Archive | December, 2010

For My Middle School Choir Teacher

15 Dec

When I was a kid, I was pretty sure I was going to grow up to be a world-famous singer. My parents’ record collection was almost entirely Broadway musicals, and I spent hours acting them out in the living room. I was doubtless the only kid at my elementary school that knew every single song from “West Side Story,” “Oklahoma,” “My Fair Lady,” and “Fiddler on the Roof” by third grade.

(I also knew all the songs on “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” when my mom went through a country music phase, but unless you want to go to “Fist City,” we won’t talk about that.”)

I was just waiting for my big break.

Then in 8th grade, which is probably the most awkward year of life for anyone, I switched schools to a private school where everyone else had known each other since kindergarten, it seemed like. It was a miserable, bumbling year. During spirit squad tryouts I kicked with the wrong foot and whacked another would-be cheerleader in the head. I got in trouble all the time for having a messy locker. I told my parents I wanted to go back to my old school.

But, there was choir. And one day, the girl who was supposed to be singing a solo in some song we were doing was out sick, and our choir director needed someone to fill in so we could practice the song. I volunteered.

I wish I could tell you that when I opened my mouth to sing, the angels themselves fell silent to listen.

But something went really, really wrong. I came in on some note not found in nature, and the choir director stopped the song and said:

“Some people are just not meant to be soloists.”

He picked someone else. Class went on.

Even 30 years later, I can still feel that moment in the junior-high choir room where my cheeks got hot, and I blinked hard not to cry, and decided maybe, I wasn’t going to be a singer after all.

And when it came time to sign up for electives the next year, I didn’t pick choir.

Oh, after a couple years, I went back to choir, then sang in my school’s small ensemble which was most memorable perhaps for our matching shaker sweaters from the Limited.

1980s Shaker Sweaters

I'm seventh from the left. There's some super-serious singing for Jesus happening here.

And yes, I even sang a few solos here and there. I’ve sung in friends’ weddings, and still sing in my church choir every Sunday.

But sometimes, I still hear that middle-school director.

Last year, when Neil from Citizen of the Month invited bloggers to participate in a virtual Christmas concert, I really wanted to do it.

But I remembered, “some people are just not meant to be soloists.”

So I didn’t send anything in. But  I watched all the performances of these people having a great time, some singing like angels, some definitely human, and realized something.

We are all meant to be soloists.

So, the night of the deadline for the concert submissions, I hid in the bathroom with my iPhone, in the dark, and recorded my song. Twice. Because the first time I was shaking so hard I sounded like I was singing on top of a washer on the spin cycle. The second time, I thought it was ok.

You can click here to hear it:

In The Bleak Midwinter

And then, go and, listen to everyone!

The Fifth Annual Blogger Christmalhijrahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert!

Neil, thanks for putting this together.

Merry Christmas, and sing as loud as you want.

‘Tis the Season to be Grumpy

13 Dec

Come on, sing along with me. You know you want to.

On the first song of the concert, some morons gave to me — a child playing on his PSP.

For the second song of the concert, idiots gave to me. Two too-loud whispers and a child playing on his PSP. Continue reading

The Only Prayer I Can Manage

10 Dec

Coventry Cathedral

I know the liturgy all too well.

We have worshipped, unwillingly, in this same not-sanctuary.

A cathedral where shells rain down, shattering the stained glass,

and plush velvet cushions on the pews catch fire like tinder. Continue reading

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