A Simple Praise, The End, Thank God

Yes, Dear. I think that would make a great anthem for the choir. You're so talented!

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.

Not the look you want from your man on "date night."

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.

Even Mickey would have been impressed.

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.

Filibuster/Sermon? Who has control over the Congressional floor/Church service?

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.

Does this look like a woman ready to sing her heart out?

“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.

Need I say more?

“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.

Wh-ha-at? Did he just say that? In that tone? To me?

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.

I know, he always had a heart. But try finding a non-gross picture of "no heart."

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.

There's always Karaoke or singing in my car...

~ by Lorna's Voice on December 15, 2011.

30 Responses to “A Simple Praise, The End, Thank God”

  1. With Chuck, there was always another motive…but that’s true about most people, eh?

  2. Oh how we want to please. I think it is built into our genetic code. Well at least some of us. I have to think that there was another motive for Chuck to single you out after the practice. I can’t believe he would lure you there and then do that to you in front of everyone. Shameful.

  3. Yes, just another story that I forgot to tell when I was telling the rest of the stories…

  4. AAhhhh … the push-pull of it all … so sad but so true … but it is the past
    AND … life goes on. An experience for the memory box.
    Good job again, Lorna.
    Merry Christmas ….
    Izzy

  5. Oh, I think my church choir singing days are over. But nice of you to offer. I don’t think I could reach the high note anymore, either. Although I would love to take voice lessons and blow the socks off of people at a Karaoke Bar. 😉

  6. 🙂

  7. me too???

  8. If you ever want to sing with an alto/tenor (to help out the guys who can’t read music) you know who to call on! Been in some of those choirs, lost some of those good pastors, too 😦

  9. Amen to that! 🙂

  10. Singing at our house anytime, dancing too!

  11. Oh well. Live and learn, right? That’s what I did! 🙂

  12. A good choir adds so much to the worship in church, but I try not to wince when so many are so bad, because at least they’re trying. I’m not.

    Sorry your career was derailed by church politics and a choir director who should have realized that THAT wasn’t his most important role.

  13. I suppose so. Big fish, tiny pond. One less minnow to take up space…

  14. I can’t say, not being an expert in the ways of those who consider themselves religious. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say that they feel empowered by their divine mission, sometimes sacrificing the personal in favor of the sacred. But I simply don’t know. That’s why I quit. I found religion to cut throat for me!

  15. It is quite remarkable, although perfectly understandable, that people get caught up in their own self-reveling at some successful accomplishment and invariably hurt those people who were most responsible for facilitating that success. Part arrogance, part false perception they are solely responsible for such success. Not a good combination, but enticingly intoxicating.

  16. Talk about throwing a soprano under the bus…I’ve heard that church folk are kinda challenging to work with. What’s up with that?

  17. For Al: I think I love you!

  18. Yes, it’s a common dynamic with a predictable outcome. Only the details differ.

  19. Unfortunately… 😐

  20. A good illustration of the destructiveness of politically motivated power plays.

  21. That wasn’t nice of Chuck–reprimanding you in front of everyone after he manipulated you to come sing when you were sick. Power took over my ex too and I lost heart as well…eventually for being married.

  22. For Lorna: The pictures are dead-on funny!

    For Chuck: Definition of tactless: “Lacking or showing a lack of what is fitting and considerate in dealing with others” or “revealing lack of perceptiveness, judgment or finesse, giving offense.” Learn it. Live it.

  23. Power just got to him. He’s not the only man for whom that happened…

  24. Thanks, John. I am very happy now. I am divorced and singing to my dog–he loved the sound of my voice!

  25. This is a throw-back from the days when Chuck and I were still together. All this is ancient history. This story falls in the category of “Opps, I forgot to tell this story when I was detailing the chronology of my life.” It got a lot better once I started a new life on my own!

  26. Out of the experience I made some great friends (the minister in particular) and learned that singing in a church choir wasn’t for me. So it wasn’t all for naught! 🙂

  27. We’re fond of saying something at work that helps me put church disagreements in the right perspective—“We are imperfect people serving a perfect God.” I wish it weren’t the case, but church folks are just as prone (if not more so) to drama and political strife as those who aren’t affiliated with a denomination. And you probably figured out the most drama-laden place of all is the choir! Sing to the Lord, for He is your ultimate audience. The rest is just distraction.

    That being said….Chuck doesn’t deserve you at all. 😉

  28. Loved the pictures, and sorry about the choir, it’s easy to burn out sometimes, for lots of reasons. Hope it gets better!

  29. Chuck may think you need no praise, especially from him.

    Okay, we all need praise or encouragement from people, especially from people we are close with.

    Hope you become happy again soon. 🙂

  30. Chuck is mean.

Silence can be just what the doctor ordered. You know I'm a doctor, right?

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