That Heavenly Choir
by Amy Kenneley
That first Christmas Choir must have been something. There was plenty of sky-room, and an attentive audience of shepherds.
It isn't recorded what the melody was, but the lyrics were Gloria In Excelsis Deo --Glory to God in the Highest. After that night, how could any earth-bound choir compete? Still, through the ages we have tried.
Take our choir, for instance. We are amateurs, mostly. We don't all have formal training. Most of us can carry a tune.
We have lots of kinds of voices in our choir. Some have very loud voices, some very soft ones. The best part about being in our choir is-no one has to try out to be in it. Just come. Someone will move over and make room for you. Someone will show you how to mark your sheet music. And no one will laugh if you miss your note, or frown if you come in too early.
Alone, few of us can call ourselves choristers. Together? Well, sometimes we surprise ourselves.
A Part of a Whole
A solo voice begins. Another voice joins, and there is harmony. Sections come in, and there is weight. Sopranos singing descant reach for the clouds, and deep basses rumble in sound caves.
One section carries the melody while other sections go off on little trips around the "piece." Then all merge into a whole. As soft as water lapping on a beach or as loud as a clap of thunder, a choir interprets the music, following the directions of a choirmaster.
From the first fumbling practices, when we were patiently led through the notes of our section parts, to the final decision that we "would do," the choirmaster has encouraged and cajoled. Sometimes we listen. Other times, we chatter with one another.
Bad choir, bad choir, we should hear him say, but he doesn't. Instead, he leads us in a short prayer and helps us to center ourselves for doing the task at hand. He nods again to the piano, asking for the accompanist to once more play the introduction. And faultlessly, for the umpteenth time, she does.
We know when we fluff a song. The altos didn't know their part. The tenors didn't hit that high note. A soprano was sour. A bass was shuffling pages noisily. When we finish, the choirmaster says "thank you, thank you," as sincerely as if we had been at Carnegie Hall.
A Family of Song
But there are times when the music is magical. There are times when we finish and look at one another and know we have done well. We can feel the music still vibrating down to our toes. We can see it in the faces of the congregation.
We steal little glances at one another. Some of us have smiles. Some of our eyes glisten. We have moved a church full of people with song. We have spoken in music the hopes and prayers of ourselves and everyone.
St. Augustine said, "He who sings, prays twice." That is what music can do.
As choir, we can make beautiful music together. Wouldn't it be great if we as family, as community, as nation, as world, could do the same?
On that Holy Night, the universe sang. We don't know the tune, but we do know the lyrics---Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth, Peace to Men of Good Will!
A blessed Christmas from the Amen Corner!
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