If anyone reading this lives in New York City, I’m singing in a performance of the Brahms Requiem at Symphony Space on Friday night. Please come hear me sing!
I first learned the Requiem my senior year of college. Indeed, it was exactly 10 years ago that we started rehearsing it. I devoted a lot of time to learning the often chromatic fugues, listening to the recording, etc. When you get to know a piece of music that well, you begin to truly appreciate certain moments. Powerful moments. Moments when the orchestra hushes and the chorus comes in, or in the second movement when the strings crescendo and the chorus sings in unison, full-throated, “Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras.” (Behold, all flesh is as grass). We’ve been talking about good ideas lately. How did Brahms get that one?
Anyway, now I am singing the Requiem as a grown-up, appreciating these moments again, as when you see an old friend after an absence. The rehearsal schedule this week has been brutal. Any soprano who has sung the Requiem knows what I am talking about. But as I wrote in 168 Hours, I believe that the best way to ensure that you don’t lose your time to work (past the point of diminishing returns), to chores that fill all available space, or to meaningless hours of TV, is to give your leisure hours purpose. If anything, I need my singing more now that I have a busier life than I did in those college days.
Of course, making it to rehearsals is a bit more complicated than it was back then. Here are a few ways to make a regular volunteer or hobby commitment work:
- Play fair. Especially if you have kids, remember that both partners are entitled to a personal life. One option is to give both parties one weeknight “off.” She does bridge on Tuesday, he goes bowling with his buddies on Thursday, with the other party making this a special time with the kids. However, if this isn’t workable for you (and it isn’t for me)…
- Secure reliable coverage. We have a regular Tuesday night babysitter who can stay until my husband gets home, or until I do. Yes, this is a cost, but there are other options, too — if you have family nearby, the kids can go to Grandma’s on, say, Tuesdays, or you can trade off with friends.
- Slip in time for practice. In college, my choir met three times a week, and many people’s a cappella groups practiced 4-5 times. This is not going to happen when people have full-time jobs. But with 168 hours in a week, there’s plenty of time outside your official “night” for practicing. I read through notes on the subway. I listen to recordings of works we’re singing while working.
- Focus. Since my kids are often with a sitter while I’m at rehearsal, I have a bad habit of checking my iPhone frequently. What if there’s an emergency? There hasn’t been in 3.5 years, but you never know. Then about two weeks ago, I dropped my phone and it shattered. It is still usable, but checking my email or text messages means I risk slicing my thumbs. This makes me think twice. So now I just check it once at break, and I’ve found that I enjoy being fully present for the music, listening to other parts when it’s not my turn.
How have you made time for a personal pursuit?