Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Surviving My First Ward Choir Experience

Today was my first experience singing with a real ward choir and I loved it. It was a nice change of pace after years of fleeing from choir opportunities, always with some excuse. Maybe old dogs can learn something new every now and then.

My fear of singing plagued me for a long time. It began in fourth grade when we had a cranky old substitute teacher for a month who announced that she needed to grade each of us on singing, and would do this by having us stand in front of the class one by one and sing a song of our choice. I was terrified. The night before the test, I asked my Dad for help. We had a hymnbook and I looked for the shortest one: "Upon the Cross of Calvary." He helped me practice a bit and I thought I could get through it, but all terror broke out when I had to stand in front of the class. If you can imagine the final wheezing sounds a possum makes after being struck on the road, you might have a feel for the tonal quality I elicited from my vocal chords. Well, not that bad, but I was so scared that it must have been very rough.

After working hard to get As in every subject in my impressive elementary school career, I was devastated a week or so later when I saw a "D" for singing on my report card. The next year, during singing events, I would try to hide behind the piano or just mouth the words, taking no risks. That silly distaste for singing persisted a long time, even though I knew it was important. I've almost always tried to be a good sport and sing with the congregation, but out of habit have shied away from anything more substantial.

There were a few more negative experiences after that, but my kind wife has helped me learn some of the basics of singing, and other family members have encouraged me to press forward. And now, since there were so few people in our small ward choir, I felt like I needed to help out. Our performance today in our Ward Conference turned out so beautifully - in part due to the marvelous cello parts played by my gifted son, Benjamin, and largely due to the excellent guidance provided by my wife in directing the choir. It was truly a joyful experience to be up there engaged with a live choir in a beautiful variation of "I Need Thee Every Hour." Might even try that again!

3 comments:

MormonTechie said...

This post makes me miss singing. Due to low attendance our ward choir dissipated over a year ago. I, like you, lack that beautiful thing called "tone." But I always LOVED singing the hymns and choir directors were always willing to give me a chance...

sniff... sniff...

Maybe again in the future...

Anonymous said...

Jeff

Nice post. If you will let me, here is my story about singing

I had always wanted to sing as a child, and the desire never left. I was under the misunderstanding that singing ability was genetic.

At the ripe old age of 39 I decided that I didn't have anything to lose by trying so after a bit of searching I located a vocal teacher. That was in 2001, now 6 years later I have completed grade 8 voice grade 3 history and grade 3 piano. I have competed in Kiwanis (a very large annual music competition here in Canada) for the past 3 years and have placed consistently in the high 80's low 90's (sufficient to place 2nd). I am preparing for ARCT accreditation and also getting ready for an audition with the Calgary Opera.

Everyone can sing, and everyone has a beautiful voice. A very dear man that was also teaching me, up until he passed away, was fond of saying that the only difference between a beginner and a Pavarotti was the amount of time invested.

Singing is a lifetime art and takes a lifetime to perfect, but you'll be doing good in 5 years.

As always, I love your posts Jeff.

Anonymous said...

This post reminds me of my math teacher in eighth grade algebra. She had a terrible habit of telling students "You are smart, so you should understand this" whenever they asked a question she could not answer. By doing a bit of a straw poll of friends of mine who went through the same school system, I found quite a few of my friends who said the words, "I hate math" or "I'm just not very good at math" went through her class. She literally turned dozens if not hundreds of students off over the years with her attitude and ineptitude as a math teacher. What always baffled me was the fact that her primary subject of interest was either history or English, but she got to teach the top math class because she had the most letters behind her name. If not for my Math Team coach, who knows where my math ability (and love) would've gone.

When I was in college, I had an opportunity to teach Sunday School in my former church to the 8th grade class. I asked them if any of them would be in that teacher's class. Those who said they would I warned, telling them not to let her convince them they were stupid or slow if they did not understand. She heard about my warning from one of the students, and told my mother to stop saying such things to her students. I sent back the message that I would be glad to discuss the matter with her directly, but she did not need to involve my mother.

Some might say I acted rudely or rashly, but it is my sincere hope that I saved just a few students from hating math because of her terrible teaching methods.