" It's about gaining a little more freedom to speak, to express, to let myself be heard. To make joyful noises, or messy ones. To create a ruckus when the occasion calls for it." - Tami Mohamed Brown
by Tami Mohamed Brown
I was at the wedding of friends - a beautiful, happy, celebratory event - when the officiant asked the attendees to rise and sing (as we were able) a familiar song.
"Sheesh. Sing out, Louise. Sing out!" joked my friend in the spirit of Momma Rose. Her own voice was a strong and distinct alto that stood out of the crowd as she boldly and capably hit all the harmonies, even without a melody line with which to pair her voice.
In fairness I'll admit: I wasn't singing very loudly, although I easily sight-read music and know that I can carry a tune.
It's just that in public - even in a group, a congregation, a crowd - I usually don't like to sing anymore.
I scowled at my friend in her golden-throated, harmonizing glory and pretended to clear my throat. I turned my back and rattled around in my bag for a cough drop, the rumbling bass
pedals of the organ bravely pulling us all through yet another tentatively sung verse and chorus of the song.
... Would it never end?
I fiddled with my program, flipped the pages of the hymnal and, as I stood in the swell of sound along with the other guests, I noticed something that was both comforting and curious: it wasn't just me. The majority of people, in fact, weren't singing. And those that were singing - they barely opened their mouths or moved their lips! The sound we made as a group was muted. Muffled.
And the whole thing made me a little sad.
Years ago I started out singing. I loved to sing - on my own, in a group - it didn't matter.
But as I grew older and entered adulthood, it was as if a layer of doubt had coated my throat. My vocal chords stretched and tightened to the point of being muted, strangled. I balked at chances to make my voice heard - not only hesitant, but completely distrustful of the sounds that might be produced, wary and careful of how I might sound to others, cautious and unsure of how I might sound to myself.
I always wanted my voice to have a different sound. Not that I thought or believed that it WOULD come out differently - perhaps louder, more melodious, quicker paced - but that it SHOULD. It had nothing to do with performance, but rather about simply opening my mouth and making a sound.
Music is a powerful thing. It's been used as a route to healing and an antidote to grief - as a connection to what we each might find to be the divine.
Finding one's voice, too, can be a vehicle to finding a deeper part of who you are - to who I am. It's about gaining a little more freedom to speak, to express, to let myself be heard. To make joyful noises, or messy ones. To create a ruckus when the occasion calls for it.
And this can be transposed beyond music. The writer Annie Dillard talks about writing in this way, which makes sense to me: "Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time... Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes."
From the balcony, the organist fearlessly pedaled on into the final chorus and I looked again at the pages of my program.
One more song to get through, but there was nothing to wait for, nothing to hold back from.
But then again, there never really is.
I opened my mouth a little wider. And I sang.
Tami Mohamed Brown lives in Bloomington with her family.