Notes on Choir

I know, but I couldn’t help myself with the title.  For most of my life, I have sung in choir.  In fact, I earned a perfect attendance award one year in the church children’s choir; I mention that award because it was one of my proudest achievements until a freakish P.E. award in middle school – but that’s another post.  I learned from the band director within the first week of middle school that I had no rhythm (and he was right – I can’t clap and sing at the same time), and if I couldn’t play drums or a trumpet, I wasn’t interested in the band, thus sealing my fate as a choir member.

In high school, I continued to sing in the concert choir and the show choir (think Glee without all the angst and obvious sex).  I still reference most of my time in high school by the pieces we were singing in choir: “Odysseus and the Sirens,” Hilaritas, “Johnny Be Good,” Cole Porter, and Bach chorales.  I sang in assorted choirs all through college, but after getting married and moving to a new church, I never joined the choir.  I sang with the ensemble in Christmas productions, but I hadn’t been in choir in almost ten years until I started going to practice in the fall.  I am officially a second soprano now, which has been an adjustment from a lifetime of alto and occasional tenor singing, but I can hit most of the notes, and my eyes have almost gotten used to watching the director from the other side of the loft.  Adjustments aside, I feel like I’m home in the choir for a lot of reasons.

A good piece of music is a microcosm of the body of Christ: it is a collective effort that cannot be accomplished by one person alone, and everyone involved has a different job to do.  There must be a composer, a director, people to play the instruments, people to sing the parts, and people to hear the song.  Every Sunday morning in the choir loft, I am reminded at some point that I am one voice among many, and I can identify the individual voices in my section along with the harmonies of the other sections.  It is extraordinary to hear the individuals become one collective voice, and it must be a little bit like what heaven will be.  One of my favorite exercises in high school choir was standing in a big circle around the room to sing whatever piece we were working on; wherever you stood in the circle, you heard every part as if it were a single voice.  The piece I most remember from that exercise is “The Last Words of David;” our director told the accompanist to play, and then she turned all of the lights off.  The first phrase was like a wall of sound with all these crazy chords that gave us all chill bumps.  I think that’s still my favorite choral piece, even after everything I have heard or sung since then, and I will never forget how it sounded that day in the dark.

As amazing as it was to sing with such an incredible group of voices in high school, it is even better to be singing with our church choir.  They, too, are an amazingly talented bunch, but the focus is not on winning competitions or competing for solos: we are there to tell about God’s love through music.  And I feel like the choir members demonstrate that love by the way they care for each other.  Of course there are all of the foibles and follies that humans are prone to – you can’t put people in a room together and never have disagreements or personality conflicts – but this is a group that prays for each other and expresses genuine concern for each other in spite of all the different personalities and ages and professions present in such a large group.  It doesn’t hurt that our director leads by example, either.

My work day was insane yesterday.  I had (make that still have) an enormous pile of paperwork on my desk and several fires to put out through the day, so by the time I left for choir practice, I was frazzled to say the least.  Once we started singing, though, the mess of the day was gone, and I was home.

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