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Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing…
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Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing with Others

by Stacy Horn

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Imperfect Harmony fits right in with my life. I, too, sing in my church choir and it really is a great outlet for so many things! I also love that is has so much history and information about music in general. Horn really does take you on a journey through her own life and through the music that she sings. It really is a special book that goes beyond the simple categorization of memoir. ( )
  patsylynne | Oct 23, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I love memoir, I love music, and singing in my small town church choir is one of my fondest memories. Like the author I am not particularly religious, but know how spiritual group singing can be, and how it can change your life. The book is much more than a memoir, though, filled with music history, and can be a dense read. Some sections were more interesting to me than others, and it took me quite a while to finish, but I kept coming back to it. I listened to the NPR interview with the author and found it very interesting as well. The best part about this book is that it reminded me that I need to sing more often, and how satisfying singing with others can be. I recommend this book highly for music and memoir fans. ( )
  readaholic12 | Oct 8, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was an enjoyable read. I'm a big fan of memoirs -- love to learn how other people live their lives, what they find important, and how they discovered their life's passion. I find it interesting learning the nuts and bolts of how a choir operates, and the history of choral singing.
  runeshower | Oct 6, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book has chapters discussing the author's experience singing In a choral group. She discusses what she feels when singing with others. Mixed in are some interludes with history of singing in choirs. I enjoyed and related to much of what she said and for people who sing in choirs, they will understand her experiences . One disappointment was to find out that, even though her group mainly sings religious songs, she is an agnostic or atheist. When singing these songs, instead of worshipping God, she seems to worship the music. This may make it a little disappointing for members of church choirs to read. ( )
  chgstrom | Aug 26, 2014 |
Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing With Others by Stacy Horn. Epiphany Library section 8 C: Life Skills, Stronger Relationships. Recommended in The Lutheran magazine, this book was written by a choir member at the historic Grace Church in New York City. She is not particularly religious nor does she have an exceptional voice. But like 32 million other chorus members in America, singing makes her happy. This book tells us why singing in a group is energizing, exciting, and just plain addicting. Each chapter in this book is based on a piece of sublime music the choir has presented, and Horn takes us along as she tells us about conductors, composers, fellow singers, and the background of this music.
She unearths fascinating facts about singing in unison and in harmony. Singing in harmony – you know, in parts – soprano, alto, tenor and bass – releases the pleasure hormones of dopamine and oxytocin (the “love hormone”). This pleasure is addicting, and if you have never experienced it, you are missing one of life’s great pleasures. Singing in unison is like blah – like looking at an ice cream sundae and not being allowed to eat it. Singing in harmony is like being allowed to eat the entire sundae, whipped cream, cherry and all. In fact, both singing and eating foods you love release the same “pleasure” hormones. Singers find they want to sing harmony again and again. Harmonizing fulfills a longing for more instinctive, non-verbal ways of being and interacting. Perhaps this is why I so long to sing harmonic special music during worship. Without making harmonies, singing is rather boring. You just don’t get “that kick.” That’s why I sing alto on most of our worship music. I can come to rehearsal very tired, yet I leave energized, more aware, and relaxed. These are the benefits of singing in a group.
This author says that 63% of singers report intense pleasure, including chills up and down the spine, when they sing their favorite music. I have felt this. At my former church the choir always processed and recessed. On Christmas eve, the processional hymn was always “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” I knew the words by heart so it was easy to stare at the massive stained glass cross suspended over the altar as I walked up the aisle. As I did this, I ALWAYS got the shivers. I looked forward to that moment every year because I felt God’s presence very intensely. I wish we processed and recessed at ELC, because then more of us could experience that. There is often a very good reason for such traditions like processing, and to me, it is a loss when they are discarded in an effort to appear more “hip” or “contemporary.” (That’s just my opinion but it is my personal spiritual truth.) I have felt shivers when singing other music sung in harmony on the choir too – when Rebecca Marshall and I sing the melody and harmony in “Bind Us Together,” for example, or when we sing a descant, which is a higher part that when sung, floats above a melody.
Horn also presents 3 problems common to singers: auditory hallucinations, tinnitus, and brain worms (also called ear worms.) Do you have any of these? Examples of auditory hallucinations are when a breeze sounds like an orchestra or an air conditioner sounds like a brass band. (Yikes!) Tinnitus is a constant bothersome ringing, buzzing, or even screaming in the ear. I’ve had ringing in my ears from time to time. Now, I had never heard of brain worms, but they occur when bits of songs become stuck in your head on playback mode. This happens to me A LOT, particularly after choir rehearsals. A hymn gets stuck in my head and I can’t get it out for several days. There are also a few decades-old brain worms I deal with; two being silly songs from old Three Stooges movies! How weird is that? Evidently composer Robert Schumann had all three problems so severely that he had to be taken to a mental hospital. I have a book of his music and after reading this about him, I play it with a heightened sense of value and sympathy.
One thing I began to do halfway through reading this book was to find the piece she was discussing on youtube.com, and playing it while I read that chapter. Since most of the music was unfamiliar to me (except Handel’s Messiah and Mozart’s Requiem) I found this very enjoyable and discovered some lovely music to listen to again and again. For example, try “O Magnum Mysterium” by Morten Lauridsen, or Tomas Luis de Victoria’s “Missa Simile est Regnum Coelorum.” Beautiful music!
I encourage you to join our choir so you can experience the joy of singing with others. Anne can teach us harmonies if enough of us take part and we all take the time to learn parts. Boy, is it worth it! There is little in life more exciting, uplifting and energizing than singing in harmony. Come join us to sing. ( )
  Epiphany-OviedoELCA | Aug 10, 2014 |
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Epigraph
I believe in singing. I believe in singing together.
- - BRIAN ENO
Dedication
In Memory of Frank Cedric Smith
Thank you, and Dilys, for the music
First words
Anthracite is the most beautiful coal in the world.
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. . .the ease from mental pain that other men have sought in alcohol, I always found in song.
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"As Horn relates her funny and profound experiences as a choir member [of the Choral Society of Grace Church in New York], she treats us to an eclectic history of group singing and the music that moves us--whether we're hearing it for the first time or the hundredth--, the dramatic stories of conductors and composers, and discoveries from the new science of singing, including the remarkable physical benefits of song"--Amazon.com.… (more)

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