I am in my 19th year of membership with Schola/FWC. Now, I wish I had made the move sooner. No way I felt qualified to be a member. The music they sang was a lot of the classics and it was a “real” choir, auditioned and not just for anyone who wanted to sing. I remember how out of place and frightened I felt when I showed up to audition. Mona Adams had checked me in that Sunday afternoon and I waited in the hall for my turn. That’s always fun listening to the person in front of you sing. It gives you time to really turn up the nerves while you try to act like you're a pro from Juilliard or just won the NATS. When it was my turn she led me up into the loft of St Stephens where the choir normally rehearsed. There was Dr. Donald Bailey, the Artistic Director, but also I think, Duncan McMahan, Carol Pyle, Joe King, C.L. Bass, Pam Thomas and of course Alan Burratto at the piano. I introduced myself, but I didn’t know anyone there. Nothing like singing for an audience. I was a music degree drop out from Texas Wesleyan and I had not been in any music since then except for church solos and choirs for the last twenty years. All the bravado and confidence from my church fans turned to a sour feeling at the bottom of my stomach. What the heck was I doing here?
Why did I go? I had made a promise. I am sure there are a lot of reasons people want to be in a civic choir. To keep your voice in shape, network with other musicians, expand your repertoire, your conducting skills, prove something to yourself or others, or just get out of the house on a Monday and those are all great reasons and do happen in FWC. For me it was a promise made to my mom in 2000 shortly before she died. Now this wasn’t a big formal “I swear by my voice...that I will audition...for Schola Cantorum” signed and sealed in an envelope. It actually had been an ongoing conversation between us from the time I moved back from Florida in ‘81. She would show me newspaper clippings of Schola concerts, reviews and audition times. You know, stuck under my plate at a dinner, in my Birthday card, on my refrigerator. She was determined. I had left TWU at the end of my Junior year, 1977. I just could not continue in a Music Education degree. I was miserable while student teaching and did not see myself continuing. At that time it was the only music degree TWU offered. I opened a restaurant, married, moved and left the music behind. Mom didn’t though. I don’t think it was because she thought I was the next Beverly Sills or Lena Horne. She knew it made me happy.
I don’t recall any of the conversation or questions from that audition, but I sang the piece, tone matched, and did some range exercises. Dr. Bailey welcomed me to the group. What, really? Just like that. Whoo Hoo!
It was soooo scary that first rehearsal. I was petrified and overly conscious of everything. The front two rows kept turning to look at who was behind them. The section leaders moved around, listening to you, checking to see if you had the notes on your music; looking for that pencil. Carol Pyle, the alto section leader sat next to me and corrected my tone or dynamics. I was always too loud. I was mortified until she spoke with just about everyone else in the alto section too. It was intense, hard and frightening at first and it was all business during rehearsals. But the rehearsal break was like a social party. Everyone asked questions about who you were and welcomed you to the group. Breaks were longer than ours are now, 20 to 25 minutes most nights, of course though, we rehearsed until 10 pm too. Occasionally, we went for drinks or dinner after a rehearsal or concerts. The talk always centered around the music or events of the day.
Singing with them brought back why I wanted to study music those years ago. I loved the rush of adrenaline, a connection to something much bigger and more meaningful than myself. It was the overwhelming emotions of that near perfect moment of sound. You know it, when the hair on the back of your neck prickles and you get those goosebumps on your arms. Like that. Here were teachers, music ministers, composers, doctors, lawyers, real estate agents, stewardesses (still called that then) and people like me. Well, maybe not many housewives. Some of the singers drove hours or flew in to come to rehearsal. Sometimes spending the night in town and going home the next day. I was amazed at their dedication to the group. All passionate about their choir and their music.
Schola Cantorum has made many changes since then. We are now The Fort Worth Chorale, Schola Cantorum. For the most part though, auditions are still scary. Breaks are shorter and rehearsal is done at 9:30pm. We have a whole different group of singers. On the average a lot younger. A few of those singers from 19 years ago still sing with us, but most are gone. They have retired out, maybe lost the physical ability to sing, had children, moved, changed jobs, or left to sing elsewhere. Some still come and go as life permits. The Chorale has sung at some of their weddings and we have sung at their funerals. They were our friends and we shared a common bond. They believed that singing music made things better and that there should be a choir that provides an opportunity for singing and more. They were also a group that shared, advised, mentored, modeled, lifted, taught and even sometimes disagreed. The choir is still all that and more.
Next year’s season 2022-2023 will be the 60th year for the Fort Worth Chorale, Schola Cantorum. I admit to feeling a bit proud to be a part of its history. It is exciting to think about how we will celebrate the Chorale and honor its history and the members who believed enough to support and nurture this organization. I hope you will revisit our website from time to time as we feature different members' stories of the past and present. If you are an alum and are not on our mailing list, please contact us. We want you to be a part of the celebration too. Remembering 60 years of doing what we love...singing.