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Get Out Of The Shower: Mystic Chorale Says 'Everyone Can Sing'08:21
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Founder Nick Page (center, behind the piano) leads his Mystic Chorale through a recent "sing" in Arlington. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)
Founder Nick Page (center, behind the piano) leads his Mystic Chorale through a recent "sing" in Arlington. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)

This story is about a potentially embarrassing topic: Singing.

Where do you belt it out?

If you’re like a lot of people, you might feel safe singing alone — in the shower, or maybe in your car. But Boston conductor and composer Nick Page thinks everyone can sing — and should — with lots of other people, in-tune or almost in-tune.

He’ll be doing that this weekend in a concert with his posse, the 250-member Mystic Chorale.

Jane Arsham is one member. I bet a fair number can relate to a confidence-rocking experience she had when she was a kid.

Singing With Mystic Chorale

To this day, Arsham doesn’t know for sure if her teacher meant that she was awful, but Arsham says, “that’s what I heard.”

And for years Arsham believed it was true. But now, at age 65, she sings her heart out — as often as she can — in the Mystic Chorale, a huge community chorus.

More than 200 singers gathered for a recent rehearsal at a church in Arlington. Page is the chorale’s founder and fearless leader.

“The trick with adults is to give them the emotional permission to let it out,” Page said. “Most adults who don’t sing sing at the same level as when they stopped singing. I got that from that book, 'Drawing (on the) Right Side of (the) Brain.' It says that people who take up drawing as adults start at the same level as when they stopped. And the same is true of singing.”

Page lives by the mantra: “Everyone can sing.” There are no auditions for the Mystic Chorale. Some members are totally green. Others have been singing their whole lives.

The conductor is a big man with a big heart. He commands a hulking, playful, supportive presence. Barefooted and wearing a head band, Page works with the group through a song he wrote called, “I Found My Voice.” The chorale group’s affection for him is palpable.

“For short money you can escape a recession, a depression and misery because the chorale puts you in a place you want to be.”-- Charles Austin

Page — a classically-trained musician and self-described “folkie” — formed the chorale 20 years ago. It started with much smaller, casual, community “sings,” as Page calls them. Open to all, they were inspired by Dr. Ysaye Barnwell of the African-American a cappella group, Sweet Honey and the Rock. She’s organized community sings all over the world, with a focus on teaching the art of song in the oral tradition.

Over the years, the Mystic Chorale has grown organically as people in the audience sang along, got hooked and signed up.

When he first experienced the group, 65-year-old member Charles Austin said, “I was blown away."

Austin joined the chorale five years ago after going to a “sing” in Lexington. He was a longtime reporter at WBZ-TV, but had to give up his career after being diagnosed with cancer and suffering three brain aneurysms. The last put him in a coma.

Austin sang as a young man and equates the Mystic Chorale with “therapy.”

“Because what it does is the music that’s here, that you sing in harmony, with other folks, it just improves your quality of life, your focus," he said. "For short money you can escape a recession, a depression and misery because the Mystic Chorale puts you in a place you want to be.”

And then Austin sang a song for me. It’s one of his favorites from the chorale's repertoire.

Every day is a day of thanksgiving, God been so good to me.
Every day he’s blessing me.
Every day is a day of thanksgiving.
Glory find the Lord today.

Austin drove 75 miles to make his rehearsal last week, and he says he can’t wait to get up on stage this weekend for the Mystic Chorale’s 20th anniversary concert and “sing.”

This program aired on June 4, 2010.

Andrea Shea Twitter Arts Reporter
Andrea Shea is WBUR's arts reporter.

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