November 19, 2006

Church Choir

There is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and then there is the rest of us. For regular Sunday church meetings, we Mormons don't rely on any fancy-schmanzy professional choir to transport our spirits to ethereal heights. There are no professional choristers or organists to accompany us in our plain chapels. And we never practice a song with the whole group before performing.

And these are some of the many reasons why my church choir stinks.

Let me preface this by saying that I dearly love my church choir and wouldn't change a thing about it. That being said, we do have certain eccentricities that outsiders may scorn. For example, anyone who accidentally stumbles through the door to our practice room is guilt-tripped into participating in our rag-tag choir. As far as I know, no Mormon has ever been denied a spot in choir, although I've had serious doubts as to the integrity of this method during performances I've winced through in the past. But hey, it's not about talent, it's about ... what is it about again? My choir has been practicing a song for a few months now in order to perform it in today's meeting. Attendance is spotty at our weekly practices and there is no real leadership thanks to a few bossy women (myself included) who think we have all the answers. Our official conductor frequently asks "so what does everything think?" after we practice a song so the floodgates are wide open for anyone and everyone to put in their two cents. 'Too loud!' 'The women aren't enunciating enough!' 'Where's my cue?' 'Who's baby is that banging on the piano?' It's all fun and games until we actually have to sing for people.

This morning we were supposed to meet 1/2 hour before church to run through the song one last time before performing. Two men show up. Two. As usual, we goody-goody church women have out-volunteered the men. We usually can fake a good blend despite our overabundance of estrogen riddled shriekers but two men versus twelve women? Our prospects for an angelic performance were bleak. The first verse of the song was a men's solo and with only two men in attendance, there were some issues. One of the men was good and loud but shockingly tone deaf. The other had a very nice vocal, but sang as loudly as shy ant. We had no resource but to cross our fingers and hope that when it came time to perform, more men from our choir group would join us and spare us from bloody harikiri on the pulpit.

Fortyfive minutes into the program the choir took the stage. I was thrilled to see that four additional men joined us and had high hopes that this song wouldn't crash and burn as it seemed fated to in practice. The piano started playing, the chorister gave the cue to the men, but none of them made a single peep. All the women looked around panicked, the pianist made up some fancy interlude, then started the song over again while the women gave sharp elbows and raised eyebrows to the befuddled men. The second time around, they got it and came in on cue. The real beauty of this situation was that if just ONE of our men had known the slightest thing about the song and had come in alone, things would have been ugly. But because every single one of them missed the cue, the audience probably didn't even realize how badly we blew it. We were saved only by our astounding 100% incompetency rate.

We did a passable job with the song, smiled weakly at the congregation and filed back to our pews. Crisis averted. Until next month that is, when we are supposed to sing for Christmas. I can only hope the solidarity we have shown in lack of talent holds true so no one sticks out and gets embarrassed next time around. But I feel confident that's one goal my darling choir can meet!

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I happen to be the ward chorister in my ward. Best calling in the church. But that also means you HAVE to be in the choir because now everyone knows I can sing. But I don't like choirs.

Nevertheless, I give them my best.

cruncha said...

When I was 10 years old I joined our ward choir. The director had invited all who wanted to sing, age 10 and over, to join the choir. I was thrilled! After one practice, he called my mother and asked her to not allow me to stay for practice anymore. He said I was singing to loud and I couldn't carry a tune. So, I was officially kicked out of the church choir.

Sarah said...

Wow! Cruncha, I stand corrected! What a meanie :(

A Payne said...

My first calling as a married woman was as ward choirister. I don't play piano, I don't read music, but I can create a nice sound if I am singing in a group with a piano. I had no idea what I was doing, but the choir was mostly made up of retired folk and they were really gentle with me. I conducted one song of "Where Can I Turn For Peace?" Good, bad, or indifferent, they released me and called me as the Girls Camp Director the very next Sunday. Ahh, sweet inspiration.

The Ed, not anonymous! said...

Today we visited Mamie's parents' ward in Pflugerville, just north of Austin. When it came time for the choir to perform, they announced the choir would sing, then an amazingly huge number of people filed up from the congregation to take their places in the choir seats. "Wow, " I thought, "if onlly we had this many people from our ward willing to sing in the choir...I wonder if they all come to practice?" Then Mamie's mom, who left my side briefly to sing with the choir, came back to me and whispered, "Miracle Choir." Later she explained that they call it the Miracle Choir because almost no one ever goes to practice; they just show up on the stand when the choir is annouced and do the best they can. Actually, they sounded fine today.

I remember going to the little branch meeting in Vail, CO one Sunday. I think they met in a trailer or something. They had what they called a "pickup choir," and invited anyone who could sing to come up, handed them the music, stood them in front of a chorister, and off they went. I think I actually joined them. I LOVE that idea! But I also love choir practice, and am among the most faithful of attenders. Especially since Julie Mlf and Dee Frnkln always feed us royally with goodies from Central Market, Whole Foods, and other classy foodie establisments. We don't even bother with Sunday dinnner, so glutted are we on choir food! And we sound wonderful! WONDERFUL!

AngelaM said...

I talked Jake into joining choir because he was always singing around the house...very badly (sorry sweetie) but with great passion. He has a rich voice but he is completely tone deaf. When he is one of the two basses at practice, I nervously listen, silently celebrating when he is on key.

I wanted him to join because ones singing improves when joining with people who are at lease a little better. M.C. is Jake's saving grace in choir. If he sits next to M.C., he can pick up most of the notes and since Jake can't read music, this is the only way he can sing something other than the melody.

And I wanted him to join the WARD choir because it is a safe place for amateurs to sing praises along with the BYU Music Majors--even if we sound like castoffs from American Idol Choir Edition. Paula Abdul would love us!

Jake's singing has improved. He has even learned whole verses of "Come, Come Ye Saints" which often serves as a soundtrack to our Sunday mornings...and that makes me smile.

Lindsay said...

Wow, this sounds JUST like our ward's choir!

compulsive writer said...

Im completely spoiled. We have a great choir. I used to go up to the director after a performance and ask if they wouldn't start recording CDs for the rest of us poor folks. Of course now I sing with them, so the CD idea is no longer a good thing, but I still love listening to them.

I tell you, you need to come live in my hood...

amanda said...

sarah, you completely nailed the ward choir scene. "...overabundance of estrogen-riddled shriekers...", "...100% incompetency rate..."! HAHAHA!!!!!

of about 10 ward choirs that i have sung in, 2 were really good, and 8 were pretty bad. the difference: good refreshments and practice in someone's inviting home, not ANOTHER hour in the chapel. UGH. your mother was right on with her classy food comments. it always comes down to the food....

Janell said...

In one single's ward I was in the choir the quite large. The secret? Like, Amanda, the conductor always had good treats at the end. She made it a social situation. I even attended choir then as most of my friends went. At that time we use to joke that the "members of the ward who aren't in the choir" ought to be invited up while the choir sang because the majority of people seemed to be in it. Further, that stake library had interesting sheet music available for wards to borrow.

My current choir? No offense to the current conductor, but the meeting is in the evening back to back with ward stare (so if you do go to choir, you get stuck for the next event) and he exclusively selects Primary songs to sing.