Memorizing Chorus Song Lyrics

My community chorus is singing 14 songs for Christmas. Five of them are repeats from last year, so that leaves nine new ones for me to learn and a new part on two songs, so 11. Memorizing the notes and timing is easy. Just listen to the songs on a loop while running errands.

As I sit at the stoplight spitting out the words I do know to Countdown to Christmas, I wonder what the driver in the next car is thinking.

Boy, she sure knows the words to that fast song.

She must’ve had too many cups of coffee this a.m.

What is she ranting about, and to whom?

The words, however, are much harder for me, especially when they are Christmas songs filled with abstract words that are repeated from song to song – an over lapping of happiness, glory, family, friends, stars, snow, winter, gifts, beauty, laughter, joy, baby born, holy, wise men, etc. etc.

The easier lines have concrete nouns that only come up once in the entire program – gingerbread feeling, reindeer, Pekingese, passing around the coffee and the pumpkin pie. I am onboard with those lines and their whole songs, mostly.

But the other songs, filled with strings of meaningless abstract phrases, are the killers. I’ve spent every Monday night studying the words, and by Tuesday rehearsal they have all gone out of my head. I’ve tried writing down the lyrics, more than once, for every song.  This holiday week, with no rehearsal, I’m trying something different. I only do one song and then go off and do something else. I’m hoping my brain will absorb the words and keep them ready for me at performance time.

Part of the problem is the speed at which these words must be spat out. Countdown to Christmas is like a machine gun of words. How the audience will understand any of them is beyond me (something my mother used to say). Maybe it’s harder for me to get them because I’m ten years older than I was when I joined the chorus.

I’m sure others have some tricks that I don’t know about. Maybe you can leave a suggestion in the comments. I only have two more weeks before we perform.

The woman behind me on the risers knows all the words to all the songs. I’ve already thanked her for that. Still, will my mouth move fast enough to form the words? I could hide behind a mask, but that’s not fun when performing. COVID will always be a risk, but being able to freely breathe while singing is better than having cloth over your mouth and nose.

The two Handel pieces, with hard entries, will now be much easier using our music.  The gargling song is especially hard for me. Is that The Glory of the Lord or For Unto Us a Child is Given?  The two are interchangeable in my brain. Which is which? I have no idea.

What Sweeter Music is a lovely song, but I sang tenor on it before, which has different words than what the altos sing. We don’t sing much at all, so I’ve got that one down, I think. The sopranos have more parts than the altos, and the men have the most of all.

Spring music is more pop and contemporary, familiar songs. Although I might not know all the words at first, the songs stand independent from one another and don’t have many common words. I love that.

Star of Bethlehem, star of happiness, star of goodness, star of beauty, star of innocence? Which one is it? I’m glad Jill in back of me, has got my back.

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