Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Quiet Dignity and Grace

Allow me to describe, if I may, my interactions with the church choir I am privileged to conduct, from this past Sunday morning’s pre-service warmup.

After briefly getting our voices activated, we assembled upon the front steps of the chancel and endeavored to gently remind ourselves of what fine rehearsal work we’d applied to our offertory anthem, on the previous Thursday night.

The selection was Eugene Butler’s “It Is a Good Thing to Give Thanks Unto the Lord,” an item which was upbeat, energetic, and in G major, which allowed the last chord to ring particularly nicely (especially when our sopranos got all fired up about it). It was also right on the edge of being a 1970s television theme.

We worked on a couple of sections, the better to point out a couple of fixes we’d made on Thursday night. One of our tenors noted, “we should make sure to place the ‘T’ consonant at the top of page five very strongly … if we don’t emphasize it, things will just be bad.” Giggles broke out in various places throughout the choir as people figured out that the phrase he was thinking of was “praise Him upon the lute”. Praise Him upon the what now?

Fine, I said, let’s be sure of that, trying to be heard over a couple of folks who got the idea later than everyone else, and rather explosively.

For some reason, feeling that toilet puns might be somehow at that moment appropriate in this place of worship, I decided to suggest to the front row of sopranos and altos very quietly – so that our snarky bass section couldn’t hear – that the line was from the gospel according to John.

(I’m still very proud of the heh! I got from three singers, one of whom was my sister.)

We ran the whole thing.  It was a grand start. This fall, the choir has consistently brought their very focused A-game to Sunday morning singing.  We get the work done, and this morning was no exception. Nonetheless, people somehow had to sing through and around silly grins, as we got nearer and nearer the phrase with the necessary consonant. A couple of them had to stop singing for a second. And when page five arrived, that phrase came out sounding like “praise Him upon the loooooooo…TAHHHH!”

We achieved that final ringing G major chord, with its soprano high G … smiled … and adjourned to the choir’s rehearsal room behind the chancel, so as to remind ourselves of the short choral prayer responses we planned for the day’s service.

As we finished work on the responses, and shortly after a couple separate members of the bass section cracked jokes that produced our weekly Sunday belly laugh, our associate pastor entered the choir room. Usually, I’ll go fetch one of our clergy members, so they can offer a prayer for the choir before the beginning of the service. Often, that pastor will arrive and ask, “do you need prayer today?”, and regardless of what the actual answer is, someone will say something like, “oh, a ton. Go.”

We bowed our heads, and Pastor Jordan began. At some point in his prayer he said something reasonable like, “Lord, please be with us in our singing, in our thoughts, in every breath we take.” At which point, I heard a snort from the front row, followed by a couple of muffled “hmp”s. I didn’t dare incline my head to look anyone in that front row – I was afraid if I made eye contact, the last shreds of a solemn moment might be done.

“…in whose name we pray. Amen.” And the two front-row sopranos … who are trained singers with excellent stage presence and self-control … who had managed to stifle giggles through the last four sentences of the pastoral prayer … finally allowed themselves to fall halfway over sideways laughing.

(I stepped stoically to the piano and played the first few bars of the intro to The Police’s “Every Breath You Take,” which finished off a few other people.)

And then the choir went out and sang their standard terrific Sunday morning worship service.

Lest anyone wonder why I like my church gig.


October 25, 2012 - Posted by | choir, humor, music, SUMC | , , , , , , ,

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