One of my earliest church memories is listening to my dad sing in the St. Bonaventure Catholic Church choir. Mom and all of the kids would sit on the gospel side of the church (a habit I maintain to this day). In the early days, the choir was in the back of the church in the choir loft. At some point (likely after Vatican II), the choir was relocated to the front of the church – also on the gospel side – and I could watch him sing. I loved that.
He had a beautiful tenor voice, and though I never asked him the question (kids, ask your parents questions NOW), I suspect he really loved singing choral music. I say this because as I have reported before, in addition to singing in the church choir, he also belonged to a men’s choral group called the Apollo Club.
So, my love for choral music – and for singing choral music – came from my dad. There you go; another thing for which to be grateful to my father.
When my sister Bec was in college at the University of Nebraska, she took Choir as an elective choice, at least for one year, and maybe more. Her choir performed Handel’s Messiah at some point in the year, and I remember attending and being introduced for the very first time to that masterpiece. I decided right then and there that when I went to college, I was going to take Choir and perform Handel’s Messiah. I was in Choir at my high school, but let’s face it. Handel’s Messiah.
So when I did, indeed go to the University of Nebraska, I took Choir as an elective. As soon as I could, I began figuring out how I could be part of the chorale that sang that gorgeous music. I quickly learned that it required a tryout. Gulp.
I do not have a good voice. In the olden days, I could read music (thanks to my five years of piano lessons) and carry a reasonable tune. But I never even tried to fool myself into thinking that I had any singing talent. Nevertheless, I was determined to get on that chorale.
I don’t remember much about that tryout. I assume I must have had to sing something to the choir director, but I don’t remember what I sang. I only remember one thing: He asked me before I tried out what part I sang – soprano or alto. I, of course, had no idea; however, Bec sang alto. If it was what she sang, then I must also sing alto. Right?
So I performed whatever-it-was for him, and much to my surprise, I was accepted to the chorus. As I walked out of the room, he said to my back, “By the way, I don’t really think you sing alto, but we’ll go with that since that’s what you think you sing.”
Like I had any idea….
That semester – that class – was one of the best times of my life. And while the Hallelujah Chorus is magnificent, it’s not my favorite choral piece in the Messiah. That would be Worthy is the Lamb that Was Slain. Those opening notes bring tears to my eyes every single time.
Sunday, Bill and I went to Wellshire Presbyterian Church to worship at a special service that consisted mostly of choral music. Addie, Alastair, Dagny, and Maggie Faith all performed at least one number with one or another choral group. It was a joy to watch them sing.
What was also a joy was listening to the church’s regular choir perform some magnificent music. It’s hard to believe that a church choir could be so talented, but they really sounded beautiful. The church is blessed to have a gorgeous pipe organ with a worthy organist. That, along with the timpani drums and the magnificent voices, brought me chills.
And I went home and bought a ticket for a performance of Handel’s Messiah next Sunday at a nearby church. Yay me.