That’s what Sue said as I told her I had received the email stating I was welcome to join the Christmas Choir. “They have no idea what they are getting,” she said in her supportive way, laughing at me uncontrollably. You see, whenever I open my mouth to sing, she usually begs me to stop and starts yelping like a dog as she makes fun of me. But I did jump into this story more in the middle, so let me start at the beginning.
After many, many years of being in the program and having a belief and reliance on a higher power, God as I understand, I found myself back where I had begun with my first introduction to God, a church, a religious organization. That’s a whole other post in itself, but I joined an evening service which is considered more of an elevation style service. One of my favourite aspects of this service, is the Christian rock a small band sings with the congress. There is a piano, drums, a guitar and bongo drum and about three to six supporting singers. I am very moved through the spiritual music and enjoy greatly the shared experience of singing what is essentially prayers, together. I knew from the start, I wanted to be a part of this band.
There was one small problem though. I am tone deaf and can’t sing my way out of a paper bag to save myself. So that’s when I came up with the kooky idea that I would take up the guitar. I figured I could learn an easy instrument and be able to join them. However, after a few lessons and such, I realized it would take so much work and I wasn’t that passionate about strumming the strings. So, I let the idea go for awhile and just continued to go and sing from the congregation. I usually picked a place where no one was in front of me so I could sing loudly and unreservedly, and where no one else would hear. I just found the songs so uplifting and I just love singing them.
Then I saw the call for service. They needed 70 singers for the Roy Thompson Christmas Eve Service. As luck would have it, I had vacation around Christmas this year and would be able to attend all of the rehearsals. I knew it was meant to be. So I wrote to them, something along these lines “I am able to attend and I love to sing, and did so in school choirs for years. However, I have been told I am tone deaf.” I waited and waited and didn’t hear back from them. I couldn’t blame them really. Would you invite me with that type of letter? Then I got a response with an invitation to attend the first practice. Sue’s response was “I guess they didn’t get as many people as they needed and are desperate.” Now there’s support for you! Unfortunately I think she might have been right as there was only 50 signed up.
As I entered and signed in, the woman on the desk said “Oh, you’re Karen,” and I knew immediately she was the recipient of my letter. My face went red. She ushered me over to the head music leader Deena, and said “This is Karen.” For a second, Deena looked me up and down and then asked “What did you sing in past choirs? Soprano, alto or what?” Very shyly I responded “In the middle.” “What?” she asked incredulously. “I was always placed in the middle of the choir and told to sing softly.” She shook her head in disbelief and muttered “Start in Alto 1 section,” as she headed to the piano to begin the practice. Although I could only read music very minimally, I stood beside another Alto 1 and by listening to her and following her tones, I was able to sing with the choir.
“So am I that tone deaf?” I asked both music directors, Deena and Jeanie. To my utter surprise they both said I wasn’t tone deaf at all, but Jeanie pointed out I scooped. I didn’t know what that meant, and it sounded like it wasn’t a good thing, but regardless, I was excited. I wasn’t tone deaf! I went home and joined an on-line singing lessons website and practiced every day. And I memorized the songs we were to sing off book, trying to make up for my lack of talent, with enthusiasm. And I learned what scooping was.
“So how am I doing?” I asked Deena a few rehearsals in. “You’re doing fine. I didn’t hear any scooping today.” Yes, I nailed it. All that practice was helping and I was learning how to sing a little better. Little did they know how much their words of encouragement meant to me. I was still facing the nay-sayers, like my brother who just asked “Do they know what you sound like?”
So the night came at Roy Thompson Hall on Christmas Eve and I sang with the choir and was directly in front of a microphone. Sue believes they must have turned it off during the rehearsal, as she said she couldn’t hear my off-tone singing. I’ll give her that. She has been the one listening to me practice the lessons, scores and scales, and I must admit, it was anything but easy on the ears. Then a week later, I received an email from Deena and Jeanie. They thanked everyone for their contribution and invited people to join the regular weekly choir or the upcoming Easter celebration choir. Sue just said “They must be desperate still.”
So, decidely enthused by the new notion that I was not tone deaf, I looked up and researched the many non-auditioned choirs in the city. My bud Melissa said, “Why don’t you just go and speak with Jenny?” She meant the lead for the elevation music for the evening service. “You know that’s what you really want to do and she’s very spiritual. Do you really think any of them will say no and send you away?” Melissa was right of course. That was so what I wanted to do, and so the next Sunday after service, before I lost my nerve, up I went and spoke to Jenny. And so the next week I attended my first rehearsal.
I will continue to join in on the rehearsals and learn to sing with the rest of them, while joining the congregation for the actual service. And every other day, I continue with my on-line music lessons. I may never get a solo, but I do notice the absolute difference these lessons are making to my singing. I am loving being a part of this group and I love expressing my spirituality through singing with others. I now undertstand the concept of true emotionalism through the worship experience, as I sing these prayers. I once saw an article in the Toronto Star where a woman claimed she can teach anyone to sing. She said it’s not talent as much a instruction that is needed. At the time, Sue said to me “Don’t even bother. We’d go bankrupt first, as she doesn’t say how much money it would cost.” Well these on-line lessons are a one time reasonable purchase and I’m proving all my family wrong. I might not be able to sing by myself or carry a tune well, but with others I become greater than the sum of my parts, and I can sing in harmony and nicely with others. To me, that has been the crux of my experience in this church and I am grateful for having found it and for the value they have on inclusivity, in every matter.