In January of 2006, I was reading the local weekly paper when an ad caught my eye. The Peninsula Women’s Chorus was holding auditions. The ad mentioned that they still had spaces available for their upcoming tour to Hungary.
I had been thinking about going back to singing after a ten-year hiatus. And I’d never been overseas. So I decided to audition.
I was pretty nervous (and rusty). I hunted around till I found the music for a spiritual I’d prepared with my voice teacher back when I last had taken lessons and then practiced furiously until the audition.
Because I missed the official audition day, the director asked me to audition after a rehearsal. “Come a little early,” he said, “and you can get a feel for the group.”
So, there I was, about 9:30 at night, hoping to slip unobtrusively into the rehearsal. Since the door opened at the front of the room, though, all 50 women watched me enter. Some friendly second sopranos motioned me over, and I ended up looking on as the chorus sang “EI grito” (The Scream) from Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaar’s Suite de Lorca. I’m linking to another group’s recording, but as you can guess from the title, the first sound is a musical rendering of a scream.
I’m sunk, I thought. This is the best sight-reading chorus I’ve ever seen. I didn’t know many of them had sung the piece before, and thought they were singing it cold.
Under those conditions, I was doubly nervous to audition, and doubly surprised when I passed.
I didn’t end up singing in their section, but I’ve always remembered the kindness of those second sopranos. I remember Robin, because she shared her stand with me, but as Bonnie usually sat next to her I was likely between the two.
After I'd sung with PWC a few years, a group of women from the chorus asked me if I wanted to join another, smaller group they were in, the JewelTones. Bonnie, one of the second sopranos, was the costumer for that group, which wore 20’s, 40’s and 50’s outfits. A major fringe benefit of singing with the JewelTones was that Bonnie, who loved to haunt thrift stores, would pick up non-costume items that she thought the other singers would like. She gave me some great shoes (flowered platforms, leopard print rain boots, rhinestone Cinderella shoes), and hats. Several hats. These hats were not for costumes, but for me to wear for fun.
Today’s post features two of them: the green and purple knit hat and the collapsible purple hat (it cleverly stores completely flat). The green hat has been in the winter hat rotation, and I’ve worn the purple hat to church, the park, and, sentimentally, to rehearsal with the chorus I have sung with since I moved away from the Bay Area and PWC.
Ann Hillesland writes fiction and nonfiction and collects hats. In this blog she vows to wear (not just model, but wear out of the house) every one of her hats, blogging about their histories and their meanings for her.