Have I mentioned how much I love Stacy Horn's writing?
And her latest book, Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing with Others, is no exception. In it she discusses not only how joining an amateur/volunteer choir was beneficial to her mental well-being, but also what choral music and singing have meant to other people in other cultures, to the composers of the music, and to music lovers (even if they aren't singers themselves) everywhere.
Now, I'll be honest. Based on subject matter alone, I may not have picked this book up. This is strange, because I love singing and actively miss singing in a choir, which I have not done since college. But I have never been a great reader on the subject of music in general.* But because Stacy Horn wrote this one, of course I had to get it.**
I can't provide much of an actual "review," because I really flew through this book and just enjoyed it without studying it. Horn structures the book around choral pieces they have sung in her choir (the Choral Society of Grace Church in New York City), documenting how and when they were written and including personal asides about what the music has meant to her. She also illuminates the job of her choir's conductor, and all the work that goes into teaching music to singers and helping them perform it to the best of their abilities. In many ways this latter insight was my favorite part of the book; I never really thought about that aspect of choral singing before*** and I loved gaining the insight.
As with all Stacy Horn books you feel she has done her research, and, even though the book is part investigative writing and part history, she also throws in enough personal information and revelations to make it the best kind of memoir: engaging, without being self-obsessed. Consider how she describes an experience of singing harmony, as a soprano 2 (slightly lower in range than the soprano 1 part, which usually carries the melody):
"Then, only a minute later, my mood and my world changed. I hit my first correct soprano 2 note. I don't even know where it came from, but I got it right. It was a D. The soprano 1 to my right was singing the B flat above me. I love that glorious high B flat and I should have been apoplectic with envy about not getting to sing it myself, but instead I was pinned to that D, vibrating with a wondrous musical rapport I'd never felt before. I was feeling harmony. Not just singing it, but physically feeling it...Two notes and I went from a state of complete misery and lonesomeness to such an astonishing sense of communion it was like I'd never sung with the choir before." (p. 31.)
So yes, add this book to the list of Stacy Horn Books I Love. When I got to the end, I actually thought, oh, I wish it were LONGER, and I very, very, VERY rarely think that about books.
So, to get to the title of this post: I have a copy of Stacy Horn's book Imperfect Harmony that I would very much like to send to someone so they can enjoy it too. To enter, just comment on this post and make sure to leave your email address. Nothing complicated; I'll just have my lovely assistant Mr. CR draw a name out of a hat as per usual. You have until next Friday, Sep. 13, to comment. Good luck!
*The few times I have looked for books on the subject, they have been for my brother, who, although he doesn't really sing (at least, not that I've heard, unless you count theatrical operatic singing which he does when feeling rambunctious) or play an instrument, seems fascinated by music. And I'm glad he is, as he introduced me to Journey and Jackson Browne and a million more artists who make my soul go "ahhhhh...."
**I wrote to Stacy to ask how I could purchase an autographed copy, and she sent me one! So I went out and bought a copy for this giveaway because she deserves to sell many, many books.
***My choir director in high school was an evil, disgusting little man, and I only sang for one year in college, so when I think of choir conductors, I get the heebies just remembering him.