06
Oct
22

Scratching the Choir Itch

Let’s get together and SING!

There is something magical about singing. Especially when that singing is done in harmony with other people. 

I am not musically intelligent enough to know how it all works, but when those people over there sing one note, the folks behind them sing another, my buddies and I add a third, and then a completely different group of people come flying in over the top with yet a FOURTH different, resonant note, I attest to you (as truthfully as I can) that I feel myself start to levitate a little. 

And THEN… when you add some profoundly poetic lyrics to that tune, I can’t help it. My eyes begin to leak a little.

I was reminded of the enchanted quality of choral music yesterday when my granddaughter sent me a video clip of her freshman girls’ choir singing O Sacrum Convivium, or The Sacred Banquet. It was absolutely transcendent. They blended and harmonized. They hit their all their notes. They nailed the cut-offs. They rose and sank and soared, all in perfect synchronization.

Did I mention this choir is comprised of high school freshman girls?

 One reason I love choral music so much is because in it I find community. A shared mission. Mutual sustenance and encouragement. Choir members have one another’s backs, even when one of them (usually me) struggles to land the tone accurately. The vibration of a carefully cultivated harmony excites us as we imagine the joy it will bring unseen future audiences. 

There is WORK in choral music. First, in understanding the composer’s vision. Next in faithfully fulfilling its finest nuances. Hours and hours and hours of sweat and strain are needed to help a choir avoid a public faceplant. 

There is ART in choral music. True, singers are only re-presenting the creative genius of the composer. But music – by its very nature – is ephemeral… here in this moment, then gone forever. A painting or sculpture or novel is fixed in time and space exactly as it left the hand of the artist. In contrast, the beauty of any piece of music depends both on the creator AND the performer(s). In that sense, composers and singers become artistic co-creators.

And so, for those reasons and many others, I also find God in choral music. I will take that a step further and suggest that those who listen to a finely composed, artfully presented choral work also find God… whether they realize it or not.

Now before you get all excited and label me a heretic, consider this; King David was a musician extraordinaire. He regularly rocked out on the lyre, and we know he composed AT LEAST 150 different little ditties designed to praise, question, lament, and glorify his Creator. They are collected there in a book you might know as Psalms. I’m not sure how many of those tunes are meant to be sung by choirs vs. individuals, but I’ll bet the group approach works for a whole bunch of them. 

He was such a big fan of singing, in fact, that he wrote one entire psalm – Psalm 100 to be precise – specifically to sing the praises of SINGING THE PRAISES. When David said, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing,” (Psalm 100:1-2, NRSVU) I think he really meant it.

Singing with a group of people is one of the things I miss most about our new life in Fort Collins, Colorado. The church we attend only has a choir during Lent and Advent. Besides that, there is no nearby equivalent to Kansas City’s Heartland Men’s Chorusand I flunked my audition with the Larimer County Chorale (“You’ve got a nice voice, Russell, but you really suck at reading music,” were their exact words, I believe). 

So, until I find a way to scratch my choir itch, please say a little prayer for Joan. She has to listen to me sing in the shower, sing while I mow the lawn, and break out into song at random moments for entirely random reasons. 

I suppose it could be worse. 

I suppose I could be a frustrated bagpipe player.

Abundant blessings;


5 Responses to “Scratching the Choir Itch”


  1. October 6, 2022 at 5:56 pm

    I live with one (my wife) who feels much as you do. We’re National Baptist, or Adrican American Bptist, and we’re in the heart of the Bible Belt. My wife has been singing in the choir since she was a child. She’s now 65 and still belting out armonies with the church choir. I remember a concert our hoir did wit a Southern Baptist choir once. The dversity was somehting else, and the music was truly a blessing.

  2. October 7, 2022 at 12:36 am

    Oh my, not a very polite critique…
    Our church doesn’t have a choir, either, except Christmas and Easter. Our worship pastor believes the congregation IS the choir. (Fortunately, we have a lot of good singers in our church.) One of my favorite moments in the service is when the instruments stop playing for the last verse of a song, and the congregation sings it a capella, in four-part harmony. It’s like being in heaven for a moment. ❤️

  3. October 20, 2022 at 9:40 pm

    A delightful post, Russell. I’m right with you: there’s something magical about singing. For years I was a member of choirs and ensembles, on praise teams , in quartets, trios, etc. For a while I was part of a quintet, singing sacred music a cappella with tight harmonies, similar to The Manhattan Transfer. SUCH fun! I have high hopes we’ll be singing all sorts of music in all sorts of ways once we get to heaven. I’m looking forward to participating with all my singing friends of years past. Maybe Jesus will sing with us! P.S. Your closing remark about bagpipes made me smile. They are SO loud!!😁


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