I believe in choir
I’ve always loved seeing the children’s choir toddle up to the front of the congregation to sing on a Sunday morning, all happy and wiggling. Some are too dazed by the moment to even open their mouths. Others carefully follow the animations of their director in as close an approximation to melody as they’re able. But there’s always one kid who stands out like a young rooster. He rears back and lets loose, just glorying in his own unfettered sound.
The adult choir is more restrained of course — more focused and disciplined in its harmonies. Even so, it’s an ideal place for those of us who are too embarrassed to sing by ourselves, yet loving to sing so much that we’re drawn to the forgiving anonymity of a church choir. I always try to stand next to the most confident soprano so I can tag along with the sure course she follows. “Adoramos, adoramos ….” and the altos come in, “Adoramos….,” Then comes the counterpoint of the tenors and the sonorous baseline of the basses rolls in under it all. Imperfect as most of our voices are, as a choir we sound pretty good after practicing a few Wednesdays.
Sunday morning we zip up our choir robes and we march in, choir books held in our right hands. When everyone is in place, we sit as one. At just the right time we rise as one, open our mouths, and something transcendent happens. We become a multi-layered human pipe organ, and music happens! It’s the oldest and the purest form of worship and of community. Our voices are as different as our individual ideas of God or Truth can be, but our intentions, our desires are the same: To make this unique and numinous moment together. Our individual lives may be messy or painful, our bodies each have their own complaints and shortcomings, yet on Sunday morning as we morph into one instrument responding to the hands of the choirmaster, we are beautiful.
I grew up a cradle Methodist in the 50s. But in the course of that growing I came to challenge even those eternal truths that I’d been taught were written in stone. I fell out with organized religion — just as so many others have in the last half century. But I soon got tired of all my own questions and stumbling toward some spiritual conviction all alone. Then I remembered choir.
Singing with the choir each week makes me feel at home again, even with all my insecurities and doubt. And each time I do, each time we’re able to make that unique moment together, doubts and questions no longer matter. I become like that kid in the children’s choir, expressing truth the only way I can.