DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Getting by with a little help from your friends — and fellow singers

AS WE NAVIGATE these rough times, I’m advocating an activity, one I believe builds health and community.

I’m for singing — in a group big or little.

It’s understandable if you don’t feel like it at first.

But try setting that canoe in the water.

Lift a paddle — your voice — together with your mates, and feel the glide.

But don’t take it just from me.

Singalongs are soon to be led this month by people who know their stuff: Joy Lingerfelt, Jolene Dalton Gailey and Jonathan Pasternack among them.

Jolene, aka Mrs. Gailey and the conductor of Port Angeles High School’s choirs, teaches young people how to make this bodily music.

So when others find out she’s a choir director, they say: “Oh, you don’t want to hear me sing.”

“But, I do,” she wrote me in an email.

“I want to hear everyone sing. It blesses me.”

Her choirs, along with the Port Angeles High School Orchestra and Band, will give a free concert, with an audience singalong, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12 at the school Performing Arts Center, 304 E. Park Ave.

Another chance to be part of a big ensemble comes this weekend: The Port Angeles Symphony Orchestra and Chorus will lead a singalong, complete with Christmas carol lyric sheets for everybody, in its concert at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday.

This get-together is also at the Port Angeles High School Performing Arts Center; information awaits at 360-457-5579 and port angelessymphony.org.

Singing is an innate gift given to each of us from birth, said Lingerfelt, director of the symphony chorus.

When people sing together, they’re “essentially part of the same vibration.”

As Lingerfelt rehearses her chorus, she sees people open up; “It’s very vulnerable … [but] once they experience the being-together of it, they relax into it.”

The big-hall concert isn’t the only way, of course.

I once belonged to a song circle, a get-together at a friend’s home where one guy played guitar so the rest of us could sing folk songs.

I also attended a Pete Seeger birthday celebration in Sequim, where various generations joined voices.

Sammy Weinert, a 16-year-old singer in two of Port Angeles High’s choirs, told me: “Sometimes we will turn all the lights off in our classroom, stand in a circle, close our eyes, and just sing. [You] are filled with a sense of fullness and harmony … it’s a feeling unlike any other.”

Cody Reader, a 2009 graduate of PAHS now serving in the Army, recalled his time in class as well.

“There is something sublime,” he said, “about that level of connection … being of a single mind and purpose — and bringing music to others.

“My life would not be the same,” without that stint in choir, Reader said.

Pasternack, conductor of the Port Angeles Symphony and founder of its chorus, noted how the people of Estonia used songfests — their national pastime — to keep their language and spirits alive during Soviet times.

Estonia’s Singing Revolution in 1991 carried them toward independence. (See singing revolution.com to learn about the 2006 documentary film.)

In Clallam and Jefferson counties, we have a variety of vocal ensembles, easily found online, from the Olympic Peninsula Men’s Chorus and the Grand Olympics women’s chorus to PT Songlines, Port Townsend’s community choir.

Me, I’d like to do some caroling this season — and keep on singing into the new year, perhaps in a song circle.

A treasured book in my household will help: “The Complete Beatles Lyrics.”


Diane Urbani de la Paz, a freelance journalist and former PDN features editor, lives in Port Angeles.

Her column appears in the PDN the first and third Wednesday every month. Her next column will be Dec. 20.

Reach her at [email protected]

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