I miss choir.
Perhaps singing is my second language. I still remember random song lyrics from childhood. I also memorize better through song, and occasionally insert random singing in the middle of conversations. I have beautiful memories of singing lullabies with my mom while she rocked me in the rocking chair, of singing with friends, even performing in the Watermelon Festival’s Talent Show as as young girl.
In college I got brave enough to try singing karaoke in front of people, and then after I became a Christian I started singing in the church choir. It was all so new: reading music, four-part harmony, unfamiliar Bible words… I loved the exciting challenge!
I also loved how the choir director would lead us in little devotions at rehearsal, and we all prayed and cared for each other like members of a family. All this joy and fun AND I was part of God’s ministry. Choir is a beautiful place to grow.
Even though I’m not an amazing singer, I always felt welcome to come “make a joyful noise” in choir. There was always a place for me.
My first church in Florida, where I was married, had middle and high schoolers in the choir loft alongside adults of all ages. It was inspiring. I didn’t sing there, but that’s where the spark was born. At my second church as a newlywed Navy wife in Virginia, I got to wear a real choir robe like in the movies and sing up front in the choir section. I really felt at home there, smiling and swaying and worshipping my Lord.
When Matt and I moved to Georgia, we joined my sister’s church and I jumped right in with choir again. This time they also had a smaller vocal team that took turns leading music weekly, with the full choir joining in on big numbers and special occasions. I tried out and actually made the vocal team, but just barely. I was so excited! It was my first time ever auditioning for anything musical.
In Arizona, we haven’t ended up at churches with choirs. I notice many churches have moved to a vocal team concept, or just one or two vocalists on stage like a rock concert. I did get to help a friend lead worship for a month or two in a new family integrated church we attended, which was such a sweet time. But for many years there has been no place for me in a church choir, and that was a gaping hole in my spiritual life.
I tried filling the gap with occasional karaoke nights, or seasonal choir events at other churches, even community musical productions, but it’s just not the same. Our family has visited churches where every gift is welcomed and nurtured, where you see musicians of all ages and abilities singing or playing a myriad of instruments, but for whatever reason those haven’t been the churches where we’ve landed.
Thankfully last year I found Sounds of the Southwest Singers! This community choir has been such a balm to my soul. All ages and abilities are welcome, there are no tryouts, and the group sings all sorts of music, including soulful sacred songs around Easter time and several spiritual songs at Christmas. Perfect!
Director Matt Deller makes this playful, caring, rag tag bunch into a cohesive, fabulous family that sounds fantastic. He’s so good at making diamonds out of coal that Carnegie Hall is having him come direct us in a huge performance there for the first time next May! It’s a big deal. Even more remarkable is that our illustrious leader is almost completely deaf. He reads lips, uses a hearing aid and still has an amazing gift of perceiving perfect pitch.
In fact, Matt is a finalist for The Oticon Focus on People Awards, which recognize outstanding people helping to show that hearing loss does not limit a person’s ability to make a positive difference in their families, communities or the world. Check out his profile and vote for him to win.
I had been excited (and terrified) to sing in New York City with the group this past Memorial Day weekend, but the Covid-19 shutdown delayed his Carnegie Hall conducting debut a year, trying again in May 2021. We haven’t gathered for rehearsal since March 12. We keep in touch a little via Facebook, but man, do I miss my choir family! I just learned today that out of an abundance of caution and consideration for the health of our members, we will postpone gathering again until at least the new year.
Those popular quarantine virtual choirs you see online are cool and all, but just aren’t the same as a community of music lovers you call your choir family. I look forward to our next rehearsals and concerts with the Sounds of the Southwest Singers in 2021. We had to interrupt our wonderful tenth anniversary celebrations this summer. I can’t wait to have a do-over on those! I even look forward to struggling and crying because I can’t quite catch on to that difficult Carnegie music.
I can’t wait to get back to singing, to hugging, to eating the cookies and laughing together. I miss that special spiritual spark from singing in a group and spreading joy, truth and hope. I miss my people.
I miss choir.