“In this one-of-a-kind celebration of singing with others, I’d call her pitch nearly perfect.”—The Atlantic
For Stacy Horn, regardless of what is going on in the world or her life, singing in an amateur choir—the Choral Society of Grace Church in New York—never fails to take her to a place where hope reigns and everything good is possible. She’s not particularly religious, and her voice is not exceptional (so she says), but like the 32.5 million other chorus members throughout this country, singing makes her happy. Horn brings us along as she sings some of the greatest music humanity has ever produced, delves into the dramatic stories of conductors and composers, unearths the fascinating history of group singing, and explores remarkable discoveries from the new science of singing, including all the unexpected health benefits. Imperfect Harmony is the story of one woman who has found joy and strength in the weekly ritual of singing and in the irresistible power of song.
Horn (Cyberville), in her reflective memoir of her decades-long participation in the Choral Society of Grace Church in lower Manhattan, delves into works the choir and others like it have sung over the centuries. She also describes how singing with the group has alleviated her loneliness and depression. Horn, who has been a member of the 152-seat volunteer community choir since 1982, touches on some of the notable choirs throughout American history (most were male until the remarkable Rubenstein Club was formed in 1886 in New York). Horn eloquently traces the evolution of ensemble singing, from monks chanting in the Middle Ages and the blossoming of church music in the Renaissance through the golden age of the 19th century. She also discusses many of the works that endure today, such as those by Purcell, Handel, Bach, Haydn, and Mozart. The Choral Society of Grace Church has tackled challenging pieces by Leonard Bernstein, Ralph Vaughan William, and Franz Xaver Biebl, among others, though Horn mostly dwells, somewhat peevishly, on her humble place in that choir as second soprano ("I'm just not good at most things"). She writes movingly about how singing about death and simply breathing together bring a transcendent feeling of harmonious belonging.