Perfect Harmony

Yesterday we started a new song in choir. It is a magnificent arrangement of “I’m a believer” (which the students all recognised as “The Shrek Song” – a true sign of the times!). It’s bright, boppy and beautiful, but I was initially disappointed to see that the Alto part was mostly the same note – middle c – repeated in various rhythms.

I’ve spent most of my life happily singing Soprano. Sopranos nearly always get to sing the melody. It’s a bit of a sinecure – you just pick out the top line of any harmony, and run with it. We tend to be a little on the smug and superior side, because we sing the parts of songs that everybody knows. Take away the Soprano part and the song usually becomes unrecognisable. In truth, though, the lower parts are much more interesting. Finding a note in the middle of the mix is much more challenging, which is why I decided to switch to the Alto part for a while. I thought it would stretch me, and develop some new skills.

With such a well known song, I was quite disappointed not to be singing that beautiful melody, and as we practised our parts I seriously considered jumping ship and becoming a Soprano again. But then we put it all together – Sopranos, Altos and Tenors. Suddenly magic happened. That boring, repetitive middle C became the firm base on which a soaring, magnificent harmony was built. The song became a living entity, and the individual parts became cells that made a fabulous whole. The precise notes we were singing didn’t matter. The parts were indivisible. The song lived and flew, and so did we.

This flame that burns inside of me
I’m hearing secret harmonies
It’s a kind of magic
The bell that rings inside your mind
Is challenging the doors of time
It’s a kind of magic

Queen – It’s a Kind of Magic

That’s a wonderful life lesson, if you think about it. Our work places, our families, our whole lives are harmonies built out of disparate parts. Some of the parts seem boring, but all of them are essential to the synergistic whole, and the complete entity is greater than the sum of its parts.

My current workplace is an ever-changing, melodious song. Some days it’s a boppy, happy tune, others we verge into hard rock territory. There are, of course, occasional discordant notes. Our ability to stay in tune with each other naturally varies with the level of stress in our lives, and the pressure of the school year. But within the melodious whole there are essential, foundational parts in the harmony. The parts on which the melody rests, that bring all the other parts back into tune in times of crisis.

We are exceptionally fortunate that our school has many of these foundational parts, but today the song veered into the blues as one of those fundamental harmonies spent her last day with us, before moving on to an entirely different genre (to stretch a metaphor beyond its limits).

Darce is a rare and precious strand of the melody, in that she is both self-aware and exquisitely attuned to those around her. With a word or a look she can bring harmony back to discordant chaos. She will no doubt grace her new workplace with the same invaluable talent for conflict resolution and team building that we so value, and she leaves our school all the richer for her too-short stay.

Her self-awareness has led her to take the bold and brave step of seeking a different kind of job, tuning her own personal melody to be the best it can be. I think a successful life is a constant process of tuning, and I admire Darce for her courage in seeking to make her vision of the perfect melody come true.

Our tune will be melancholy for a while, as we rearrange ourselves around her absence. But that’s the strength of a melody made of so many parts – it is a strong, flexible creature that grows and changes with its environment. We won’t replace Darce (how could we?), but we will make a new song, and it will be a beautiful thing to be a part of, even for those of us repeating middle C.


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