He took out of his library what I thought was an old and thick missal. “It will be a special class today. They’re Christmas tunes.” I smiled and said to myself, “Why not?”
“We’re going to start with Holy Night, you know it by heart, don’t you?” He plays the piano, plays a few tricks as an introduction and I start singing. After only one sentence, he stops me. “Well, now, we should sing it better. You see, when you sing notes, you don’t sing, you have to realize the harmony of the piece, the one that guides the melody. Listen.” He accelerates the chords of the piece. “Harmony doesn’t move that much, it’s like a tunnel through which your voice has to slip. It’s beyond the melodic line, it’s beyond performance and emotion. Now, listen to these chords again, and then, now, sing while trying to stay in this narrow tunnel.”
I’m doing it. Oh, my goodness, the holy night encompasses me. I think I understand. Vincent stops and raises the melody with a tone. “Do it again.” This is destabilizing. The tunnel is not the same. Vincent takes me back quickly. I’m already not singing properly anymore. Damn it, it’s just Holy Night! I start again, then, so that I don’t sit on these fragile laurels, the teacher raises the pitch once again. The exercise is emotional, exhausting.
“Good! Let’s move on.” I hand him the book. Vincent turns the page, smiles, hands the book to me again. It’s a tune I don’t know. We are a week away from Christmas and here I am suddenly immersed in the old-fashioned atmosphere of the last century. I think my parents may have had such a holiday melody. The air is joyful and, once again, Vincent makes me realize where the harmony resides and makes me discover it as soon as I enter the delicate tunnel of chords. My voice is absolutely right.
Yet they are simple tunes, sometimes a little quaint, especially when it comes to lyrics (you know, me, the godly themes…). Yet, in my mouth, if I don’t pay attention, the song remains bland, dirty.
“Okay, now let’s attack a real tenor melody. The O Holy Night, or Midnight, Christians. I panicked. “What?” “And you probably know the air by heart.” He doesn’t spare me by attacking the piece. The tone is comfortable. I’m doing it. I’m fine, but I don’t have time to be happy that my teacher stops playing. “What about the tunnel?” He’s putting the chords down. Yes, that’s right, the tunnel, the tunnel, the tunnel, the tunnel. Let’s do it again. Bad, beautiful voice, Verville, I say to myself. But just before I could show all my range with THE note, the EL of NOËL, perched not very high all the same, my voice died out, my throat tied in the vision of the midnight masses in which I participated. In a split second, I saw myself in the place of the singer, placed near the organ, sister Rose barely reaching the pedals of the instrument. In a thousandth of a second, no more, I imagined my parents sitting in the church, proud to hear their son leading the boat. I stopped tears in my eyes.
Vincent saw something was going on. “Emotion is useless to sing, you have to go beyond that.” Well, yes, but you weren’t in the rood with me, my parents turning to hear me… Like any answer, Vincent raises the pitch of the melody, and I have to do it again. It’s not that nothing, Midnight, Christians (O Holy Night). It’s a melody to show a voice and I’m having a hard time leading this dance. Like what, I still have a long way to go. Moreover, even if he seems satisfied with the result, Vincent points out to me that, in a country church, this would pass, but certainly not in a professional world. Hey, oh, the teacher, don’t have to take the nail further, I do it enough myself!
I don’t tell him all this, I accept to laugh at it and submit to his judgment, because, no matter what, I go forward! I didn’t think in a year I’d be singing so high. Not long, but still. And there, to discover all these tunnels of harmony…
Anyway, we spent half of the course, if not more, singing these past songs, worn to the core. The lesson was great. If no understanding of the tunnel, there is no accuracy, no ease. Even these high notes, which frighten me, can only be achieved if we accept, at first, to abandon ourselves to them, to disappear for them.
In my shower this morning, I sang my “O Holy Night”. It is on the 26th. Christmas is over, it doesn’t matter. Christmas is more than an ordinary day. But if it is Christmas every day, the heart becomes light, full of hope for happiness. With the help the ceramic tiles, humidity and nudity, I easily reached the no-EEEEEEEEELLLLLL. Maybe my neighbors heard me and criticized the madman who screams at nine in the morning. Never mind, I was everything.