Berkeley Community Chorus creates a powerful network of concern that extends far beyond the cooperation developed as we blend together to create beautiful music. Whenever someone needs to disappear for a while to cope with surgery or family difficulties, other choristers volunteer to drive, to bring food, make phone calls, keep in touch. Whenever trouble arises, the casual friendships of sitting next to one another, or singing the same vocal line, deepen organically. Nobody thinks twice about helping someone else out. Members will pay for a memorial ad in the next concert program, a special ceremony of song will commemorate how much we will miss a person whose voice has been forever stilled.
For myself, the chorus has proved to be a lifeline to stability and comfort. My husband had been having episodes of serious depression for some time, and kept feeling worse and worse as he became increasingly unable to sleep despite various drug regimens. Without any warning, on a Tuesday morning, he quietly committed suicide while I was sitting in the living room idly reading the morning paper.
What followed were weeks and months of chaos, stunned grief and frantic activity that’s still governing my life two years later. Within a few weeks I felt the urgent need for some window of normalcy. There had to be ordinary life going on out there somewhere. So I came to rehearsal. There’s a certain pleasure in the anonymity of being part of a large familiar group with no particular responsibility. Instead, news had already spread, and I found myself hugged wordlessly and comforted by friends and dozens of people whose names I didn’t even know. And they kept coming up to me, week after week, asking if I was alright, did I need any help, how did I feel.
How did I feel? I felt like a high-wire acrobat trying to cross from one platform to another without falling into the abyss. I was focused on keeping my balance, thinking ahead one step at a time. I was very shaky, but I had the great good fortune of a wonderful safety net under my feet, the community of the whole chorus, an entire extended family, keeping an eye on me and giving me courage. It has been a precious gift.