Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"I Just Want to Sing Along"

Wednesday greetings from Charlotte, where I am on a layover on my way to Augusta, Georgia.

I fly a lot. Things usually go smoothly. This morning's flight proved to me why we "fasten our seatbelts low and tight around our laps." Turbulence was horrifying. Our Blessed Mother must have heard many of us during that flight!

Wanted to share a little bit of a conversation I had with my sister Janet last night. She is living with cancer and doing quite well right now. When she answered the phone and I asked her how she was feeling, she said, "very frustrated." I was hoping that this answer didn't have anything to do with her health or healthcare and I was right.

She said that her frustration stems from the fact that she has joined her parish choir. This in and of itself made me chuckle a bit. She is a recent returnee to Catholic practice. And she has never been in a choir. Now while all of us Galipeau's can certainly carry a tune (you should have heard my older sister Gina's and my rendition of Leavin' on a Jet Plane), we all know that joining a choir is something a little different.

Janet said that she was frustrated because she was joining the choir because she wanted just to "sing along." She has a deep voice, so I asked her if the director put her in the alto section. She said, "No, I am a tenor apparently." She said she didn't realize that she would not be singing the notes that she sings when she is in the congregation. One of the women in the choir, sensing Janet's frustration, said, "Janet, you are trying to be perfect and no one is perfect in the choir. You need to be patient." Janet replied, "I just want to sing along." And the women replied, "Janet, that's what you do when you are sitting in the congregation. This is the choir!" Janet then told me that she always thought that she could "read music," that is, until she joined the choir. She asked someone about that squiggly thing on the staff and she was told that was the bass clef sign. "What's that for?"

All through this conversation I was giggling along with her. Made me think that it might be a nice thing to publish a "Welcome to the Choir Orientation Packet" for people like my sister.

I am so proud of her and I told her so. She says that she is going to do her best to stick with it. Just amazing to me.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Mom said...

Oh Jerry, there are tears of laughter in my eyes. I had a similar conversation with Janet, and she sure is trying her best, (considering the fact that Steven Tyler was always her singing idol.) Can't wait to attend mass at St Robert's. I'm sure the choir will sound wonderful, as usual!

Geoff said...

The choir director at my mom and dad's church has a special section for people who may not be able to read the notes in their section: it's the "key of me" section. Sometimes there are guys who want to sing who don't know how to read music and she just has them sing the melody. While it is not a perfect musical situation, it is a pastoral one I think. I have occasionally had people who sing in the "key of me" in my choirs and I try to make them feel welcome as possible.

When my mom and dad got married, she was going to a tiny little country church and my dad was going to the largest Baptist church in town. Since he couldn't see going to church every Sunday in such a tiny place, they decided to both go to the Baptist church when they got married. My mom (who has always sang tenor) joined the choir. At the first rehearsal, the director said, "No woman will ever sing tenor in my choirs!" My mom went home and informed my dad that they would be going back to her church next week where she could sing tenor! So, if the director would have allowed my mom to sing tenor, I would have been raised Baptist. One has to wonder how many similar quirks of history there are.

PatGLex said...

Interesting column about choirs. Our parish "choir" (which our bishop consistently says is one of the best in the diocese) is a demanding ministry, with a choir director who continually challenges us to be the best -- and gives us music to do same. It operates differently from many church choirs, in that we split up into different ensembles for individual Masses. The only times we're all together are for practice on Wednesdays, and if there is a special event -- and even for that special event, we won't have everyone. People who join the choir are told, right off, that it is a challenge, but a rewarding one, to not get frustrated, and to give themselves a full year to go through the "seasons" of the church and learn the music. I hope Janet does the same -- there's nothing more satisfying than to get to the end of, say, Midnight Mass and just know that your music has moved people.

KSpon said...

I plan to use today's entry as part of our prayer at rehearsal this week--a good reminder to all of us "old timers" as to what it's like when you start!