Archive for February, 2020

Singing in the Choir

church choir
“Man, what a voice!” The wide-eyed fourth-grade boy had blurted these words of praise to seventh-grade me after I’d belted out a hymn during a Sunday school assembly. Emboldened, I mustered the courage to start singing around the house. Big mistake.

My mother had been raised by a judgmental single parent and never quite grasped the concept that positive observations build children up while negative observations erode their self-assurance. As a child, she once asked her mother that little-girl question, Am I pretty? Mouth sternly set, eyebrow severely arched, my grandmother responded, Pretty is as pretty does. End of discussion.

In her early 20s, Mom sang on the radio with a quartet, and she took great pride in that accomplishment. Hearing my pre-teen attempts at vocalizing, she zoomed in on the imperfections—oblivious to the fact that she was a carrier of her own mother’s parenting sins. “You’re just like your dad,” she opined with a dismissive laugh. “Can’t carry a tune.” Simple statement. Simply devastating.

My confidence shattered, I later dropped out of ninth-grade glee club because I was too self-conscious to project my voice sufficiently for our director to determine my range. The self-defeating fear of not being good enough robbed me of an opportunity.

Fast forward several decades. Our church choir is small, twelve members on a good day. But these folks have consistently delighted and transported me with their glorious choral productions over the years. And the congregation as a whole? I’ve sat in churches with three times the number of members whose participation was pathetic by contrast. My young pew companion, Naomi, and I have our favorite hymns. With an elbow and a wink or an exchange of smiles, we throw ourselves into these pet melodies.

But, still, I yearned to toss my two notes’ worth in with those stirring sounds generated by the choir. Now I was singing from the heart with the congregation, and no one cringed. I even got a few constructive comments, encouraging me to join the smaller vocal group. Really? Ol’ Can’t Carry a Tune Me?

Well, kids, it turns out Mom’s not always right.

These days, I show up early on Sunday mornings to practice with the official church choir. That half-hour immersion in learning challenging new melodies has revived a long-abandoned dream.

I’ll never be a great singer. But fortunately, I’m surrounded by people who—like the swelling waves that elevate all boats—lift me right along with them. (I’m thinkin’  dear mama could have benefitted from this experience.)

So, the final chestnut I offer today: Don’t be intimidated by talented people, surround yourself with them. You’ll better your own performance, and maybe even heal some old wounds.

February 1, 2020 at 1:30 am 4 comments


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