Before we get started, you must watch this performance.
Back it up right here if you did not. Watch this. I am serious.
I grew up singing in church choirs. One of my very earliest memories was singing in “Beginner Choir” with Mrs. Reddick at First Baptist Church, Richardson, Texas. I must have been 4 or 5 years old. I graduated to “Junior Choir” and Wilma Dowell was the director. The fact that I can recall these two names in an instant points to the signifigance of choir singing in my life.
By the time I graduated from high school, I had been a member of so many groups that I lost count. The last group was called “The Solid Rock,” a Christian Rock Group (circa 1970s) at the First Baptist Church in Sherman, Texas. Our claim to fame is that when we performed on the same bill as Sandy Patti, WE got a standing ovation. Yea us.
In between there were many other choirs, including Kate Wakefield Elementary, Piner Junior High, and Sherman High School. Duane Gohlke was my teacher at the latter two schools– a taskmaster if there ever was one. Whew. We learned how to sight-read, let me tell you.
I also sang in an a cappella group in high school–and if we had a name, I do not recall it. A shout out to my colleagues–Susie Brandon, Linda Maret, Claudia Stoltz, and Vickie Cooper. Susie and I sang second alto, the lowest voices in the group (Did you hear that low voice in the video I know you watched? That was what Susie and I did. Beautiful, huh?) We also cut up a lot and drove our director a little nutty, I am quite sure. Sorry, John Ward. ♥
As an adult I have sung in my choir at First Methodist Church in McKinney, Texas, and when I lived in London I sang with an a cappella group called The Treblemakers. We had a lot of fun singing at events all over London.
I taught Jazzercise for fifteen years, and if you were ever in my class you heard me sing–I could not help myself. I had the microphone and a captive audience. What did you expect? Oh, I just love to sing–in the shower, in the car, in church, while I write, while cleaning house…whenever, almost wherever.
But I am especially mad about a cappella. Which brings me to the video I know you watched before reading this post; “Storm Comin'” by The Wailin’ Jennys. Many years ago I heard them on “A Prairie Home Companion.” I almost couldn’t believe what I was hearing–their harmonies were so close as to be perfect. I quickly bought a CD and listened to Firecracker over and over. How did they do that? Their talent stunned me then, and I remain a devoted fan years later.
This song, “Storm Comin,” gets to me on several levels. The pure perfection and beauty of the voices makes me want to fall to my knees in awe because I know first-hand how difficult it is to blend so perfectly. But then, when I listen to the lyrics, well…my heart breaks and soars all at the same time.
When that storm comes, don’t run for cover…Don’t run from the coming storm, no there ain’t no use in running.
When that rain falls, let it wash away…Let it wash away, that falling rain, the tears and the troubles.
When those lights flash, and you hear that thunder roar…Will you listen to that thunder roar and let your spirits soar.
When that love calls, open up your door…You gotta stand on up and let it in, you gotta let love through your door.
Well, well. Here I am writing about love again.
Choir singing taught me about working as part of a team. Sometimes I got to sing a lead part, but most of the time I had to learn to listen and respond with what was best for the performance of the group. I learned discipline, voice technique (as an aside: I can bellow like you wouldn’t believe–ask my kids), how to read music, how to interpret and express music, and that sometimes, when all the hard work and practice came together, the experience would transcend anything I could have ever imagined. It is sublime…heaven on earth, really.
I was out of touch with music for a period of time in my life. As I reflect on why that may have been I think it has something to do with not wanting to access a place so deep in my heart. Music softens me, makes me feel vulnerable; it can make me weep. And, for so long I functioned on “numb” a lot. It was how I got through some very difficult times. This was a brilliant technique, and it worked well for a long time. But, of course, it wasn’t really all that brilliant, and I paid a price for cutting myself off from this lifeline. Refusing to listen to and honor my heart’s desire almost killed me.
So, this is what I know: It is important to stay connected to those things in your life that keep your little heart open and vulnerable. This is when the most precious, profound, and exquisite things occur. Though being in this place is quite scary, I am going with it. Writing about it helps, so thank you for being my witnesses.
“When that love calls, open up your door…You gotta stand on up and let it in, you gotta let love through your door.”