A Simple Praise, The End, Thank God
Chuck is now Choir Director and Lorna is his default assistant. Together, will they elevate the choir to greatness?
Both Chuck and I believed that doing things together would strengthen our marriage. A weekly romantic “date night” was what I had in mind, not a bi-weekly date in a church being directed by him.
As Choir Director, he did a great job. He played the piano quite well, could read music masterfully, and had an ear for pitch problems. Chuck used that ear a lot with us. He also, like our old pal Mickey, had grand visions of what his rag-tag troop could accomplish. He saw our potential. He did even a better job as Choir Director when we found an accompanist so he could focus on directing.
I loved to sing and, together, we selected fancy anthems: spirited gospel music or melt-your-heart minor-chorded ballads to the Lord. We were a team and it felt good. We rehearsed at home so, together, we could lead the other choir members through the more complicated parts. He sang tenor but could easily switch to bass, I sang soprano so I carried the melody.
For a little over a year, I was a regular church-goer and the choir improved. Dramatically. We even got applause and a standing ovation or two. The choir grew and so did church attendance.
Babe in Arms isn’t just about kids and music. Important lessons about political hijinks and personal integrity are thrown in to confuse the audience. Mickey faces the universal dilemma: quench his ego’s thirst for personal glory and wealth or stay true to his impoverished roots and sweetheart (Patsy) in the hopes that heart really is what matters.
During my brief time as a singing Methodist, I learned a valuable lesson: the House of God and the House of Representatives are equally political. Power is a valuable commodity even among the
supposedly most pious among us. Due to political chicanery, the minister I grew to respect and love high-tailed it to a congregation 150 miles away and a pastor, who could have taught classes on passive-aggressive behavior, took her place. Battles Arguments Differences of opinions erupted concerning who determined the music for the services. It was ugly. Since the choir was so popular and good great rafter-rousing, Chuck won.
Power is a
dangerous funny thing; it doesn’t stay localized to one sphere of influence. Ask Mickey, who became temporarily jaded by his quest for fame; ask Chuck, who took directing his choir to a whole new level. These leading men had something to prove: Mickey wanted to show that a little guy can make it big and Chuck wanted to prove he was everyone’s Mr. Right.
Unlike Patsy, that girlish crush thing was long gone in my 23 year marriage. I loved him, but skipping hand in hand became more like marching behind him. Listening to NPR-like reports of church-drama was bad enough for my highly sensitive self. But the end of my church-going days came when he cajoled me into coming to sing one Sunday when I was feeling quite ill.
“What? You’re not coming to church? The Choir needs you.” His words pushed the right buttons.
“O.K., but I’m not feeling so good.” My grammar was poor when I was sick. I didn’t apply any make-up either.
“On your worst day, your voice is better than anyone else’s. We really need you.” Smooth talker, just like Mickey.
I went, feeling head-achy, nauseous and dizzy. Putting all my energy into singing, I conjured a strong, clear voice. I was proud that I pulled it off and hoped I could do the same for the service. Choir members asked if I was feeling alright. Grey was not my color, especially on my face.
Just as rehearsal ended, he pointed specifically to me. In the most terse, directorial tone he said, “You need to tone it down and blend with the rest of the choir. You’re not the only soprano in this group.” With that, he told us to “go robe up.”
I was stunned. He sweet-talked me into coming, appealing to my voice-vanity, then he reprimanded me front of everyone. It didn’t matter that “everyone” was eight people. It still stung.
I was so hurt that I could barely get a note out for the whole service. I blended well that day. Patsy and Mickey had a fight. Patsy apologized (as usual) and Mickey forgave her. Mickey just assumed everything went back to normal.
It didn’t; I lost heart. My joy in singing for the choir had disappeared a while ago. His dream wasn’t my dream any more.
Chuck wasn’t happy when I told him I was finished, but he said, “No one is irreplaceable. We’ll be fine without you.” He was right on both counts. Well, one count. Everyone is replaceable.
The choir slowly dwindled and he turned the directorship over. Then he switched churches because
he couldn’t stand the minister of too many differences of opinion with the minister. Chuck went on to sing in various other church and civic choirs.
The Methodist choir went back to a collection of well-intended, musically challenged folks of varying ages and infirmities. All of them, I’m sure, still have that magic ingredient that I lost: heart. For singing in church choirs, at least.