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Reclaiming My Voice | Manolo for the Big Girl

Reclaiming My Voice

What’s that, Twistie? What do you mean? You sound off all the time and in no uncertain terms. Yes, in my deathless prose. What’s less common with me, though, is raising my voice in song.


I don’t know quite why I’ve always been so shy about singing. I’m naturally a bit of a honey-baked ham. I have a big voice. I used to do a lot of acting, and was noted for my ability to do seriously whacky characters without restraint or embarrassment.

For some reason, though, when I’d go to sing…nope. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it in front of people unless I was in a big group. I was fine in my high school chorus where I was just one of eighty-three voices, but I never attempted to get a solo.

Since high school, I’ve mostly confined my singing to my shower stall. Mr. Twistie has managed to get me to do my party trick in front of close friends. What party trick is that? My Grace Slick impression. When I sing White Rabbit, I sound just like Gracie. Like I said, it’s a big voice. But when I do it – even in front of good friends – I get terribly panicky. My palms sweat, I have trouble swallowing, and when it’s over I feel as though I’ve just been filleted.

No more, damn it!

It’s time for me to get out of my own way. The world will not explode if I sing out loud. My voice does not kill tiny babies and fluffy kittens. And if someone doesn’t like how I sound, well, that’s not really my problem.

Just as I came to that conclusion and started trying to figure out how to act on it, the universe came through with a conduit.

I have an amazing friend named Michelle Jacques. She’s a glorious, gorgeous, generous woman with the voice of an angel and the will of a warm, loving, Sherman tank. When she finds a path, she goes down it fearlessly. She also has a touch of the Pied Piper in her, in that following her is irresistible. That’s probably why she’s been such a popular music teacher in the Oakland schools.

Now she’s started a chorus for adults. It meets in my neighborhood. In fact, it’s about a block from my house. I have no excuses. She even waived the fee for me. Don’t worry, she plans to take it out in trade. I will be forced to bake for her, and no doubt she’ll come up with other little tasks for me because this is a woman who knows how to exploit a willing minion. Of course, these tasks will be a pleasure to perform. I just may find myself doing things I’d never considered before, because she has a way of drawing out talents you never suspected you had.

For one thing, I’m singing out loud in a chorus that (so far) numbers four members. The world didn’t explode. There has not been a sudden rise in unexplained kitten deaths in my town. And with only four people singing, I can’t hold back. It’s nerve-wracking, but it’s also exhilarating.

So I encourage you all to find something where you’ve been getting in your own way, and just take the plunge. Take a stab something you’ve wanted to do but been too nervous to try.

Oh, and if you happen to live anywhere around Alameda, CA and want to come sing…just drop me a line at gileswench at yahoo dot com, and I’ll send you details.

Please. We need more voices.

7 Responses to “Reclaiming My Voice”

  1. Sarah October 5, 2008 at 1:53 pm #

    What I would give to sound like Grace Slick! You go, Twistie!

  2. Integgy October 5, 2008 at 3:52 pm #

    Aww, I know your singing anxiety so very, very well. I used to sing a lot, but other than randomly bursting into song quietly, public performance always made me incredibly, voice-crackingly nervous (which is why, when given solos, I never performed them well xD).

  3. CanadianChick October 5, 2008 at 11:54 pm #

    ah, what fun! I used to sing a lot (on the stage since I was a preschooler), stopped about 15 years ago. Started up again with a klezmer band of all things (I’m a shiksa and an atheist to boot) and am having a blast! We go to the Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver when it’s sunny out and play and sing for fun.

  4. TeleriB October 6, 2008 at 8:44 am #

    I sang in grammar school, but when confronted with “real” singers in high school, became convinced that I “couldn’t” sing. So I didn’t, until late in high school when I was a Girl Scout day camp counselor and bus monitor. I knew bunches of scout songs from younger scout days and got the kids to sing them on the bus because, hey, it’s not like little kids care about how I sound, right? They were an enthusiastic and unintimidating audience.

    From there, it was “Well, drunk people don’t care how I sound, right?” and then I discovered that I like performing and people apparently like to see me perform, even if they’re sober. I swear it’s 80% attitude and 20% actual vocal skill. I’d rather listen to someone who gets a little breathless or even has to skip over a line if she seems like she’s having fun, rather than someone who’s note-perfect but has the stage presence of a rutabaga.

  5. Elaine October 7, 2008 at 11:05 am #

    I just sent you an e-mail…I live nearby and would love to come check out your singing group! :)

  6. Twistie October 7, 2008 at 12:43 pm #

    Woo and hoo, Elaine! I just dropped you a line back. I hope we’ll see you thursday night.

  7. Optician May 18, 2010 at 6:14 am #

    Wonderful to read!