Monday, 9 March 2015, Motorco.
I love going to Monday night choir practice at Motorco. I make a point of getting there at least an hour before the doors even open each week. It’s such a place of safety and comfort. It never ceases to astound and amaze me that, within about 45 minutes, 200-some-odd people can turn a pop song they might never have heard before into a thing of almost ecstatic beauty.
Such was certainly the case for me on this particular Monday night. I’d been trying to stave off sinus problems and an issue that was affecting both of my ears for about a week. It had gotten so bad that earlier that day, I went to make an appointment at a doctor’s office to have my ears looked at. That night, I could barely make out what people four feet away from me were saying. It felt like I was hearing everything through a sheet of glass, and the sensation of not hearing clearly was terrifying.
In the midst of all this, PopUp Chorus remained a haven. I’d not heard Lykke Li’s “No Rest for the Wicked” before choir practice began. Not because I couldn’t hear it, but because I tend to find that it’s more fun to learn a song on the fly. Songs I’ve never heard before become instant favorites, while songs I know very well going in are bogged down in expectation. Wanting to get it “right” intervenes in the learning process, which is something I happen to really enjoy.
I’d just recently picked up this earth-shatteringly awesome 12th Doctor/Peter Capaldi shirt with a ThinkGeek gift certificate, and this turned out to be the perfect night to give it a test drive. In the video, it shows up just as boldly as you please, and I was glad to do my part to rep for Capaldi’s Doctor Who.
The wild choreography in the video, especially coming from the bleachers, where my buddy and I are quite clearly doing work, was equally impromptu. Not only had I not heard the song before we started practicing it, neither had I given the least bit of forethought to accompanying gestures. What we came up with is a gentle blend of wizardry and theurgy, with a dash of Danzig, and a finishing move that suggests southern folk-rock harmonizing of the 1970s.
I wouldn’t be surprised if some people thought we’d planned these things out in advance, or were doing them on purpose to be in the video. We’re always in the video — everyone is. It actually makes me uncomfortable to be a focal point. PopUp Chorus is about community and fun, not the individual. To my thinking, the videos that are made and posted are there to preserve what the choir creates. The true fun of choir practice is the process itself.
When my pals and I are acting up, know that we’re doing it every time, even when the cameras aren’t rolling. I’m doing it because I’m having fun. Sort of “dance like no one’s watching,” if you will. It’s one of the few free spaces to play, laugh, and cavort. It’s like the first day of school every Monday. People are happy to see each other, catch up, and sing. There’s something very nearly holy about everything that goes on at Motorco in beautiful downtown Durham, North Carolina, on Monday nights.
Choir practice is a rare thing. During the time we’re devoting to a particular song, everyone is working together toward creating a new thing. We’re all there to learn, to participate, and do so in a spirit of unfettered joy. People meet up with friends and make new connections. For a few hours on a Monday — traditionally, the least favorite day of the working week — adults can act like children, children’s contributions matter as much as anyone else’s, and every voice has value.
If every city, if every town, had something like PopUp Chorus, the world would be a kinder, sweeter place. I love it. I need it. I don’t know what I’d do now without it. If you live in the triangle and aren’t coming to choir practice, you should really make time to try it out.