I MADE MY way to the Community School of Music and Arts on a recent Monday evening with a strange (for me) purpose in mind: to stand in a room with two dozen other people and sing
Tuli tuli, tuli tuli, tuli tuli, tuli, tuli / Sihoana, siwasi, hosiam tanta, tanta, tanta!
After that, we sang
Zamba, zambé, zarabanda. Mi perro, la luna y tú!
And for good measure, we finished up with
Mayan ganim, be'er mayim, mayim chayim / Be'er mayim mayim chayim, v'noslim L'vanon!
Unusual, yes, but just another Monday for the World Harmony Chorus.
The WHC is run by Mountain View's inimitable Daniel Steinberg, who founded it 10 years ago and has since moved the operation to one of CSMA's music rooms. The chorus gathers for practice every Monday from 7:30-9:30 p.m., and a friendly bunch of locals arrive on time, recorders and sheet music in hand, ready for their warm-up exercises.
Then comes the songs, which are like nothing you've ever heard. For one thing, they're hard — just try singing "Sihoana, siwasi, hosiam" in bass while the tenors and altos sing counterpoint and few if any of us are trained singers in the first place. Once you've finally worked that out, throw in a series of unfamiliar hand and body gestures, to mix things up, and voila — you're a Namibian boys' choir. Sort of.
Luckily, Steinberg is a masterful teacher. He is patient, sharp-eyed and full of good humor, and seems able to monitor everything at once. Catching individual missteps, he brings everything to a stop with a sudden hand motion, singles out the problem and works us through it by singing the line, clapping out the rhythm or playing the melody on a nearby piano.
This year, Steinberg's mix of songs, which he arranges himself, includes music from Namibia and Uruguay, plus a composition with words in both Hebrew and Latin (with more to come). In the past, the WHC has done songs from Serbia, Finland, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Quebec, Zimbabwe, Bulgaria ... the world is pretty much Steinberg's oyster.
Classes have been going since late September, but Steinberg told me that "We accept new members all through the session. Obviously, coming later means a steeper learning curve, but if people are willing to stick with it, they can succeed. We've had people joining as late as May and catching up."
"That said," he added, "the official 'new session' start is the start of February. Newcomers will still have to catch up on fall repertoire, but we'll be adding new songs for the spring session, so everybody will learn those together."
To find out more about the World Harmony Chorus, visit www.InstantHarmony.com. Better yet, drop in on a Monday night — and be ready to sing.
There's much more to say about both Steinberg and the WHC, but I will end with an appeal to all of you booming-voiced people out there: he could use more basses.