The Freedom of Voice

Bands and choirs encourage wannabes to come out singing

Passion matters more than pitch at the HariKaraoke Band’s weekly Gong Show.
Passion matters more than pitch at the HariKaraoke Band’s weekly Gong Show.

Do Simon Cowell & Co. have you too embarrassed to even sing in the shower? Fear not: In reality, only one person in 20 is truly tone deaf. “You grow up listening to the radio, buying CDs, listening to all these people who have amazing voices and think, ‘If I can’t be great, I shouldn’t do it at all,’ ” says Stacy Horn, author of “Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing with Others.”

In the book, released this month, Horn shares how singing in a New York choir helped her get through a divorce by providing her with weekly moments of community, connection and joy. “There are so many studies showing that singing lowers stress, lowers anxiety, alleviates pain,” Horn says. “The benefits are kind of endless.”

Summer is the perfect time to test-drive singing’s salutary effects, as many of D.C.’s 70 or so choirs are recruiting new talent. If choirs aren’t your jam, there are plenty of alternative options, too.

Front your own band

It’s tough to sustain lead-singer fantasies when backed up by a karaoke machine, so pick up the mic with a local live band.

Am I good enough? Cover band Northeast Corridor’s monthly live karaoke show at Acre 121 is terrific for first-time frontmen, as the band’s backup singers help out if you lose your place. Got sturdy self-esteem? Test your mettle at the HariKaraoke Band’s weekly Gong Show, where audience members are encouraged to cheer (or boo) the singers.

HariKaraoke’s Gong Show at Ri Ra, Thursdays, 9:30 p.m., free, 2915 Wilson Blvd., Arlington.(Clarendon); Northeast Corridor’s Live Band Karaoke at Acre 121, second Thursdays, 8 p.m., free, 1400 Irving St. NW. (Columbia Heights)

Choral-arts-4
Sing with real rock stars

In addition to regular Kennedy Center gigs, the Washington Chorus and the Choral Arts Society of Washington occasionally head to Verizon Center to back up the likes of Mick Jagger and Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli. These groups, as well as the City Choir of Washington, also frequent Wolf Trap; The City Choir will perform the score from “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” on Sept. 6 and 7.

Am I good enough? D.C.’s top choirs generally require you sing a prepared audition piece and demonstrate sight-singing ability.

To schedule an audition, go to choralarts.org, thecitychoirofwashington.org or thewashingtonchorus.org.

Harmonize near home

Join a neighborhood choir for conveniently located rehearsals (and top-notch local gossip).

Am I good enough? It depends on where you live. Some groups, like the Capitol Hill Chorale and the Fairfax Choral Society, require formal musical training and an audition; others, like the Vienna Choral Society and Catholic University’s Town and Gown choir, welcome anyone who can make weekly rehearsals. Practically live at your downtown office? Join the Washington International Chorus, which practices near Farragut North.

For more information, go to viennachoralsociety.org, music.cua.edu/ensembles/chorus, capitolhillchorale.org, fairfaxchoralsociety.org and washingtoninternationalchorus.com.

Lift every voice

Regardless of your religious leanings, it’s easy to feel at one with the universe when singing in a grand cathedral or synagogue. At least two local choirs offer that opportunity to singers regardless of their faith: The Cathedral Choral Society, which performs at the National Cathedral in Northwest D.C., and Kolot Halev, a Jewish choir in Chevy Chase, Md.

Am I good enough? The Cathedral Choral Society holds tough auditions, though anyone can join in on their annual sing-along. Kolot Halev welcomes all singers regardless of musical experience.

Find out more at cathedralchoralsociety.org and kolothalev.org.

Wolf (Von) Trap

Pack a sausage-and-strudel picnic and stake out a spot on the lawn or by the stage for Wolf Trap’s “Sound of Music” sing-along. Forgot the words? No problem — the supertitles will help you along. All voices are welcome. And even if you’re too shy to sing, you can participate in the pre-show costume contest.

Wolf Trap, Filene Center, Aug. 31, 7:15 p.m., $20-$38, 1551 Trap Road, Vienna; 703-255-1868.

Sadie Dingfelder is a features writer for the Washington Post Express.
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