Back in my junior high school years, there were only two kinds of boys – those who sang in the junior high chorus and those who considered themselves too cool to sing in the junior high chorus. I wasn’t yet at the ‘I’m too cool’ stage of teenagedom and I’ve always loved singing, so on to the junior high chorus it is! Besides, taking chorus meant that we didn’t have another class where we had to take a written test.
Each grade had their own chorus. It was the only class in all of junior high where kids from every section in the grade was commingled. (I’ve mentioned our ‘sections’ in this story). If you could pass a thirty second singing audition without your voice squeaking like Peter Brady, you could join the chorus. If you were a girl, you best not sound like Luann Poovey else you would not make it past the ear of our teacher.
Junior high chorus was taught by the junior high music teacher; Mr. Lyons. Mr. Lyons seemed to be a nice guy. He was I guess what one would call a stereotypical music teacher in that he was a bit flamboyant. I don’t know if he was straight or gay and in fact, in those days ‘being gay’ was not something people openly talked about like they do today. In the Ohio mid 70’s, being gay meant being happy.
Chorus was conducted in the largest classroom in the school, a double room with one of those big collapsible dividing walls. The room had to be large because our chorus class had the largest attendance, (unless we include lunch as a class, that is). The gaggle of kids in chorus were divided according to how squeaky, screechy or scratchy our voices sounded. The squeaky, Mr. Lyons called the Sopranos. Scratchy’s were deemed the Alto group and the screechy’s were the Tenors – I was a tenor. There was not such a thing as a bass singer in junior high. Bass singers develop in adulthood as hair is lost; they begin as screechers and slowly lose their voices with each comb-full of hair loss. It is a mysterious phenomenon.
My best friend Terry (link) was also a tenor and we sat together behind Teri Wilson and a little cutie that I began to have an eye on. I wrote about a special slow dance with Kathy in this story (link). In between our screeching, Terry and I would pretty much spend the entire class trying to make Teri & Kathy pay attention to and laugh at our stupid antics and comments, many aimed at Mr. Lyons’ flamboyance. I guess the worst thing we did there was to drag one of those small metal desks down a half flight to the second and half floor landing. That was Terry, but I goaded him into it.
The primary goal of each chorus was to prepare for a Spring and Winter performance. Performance night was the one time the boys all wore ties, most of us resorting to clip-ons. If you were like me, you had one single clip-on tie tucked at the bottom of your underwear drawer where it was brought out only for church at Easter and Christmas. Also, if you were like me, you had your tie since elementary school and so when you pulled it out for Chorus performance night after several years of teenage growth sprouting, it looked more like a thin dinner napkin dangling from our gullets rather than an elegant shirt tie – likely complete with a couple of spaghetti stains.
The girls were completely opposite the boys. They were all beautiful little princesses attired in nice, white dresses. All girls in the 70’s had long hair – it was mandatory, (and besides, how else could we train a fly unless the girls had long hair). The best part of performance night for us boys was being lucky enough to stand behind one of these little beauties, their mom’s perfume wafting upwards into our nostrils, helping to fuel our illusions of their finding us as attractive and alluring as we found them.
My mom attended two of these performances, but otherwise I was on my own and I walked to school, (spaghetti stain tie in my pocket of course – hey, it was a clip-on). The parents in attendance were presented with the best damn renditions of Fiddler on the Roof’s Sunrise, Sunset, Paul McCartney’s Inch Worm and a big, heaping helping of The Carpenters. Apparently, Mr. Lyons loved The Carpenters because we sang several of their songs. They were very popular in the early 70’s and no one still has risen to fill Karen Carpenter’s shoes, (my opinion). She was awesome at singing sad ballads like Rainy Days and Mondays.
Adult hindsight time now. I loved my years in Chorus and Mr. Lyons was ok, a good guy. I got to spend several years with the same kids, many whom I loved and still have fond memories of. Albeit I was an inexperienced, horrible first steady for young Kathy, it was there that I met her and was allowed to entertain her and Teri. I’ve always loved to sing and have been told on many occasions by others that they enjoy my voice, that it doesn’t cause their ears to bleed. No doubt singing in the Jr. High chorus helped to warm me up for singing in coffee shops when I was in my song writing craze years.
(I sang a parody at my retirement going away)
If you had all the money you needed, if you did not have to provide for others, if you wanted for nothing and could go back and do it all over again, what would you love to be doing today? In my most open and honest moment, I confess that I would love to be a professional singer. Oh I know I’m not “that” good, but we’re dreaming here kids – I’d love to be singing for a living. When no one is in the house and I am on my Health Rider, exercising, or riding my bike on the trail or even just walking to the store, I’m wearing my little Apple Shuffle, usually singing out loud and fantasizing that I’m singing in front of an audience. No one’s ears are bleeding.
When it’s time to change, you’ve got to rearrange