Choir SingingSongs

October 26, 2011

Shut Up and Sing. . .please

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Awaiting imminent publication of my book, 99 Girdles on the Wall, a memoir about holding in, letting go, and coming to grips.  Meanwhile, life goes on.  Here’s the latest:

My church choir has started up after the summer hiatus. For some unaccountable reason, it has swelled to twice what it had been.  New people usually mean new energy but the group on Tuesday looked more than tired because it was a work night.  They looked stunned from having managed to do one more thing that day.

We dirged through the Sunday anthem, a piece called “Sing Out, Earth and Skies” by Marty Haugen.  (For those of you who recognize this name, yes, I am robbing the Catholic hymnal).  The tempo was marked “light and dancing.”   But the choir was a row of basset hounds like NoMo, the dog that sat in front of the camera and did exactly nothing for 18 seasons of the old Stan Boreson show.  I leashed the choir together and pulled.

“OK,” I said.  “Hold your music in one hand and hold the pointer finger of the other hand in the air.  While you sing, move your finger.  It doesn’t matter what you do, just keep it moving.  Dance it.  Direct with it.”

This perked everyone up a little, if grudgingly, and we got through the Tuesday night rehearsal.

Sunday morning, choir members came straggling in, looking like Tuesday night but with different excuses.  We were out an alto and two tenors due to sickness and because Chris, the inexplicable or rather unclassifiable, has not been to any rehearsals yet this year.  Marvin the Magnificent hasn’t been either, primarily because he doesn’t come without Karen, who has the dog biscuits.  Maxine, the Feng Shui goddess, was there to sing alto and Ruth, a soprano, graciously agreed to sing alto so the parts balanced.  Dennis, the last tenor standing, was picking up an elderly church member so he missed the practice.  We only have the one bass, Dan, who balances out the other three parts easily. Everyone faced the piano to warm up.

And now I will drop all mention of names in order to protect the innocent choir director.  To the best of my retentive (and elaborative) abilities, this is what the next ten minutes were like:

“Which song are we singing?”

(While this is a timeless question, the timing was off.  The time to ask a choir director “which song are we singing?” is when the choir stands up in the service to sing.  We love that.)

“We’re singing “‘Sing Out, Earth and Skies.’”

“Oh, I thought we were doing ‘Sing!’  I brought the wrong music.”

“‘Sing Out, Earth and Skies’—here’s a spare copy.  OK everyone, here’s the introduction.”

“Wait. Are we singing it like this?”

They were grouped around the piano, backs to the sanctuary.  I looked over the tops of my glasses.  Then I looked through my glasses.  Were we going to sing with our backs to the congregation?

I wanted to be sarcastic, but resisted. I didn’t think it would serve my purposes.  “I thought we’d just sing it once to warm up.”

“I want to practice how we are singing it.”

“Then let’s get into formation.”

They all turned their backs on me.

A soprano turned around to inquire of me, “Which hand did you want in the air?”

“Come again?”

“Didn’t you want us to wave our fingers around when we sang?”

“Oh, you mean like we did in rehearsal?  No actually I want you to put your fingers in your noses for the service.”  Resistance shot.  “Can we just get through this once and see where we are?”

We sang through the anthem.  This is where we were:

“It’s going too fast.”

“We can slow down.”

“No, I don’t want to do that.”

“This d is too high because I had oatmeal for breakfast.”

“Don’t sing it then.”

“No, I can sing it.”

(These were the kinds of conversations I had with my mother when she was sliding into senility.)

“Let’s try it once more.   We’re singing the chorus twice at the end so don’t slow down until we’ve repeated it.”

We barged through it again.  We were waking up, the music was starting to dance.  It’s a wonderful song.  At the end, misunderstood directions collided so the soprano finished first, the altos came in last, the lone tenor still hadn’t arrived for rehearsal and the single bass had left the stage to help someone in a wheelchair.

You know what? It’s good to be back.



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