Growing Up On PME

Acacia Quien, Alto

Acacia Quien, Alto

I was already a huge Beatles fan by age eleven, so when PME did a rendition of “A Day in the Life” in 1994, the choir earned major cool points in my mind. See, I have been attending the Jazz & Pop concerts since I was a little girl. My father discovered PME in the late 80s, and every year since then and until I left for college, my parents & I have been going to this consistently enjoyable spring show.

When I auditioned for PME at the dawn of the J&P season, I recognized at least half of the choir immediately. I could put names to the faces of the repeat arrangers and soloists, so to me it felt like these folks were either quasi-celebrities or adults from my childhood whom I already knew but who didn’t recognize me yet. Crazy, I know. I half expected Jim Hale or Kathy Longinotti to approach me and ask if I was indeed that scrawny girl in the audience every year in the 80s and 90s, all grown up. Yeah, that never happened.

From the first rehearsal I knew that this choir was no joke. These guys were serious about music, and they were good! Coming from the band world—a nebulous world of dimly lit, noisy bars, smoky casinos, and cocky horn players (singing along side 10 horn players can often feel like a competition), this was a new awakening. No one taking cigarette breaks? No musicians jiving each other, or the singer? No glasses breaking or obnoxious drunks? I knew that my ten year hiatus from choirs was officially over. I had finally found my musical happy home!

I also realized that my choir game was a bit down after all these years, and I needed to stand next to certain people (Polly, Kim–yeah ladies!) to get my sight reading and harmonic mojo back. PME moves fast, and, unlike the choir directors of my youth, Lynne Morrow doesn’t take time out of rehearsal to teach sections their respective parts. We are expected to know our stuff upon arrival, which means a combination of great sight reading skills and a bit of homework. I was officially in the land of real adults and it was intimidating.

However, I had never met a more friendly and supportive group of musical people in my life. Really! PME is unusual in its lack of snake-pit vibe that I’ve seen in other musical groups—the environment is so positive and encouraging, it’s extraordinary. The Pajaro retreat was awesome (see Kate’s blog), and I really dug that such hard work was accompanied by an abundance of quality food and drink. Great singers are great eaters, that’s for sure.

We finished our final concert on Sunday.  I was unfortunate enough to acquire a nasty cold for the first show, so although I sounded a bit like Janis Joplin after a doing some damage to a fifth of whiskey, I rose to the occasion as best I could and made it through without passing out. The versatility in the musical selection and styles of arrangement is amazing—each song is unique and beautiful in its own way. Because there is such a collective support system for risk taking, I am already considering arranging my own tunes for next season.

So I’m finally old (and mature) enough to be singing with my choir idols, and it feels fabulous! I have a feeling that I will be a PEEMER for a very long time, and I hope to see more young adults hope on the bandwagon and join this talented, disciplined choir full of awesome, supportive folk. So where my young choir dorks at?

Acacia Quien

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