I've stopped saying I can't sing, because lately I've been doing a lot of singing so it would be ridiculous to continue protesting that I can't. What I meant, for all those years of saying I can't sing, is that I can't sing reliably well. My voice still isn't very reliable, but lots of practice, good company and good teachers are helping me to understand more about how to control my voice and how to recognise the range where my voice is strongest and most reliable.
I'm singing waiata (Maori songs) with two separate groups. In the Waiata Class at work, most of the singers are not much more familiar with the songs than me, and while there are a range of singing abilities, we've been progressing together at more or less the same pace. The repertoire is designed for us to use in appropriate work contexts and ranges from funny nursery songs to himine (hymns).
At Waiata Joy (at Pehia Weri Marae on Tuesday evenings) I am the new girl in a loose group that's been singing together all year (and some of them all their long lives). The strength of the singing around me simultaneously carries my voice to a stronger place and helps camouflage my weaknesses. The repertoire there is slightly more weighted to the traditional and himine with lots of patriotic Nga Puhi anthems and old party favourites.
Last night we learned a new song (the first song taught from scratch since I started six weeks ago), a beautiful Maori translation of a Christmas carol called Holy Night. When I first heard the demonstration I was moved to tears, and not only at the assumption that there was no way I could contribute to such an exquisite and complex piece of music. By the end of the evening I had discovered I am an alto, and was singing along... not even close to perfectly, but well enough to be enjoying for the first time in my life the sensation of singing in a four part harmony.