B eing one of 70 girls in a choir isn’t much different from being one in a class of 30, I discover at Tuesday afternoon’s rehearsal.

I am squished between two tenth-graders, a side effect of being five-foot-nine. They have all the confidence that sophomores generally seem to possess, and more. Is it because they’ve lasted a whole year in the Solomon Schonfeld Academy and are going strong?

I wonder if I can be like that in a year from now.

“B’sheim Hashem,” Tehilla, one of the choir heads calls out.

She makes a couple of exaggerated motions with her hands and we start up.

I like this song. It’s Benny Friedman’s, from an old album of his, maybe three years old. I let myself relax into the gentle rhythm. I close my eyes and block out the boisterous tenth-graders surrounding me.

When my eyes are closed, I am not here. I’m under the covers, or running in a field. I am not super tall, or maybe I am, but it doesn’t matter.


Someone, somewhere, has gone badly off tune, and our voices dissolve into a babble of conversation.

Tehilla looks annoyed. But she always does, poor thing, and I wonder what gets under her skin.

“Short ones in the front, tall ones in the middle, giants at the back,” she’d snapped as soon as the heads had introduced themselves at the very first rehearsal. I’d scrunched my shoulders and slouched — I didn’t want to be the only ninth-grade giant — and plunked myself somewhere in the middle row.

“I like to get the positions out of the way as soon as I can, that way we’re all set to sing.”

If I’d wondered why this intense, almost fierce 12th-grader was chosen to be choir head, I knew when she breathed out the word sing. She brightened — and though I’d see her waver on and off through the rehearsals, barking instructions and then growing gentle in song — I liked her then and there.

Esther, another head, snaps her fingers for silence and gestures to Tehilla. Tehilla takes the mike and falls into a delicate harmony. Her voice soars like a bird’s and she reaches an incredible high. I cannot tear my eyes off her when she trills the high notes, she’s practically flying herself.

Today Mrs. Marcus, our science teacher, taught that some animals communicate just by singing. Whales make underwater sound vibrations that help them connect with each other and survive.

If Tehilla could communicate by singing, we’d all be better off. The thought makes me laugh for a moment, but I almost choke because I know how badly wrong that sort of communication can go too.

“B’sheim Hashem,” she calls out again, “starting with the high part.”

From the corner of the auditorium the piano pounds to life. It is the interlude of the song, the one that leads straight to the high part. I haven’t heard it in three years.

Everywhere mouths open and voices rise in song, but I am stuck like a gasping fish. Stuck on the soft notes of the interlude, that pull me back, way back, to three summers ago when life was a beautiful song and everything was different. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Teen, Issue 38)