It’s a miracle that repeats itself Sunday after Sunday. Maybe it happens in your church too, in your church choir.
We are a mixed group. Yes, indeed, we’ve got some splendidly talented musicians, but most of us do this on the side for fun. We’re lawyers, writers, editors, nurses, teachers, moms, dads, office administrators. Some of us are still high school students—tremendously gifted ones—but most of us are grown up and remember singing back in high school and college. Through some combination of foolishness and faith we’re still at it.
At Wednesday night rehearsals, John, our wonderfully patient director, hands out the music and we look at it, hoping it’s familiar, worried if it’s not. How are we ever going to do this?, we wonder. We mutter prayers to ourselves, Yikes, I’m never going to be able to sing this. We try not to complain, even if we know John is out of his mind to think we can sing this eight-part piece with impossibly high notes and harmonies that make us cross-eyed.
We raise our hands, “How does that go again, John? Can you please play the tenor part? We’re not really getting it.” We’re totally lost. Some of us are brilliant readers. Not me. We count beats with our toes, we circle notes with pencils. We clench our fists, stretch our necks, clap a hand against a knee. We take a copy home, promising to practice it.
Sunday morning, we can barely sing. Our voices are scratchy and weak and about an octave lower. We’ll never reach those high notes. We warm up on the hymns. Sway on that old gospel number. And then try the new piece a few times. John keeps interrupting us, correcting us. See, we want to tell him. You might have picked the right piece but you picked the wrong choir.
Time is running out. The congregation is wandering in. The service has to start. We dash to the choir room and put on our robes. We return to the loft and warble through the familiar service music. We sound OK on the hymns. But during the sermon we sneak a peek at that new piece (the minister will have to forgive us). Then our moment comes. We stand. John plays the introduction, then gestures at us.
And the miracle unfolds. We sound beautiful. It’s more than a joyful noise; it’s real music. Even we tenors don’t embarrass ourselves. The music echoes in the old church, the walls remembering generations of singers, part of that cloud of witnesses that have gone before and will come after us. Later that week John sends around an article about a scientific study that shows the health benefits of singing in a choir. But heck, we’ve known that all along. We make music together, Sunday after Sunday, and it makes us whole.