten back to me -- a crossing of the communications wires, as it turned out. But I needed someone to do the memorial lesson, and plorkwort was very gracious when I asked on Thursday if she would do it at a singing on Saturday.

With all of this venue-switching and seat-of-the-pants organizing, the singing could easily have tanked. But it didn't. Everybody and everything rose to the occasion. Enough people came for setup that it went smoothly, but we didn't have so many people that they would trip over each other. It turned out that the kitchen choreography wasn't as great as we'd thought, but that was something we needed to learn from experience, and the singers were gracious about it. All the announcements about the venue change worked, and people arrived at the right place.

Augustana Lutheran has lots going for it. The room is big and bright, the chairs are light to carry and comfortable to sit in, and there are plenty of them. The bathrooms are modern. The kitchen is commercial, and we have free use of it. Best of all, the building is eminently handicap accessible, which Quaker House isn't, and is right on a bus line. A Very Scientific poll at the end of the singing (done by Applause-O-Meter) showed that people liked it. We may be back next year.

But it was really the people at the singing who made it work. They accepted all of the weird crud that goes with a new venue, and were willing to work with us and be flexible. After I was formally elected chair, I made this awful JFK joke -- "Ask not what this singing can do for you, but ask what you can do for this singing." People laughed, but they took it seriously. Singers switched out at the registration table without being asked, and six or seven people took it upon themselves to do kitchen prep and immediate cleanup. Enough people stayed behind for final cleanup and teardown.

Everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time. Acoustically, the room is very live, and it took some time to adjust to that, but we got a fantastic sound going. It's true that, once you get things started, a singing pretty much runs itself, but it was so nice to sit there and sing and know that everyone was having this fantastic time at our party, especially after so many people had worked so hard to make it happen.

And now, I'm happy that the singing went well, and I'm very happy that it's over and I don't have to chair again next year!
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