I have always found strong community in singing groups. In high school, I sang with the same women’s choir for all four years, and some of those ladies are still my best friends. In both high school and college, I sang in church choirs, and even though I wasn’t sure I believed every word of every song we sang, I loved it. I love the feeling of singing in harmony with other voices, loved holding down the alto (and sometimes tenor!) part and hearing how it blended with other parts to create an amazing piece of music. I love how easily I feel comfortable around other singers, how quickly I can bond over yet another boring alto part or the excitement of how rumblingly low the bass part gets.
When coming to HDS, I had high hopes of finding a singing group I would love. Maybe I would join a community church choir! Maybe a Harvard choral society! Maybe both! As the realities of the time commitments of grad school set in, however, I have been very grateful for the HDS Noon Service Choir and the opportunity it has provided me to join a wonderful community of singers.
Every Wednesday during the school year, a group of staff and students start trickling into Andover Chapel around 11:50am. Under the amazing direction of Harry Huff—who has often arranged that week’s piece—we gather around the piano to rehearse the choir’s offering for that day’s service, which has been decided by the host group with Harry’s input. This year, we have sung a wide range of songs, from a two-part round of “Hineh mah tov” for the Jewish Students Association’s service to “Plant a Radish” from The Fantasticks for our final noon service, hosted by the Garden Group. Harry always sends an email earlier in the week to let us know what song we will be singing, and there is often a YouTube link or attached copy of the sheet music for those who want to take a look or a listen before rehearsal—though it is never expected. Some weeks we don’t sing, per request of the host group, and I find myself missing standing on those steps next to Leslie from the Office of Ministry Studies while we sing our hearts out to the alto line.
The choir is low-commitment, only rehearsing immediately before the service. People come when they can and don’t when they can’t. Most weeks, we start rehearsing at 11:50 worried that we won’t have enough people to carry the round or to fill out the parts, but by the time we do our final rehearsal on the steps around 12:05, the choir has inevitably filled out. For a choir with low commitment requirements and no auditions, we make beautiful music for the noon service community every week, if I do say so myself!
Looking out at the gathered community as we share our musical offering, I am always so thankful for Harry’s direction, the enthusiasm of the other members of the choir, and the opportunity to join them to make beautiful music together in celebration of our community. Despite the full days that come along with being an HDS student, there is still plenty of time to do the things that are important to you, even if you can only offer a small amount of time to them. I was late to choir every week in the fall because I had a class that went until noon, but I could still show up, grab some sheet music, and sing along. Singing is important to me, so I’ve found time for it with like-minded souls. The number of people who show up to sing in the choir each week is impressive when you remember that we are all busy grad students, but, at HDS, we are encouraged to make time for the things that are important to us.