We used to sing.
Sure, some of us still do. I have two or three friends who are bona fine opera singers, and I know countless more folks who sing for smaller or larger portions of their suppers in church choirs, chamber choirs, symphony choirs, etc. They're trained, most of these singers. They've been given specific instructions on how to inhale and exhale, how to shape their vowels, whether to roll or flip their /r/s.
But what about the rest of us? What about those of us whose idea of proper singing technique starts and ends with opening our mouths?
Casual singing, day-to-day singing, is in a bad way. There may be a hundred contestants yelping their dignity away on American Idol, but you have only to stand in a Sunday morning congregation to observe people whispering the words of the hymns, frowning at their upside down hymnals, zoning out, or snapping shut their books. Gone are singalongs, caroling parties, lullabies. Singing has become like surgery, something you're only supposed to undertake if you know what you're doing.
Which is a pity. Not that I am so hungry to be serenaded by our enmassed and tuneless populace, but there is something visceral about singing, some basic human quality that's tough to articulate and even tougher to do without. We open our mouths together; we sing. We don't do it for remuneration or praise or to hear the sounds of our own voices: we do it because we can, because we can do it together, because our throats are choked with song.
This month, I've decided, is for singing. I crooned the communion anthem yesterday. This evening, I'm headed over to a friend's house to howl madrigals. Last weekend, I donned a silly hat, grabbed a mug of nog, and belted the indifferently-voiced alto lines of Christmas carols all up and down the rain-soaked streets. It was not lovely and amazing. It was not even lovely. Nevertheless, there I went, human and making noise.