Purim, incredibly, is in less than two weeks. (I haven't recovered from Yom Kippur.) Last week I emailed the cantor to find out if I could once again chant chapter 6 of Megillat Esther, which I learned last year. Sure, he said--and do you want to do more? Well, why not. Esther trop, for some reason, seems easier than all the others, a mix of major and minor keys that's close to the cadences of speaking. Reading Esther feels like singing part of a comic opera, Broadway as channeled by the ancient rabbis (or at least their assistants who handled the musical part).
So tonight I started learning chapter 4, 17 verses. Three of them, sad ones about the weeping and wailing Jews in Shushan, are sung in a different trop--the melody of Eicha, Lamentations, which is read on Tisha b'Av, and which I do not yet know. Fortunately I have a CD of my Torah chanting teacher reading all of Esther (which I believe she learned when she was about 12), and so was able to match her phrases to the symbols for those three verses and understand what I was doing. In about a week I'll know it by heart; right now it's quite confusing.
I'm learning all the different kinds of trop, slowly but surely: so far, Torah, Haftarah, Esther, and the beginnings of Eicha. Still to go: the one that's used on three holidays, when we chant Kohelet (Ecclesiates, on Sukkot), Ruth (Shavuot), and Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs, Passover), as well as the High Holy Day Torah trop. Yes, there are an awful lot of melodies, inconveniently all set to the exact same notation. I figure I have about half a lifetime left to master everything, which should be long enough.