This journey began last summer, when our choir director announced (to my utter astonishment) that I was not, in fact, a natural alto, but a mezzo. (I had to look up what that was...and it meant that the way I sang as a young girl--untrained and unaware of the differences in various voices--was in fact that kind of voice, with a lot more range at the top end than I had used in years. Decades. Lots of decades.) It shook me up for several weeks--it was like being told "But half the hair on your head is actually blonde--didn't you notice?" or "But you have three legs--didn't you realize?" After I settled down again, I realized that if I had, in fact, that other half of a voice, then I had best figure out what to do with it. Not something I could do alone, at my level of ignorance. So I began lessons.
This is a curious sort of journey, backwards and forwards at the same time, because by agreeing to accept what my choir director (and now, voice teacher) said about the real nature of my voice, I had to admit--accept that my distant memories of singing were of a real voice...that voice and this voice. I had it once--I did sing those notes, singing along with records of Broadway shows and operettas and a couple of operas. The voice I have thought for years I had was not that voice (or this voice) but a different voice--a plain-Jane church-choir-alto voice, a voice that could not be anything but what it was, serviceable in a choir but that's all. This choir voice has been my understanding of my voice for something over forty years. I sang second alto because I could hit the low notes others couldn't, and--when younger and with unusually large lung capacity for a woman--I had both loudness and breath when it was called for. When I thought I was losing that, through having to give up singing for some years in my forties, that's the voice I thought I was losing.
Not the other voice, the one I'd had (but had come to believe hadn't ever existed) and the one I'm discovering now.
I have no idea what this voice is capable of. I haven't asked. I am, after all, over sixty, not an age at which people usually discover that their voice is (still) capable of more than they've used. I am resisting the "if only" side of the situation (If only I'd known in my twenties that this was lurking inside me...maybe...what? And anyway, that was then and this is now, and now is all the time I have.) Today's lesson made it clear that even though lessons were missed during the holidays (too many rehearsals and performances, no time or energy for more), the voice continues to grow on its own, just from my unskilled warbling at home. It's almost like when someone gave me permission--official, recognized permission known as an assignment--to write fiction and take it seriously. WHAM the baby writer-kitten was out of the cage, six feet long, striped and fanged and never going to fit back in the cage. The voice is feeling that way....it wants out. Out being defined as allowed to grow. I have no ambitions, exactly (which I guess is a way of saying "I do, but not any that will get me ridiculed...") I want to sing better. I want to try singing some things I've always wanted to sing but thought were out of my reach, because I love that music.
I am resolutely ignoring all the "You're too old, it's silly to spend money on voice lessons at your age..." etc things that keep trying to get into my head (bad enough that I have the writer-imposter voice...) because--it feels right. Good. Fun. It's kind of like a reaction I had during therapy, when I suddenly felt connected again to my four-year-old self. And if the practical outcome is no more than I become a better choral singer...fine.