During all of my days as an undergraduate at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., I was a member of the college chorus. I had two auditions during my freshman year. The initial one in the fall was mediocre, (at least I thought so), yet I guess I had enough potential to make the cut. I expected to do a little better for the spring audition. But I was not prepared to be praised. Mac, the conductor who rarely complimented anyone, said that I had a good baritone vibrato. Wow! I never had to audition anymore, and I received nothing but good vibes from Mac for the rest of my tenure in the chorus.
At the end of my sophomore year, a gorgeously gifted soprano joined the chorus. Her vibrant voice impressed all of us, including Mac. Accordingly, she was chosen to be the chief soloist for the gala concert at the end of the semester. During practices, she displayed her virtuosity: her spectacular voice ranged from sweet to sweltering; and she never sang a wrong note.
We all expected her to awe the audience during her extensive solo. Unfortunately, her debut became a debacle. Every note that she hit was shrill and grating, a half a tone too sharp. Instead of shortening the solo, she gamely persisted, perhaps hoping that she could ultimately get control of her once impeccably unerring voice.
After that concert, she failed to return to the chorus the next year. I never saw her again.
My junior year with the chorus was uneventful. But there was one heartfelt memorable moment during my senior year. For most of the semester, during breaks, I furtively gazed at one of the engaging altos, Beth. I wanted to go out with her, but I was told that she had a boyfriend in another town. Case closed? Not quite.
While the chorus was on a bus trip, I got a chance to sit next to Beth. We politely talked for a few minutes; then she dozed off. Now I had my chance! I snuggled up against her until we arrived at our destination. During this interlude, I had an epiphany. One of the classic lyrics from Porgy and Bess, a number that the chorus had prepared for the ensuing concert, was charmingly transformed: Bess became Beth: “Beth, you is my woman now.” Soon Beth woke up, and I moved a bit away from her so that we weren’t touching.
Although I never had the chance to date Beth, I delighted in humming that famous tune from Gershwin’s dramatic folk opera whenever I saw her or thought of her.
I sublimated my desire for Beth every time the men in the chorus belted out the football anthem, which began with some double entendres: “Push it right through, boys, we’re rooting for you, now then smash their guard once more, see they are losing fast, their line can’t last, Brown and Blue boys for evermore.”