Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.


Some stories should be told. Other stories should never be told. Some stories sit right in the middle there.


If you’re a regular reader of this space, you know that my church gig (adult choir and other sundry permutations of sacred music) has provided moments both inspiring and loopy.

This morning’s service managed both.

So far this program year, our choir has brought a rather impressive “A” game. Yes, the program year is only two weeks old; but what a fortnight! Many voices, all in rather good form. The choir sound rushes past me, and I set aside a fraction of my otherwise-engaged brain just to enjoy. I have the best seat in the house, I think.

We’ve also picked up right where we left off, back in June, in the sense of humor department. Our bass section has not lost a step in this regard. The altos that traditionally sit in front of them have continued to develop their ability to dish it right back to the basses where appropriate (and funny). The tenors are quite frankly lagging in their traditional role as the cut-ups of their choir; but we’ll watch some game films and they’ll solve a few things, I’m sure.

Before last week’s service, the choir retreated to our rehearsal room to go over a few details before the morning began. Our senior pastor came in, with the intention of making a couple of brief remarks and then leading us in prayer. “Morning, choir! It’s been a long summer. I’ve missed you.” Not missing a beat (appropriate for musicians), one of our basses cracked back, “Yeah, where ya been?”

This week, the choir got up and sang a curious anthem, a quodlibet (hotshot music major term for “partner song”) combining the gospel song “I Believe” and J.S. Bach’s “Ave Maria”. Hit it out of the park. After service, a couple of folks from out of the congregation tracked me down to tell me they’d had tears in their eyes, during that anthem. (“For the right reasons, I hope,” I joked; but thanked them kindly.) And the other anthem of the day was a nice, slow 12/8 rendition of three verses of “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know”. Considering how much work the Quodlibet had been, I figured that “straightforward and well-known” would be a wise choice for the other music slot. When a group knows a melody real well, it gives them the opportunity to sing and not worry. …Sure enough.

By contrast: toward the end of every service, one of our pastors briefly summarizes some of the “opportunities for service” that are scheduled for the coming week (better known as “announcements”). This morning, as our associate pastor did so, he came to an announcement that dealt with a few books that our congregation is being encouraged to read, in preparation for some conversations later in the year.

He came to one of the book titles, and faithfully read it out loud. For the sake of dignity in this space, I shall not include that title here. Sometimes a reader’s imagination can fill in a blank or two. In this case, please take my word: I’m sure that the book’s author had regarded his title as completely innocent.

But a number of choir folk recognized that a phrase inside that rather lengthy title could have been interpreted in a way that (let’s just say) had nothing to do with the church Sanctuary, but rather with the public restroom next to it.

Yes. Our bass section (and I think a few folks across the Chancel in the soprano loft) took note of the opportunity for toilet humor. In church.


The sequence of events ran thusly:

Our associate pastor read the title of the book.

There was a brief silence.

Followed by the continuation of the announcements.

Followed by a moment where a number of choir brains processed that title and its alternate meaning.

Followed by a moment of rustling.

Followed by one of the most intense moments of silence that arguably should have included a *snort* sound effect from somebody, but miraculously didn’t.

The service moved on. “They sang a hymn and went out.” Thanks be to God.


Earlier this evening, I sent an eMail to a trio of bass gentlemen which said, in part, “You should know that during this morning’s service, [at that Moment,] … I could not allow myself to make eye contact with any of you.”

In fact, as I think of it, it was also guaranteed divine intervention that my brother-in-law Kevin, at the organ console which faces toward the alto/bass side of the choir loft, couldn’t allow himself to make eye contact either.  If either of us had done so, it might have been all over except for the murmurs of the parishioners in the congregation who would have been wondering why half the choir was crying.

One of my bass section colleagues replied to my eMail, saying that another bass “nudged me right about the time I was about to open my mouth. And it was one of the few times that I actually said, ‘Don’t go there.’” That nudging bass reported that he had just chewed the inside of his cheek and looked at the floor. And the third bass (yes, this might as well be Abbott and Costello) eMailed me, “For once in my life I decided to remain silent.”

I wonder if anyone grasps just how large a bullet we dodged, this morning?

So: the moral of the story, if there really should be one? Don’t skip church on a Sunday. You never know what’s going to happen – or what’s just barely not going to happen.


September 15, 2013 - Posted by | choir, humor, SUMC | , , , , , , , ,

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