This Sunday morning, all the ladies were invited to sing in the choir at First Presbyterian Church. I had been going to Wednesday’s choir practice, but had not yet taken the plunge to get up in the choir loft on Sunday mornings. Joining the ladies who are members in the choir as well as other ladies who don’t always participate in the choir would be as good of a time to do it as any.
What’s the big deal of standing up in front of people singing?
I can’t read music. There, I said it. I was in Select Chorus during high school and choir in former churches for years. I was involved in the prison ministry and sang to inmates, was a part of ensembles and sang at local functions 20 years ago, but I never learned to read music.
How did I keep up? Repetition and memorization. Oh, it was more work
for me, but I liked doing it that way because I knew the song in my heart
and that is how I like to sing… from my heart.
I had not been part of a choir in years and it was as if I had forgotten everything that I had learned about music, just on the fly. I could follow the notes if they go up or down and I had learned what the symbols were that meant to sing softly and when to sing out but I could not tell you if a note was a D, G or Z! I learned in seventh grade the letters on the scale with the rhyme of “Every Good Boy Does Fine”… but it never stuck. I was too busy wondering, “Well… what about the girls?”
So, I made sure to take music home and practice until I knew it. If I ever got up to sing karaoke, I had to know the song like the back of my hand – this was mainly because of stage fright. When you are nervous, you can forget words or timing if you don’t know the song ‘by heart’. My whole life is lived ‘by heart’. It’s the only way I understand things.
With enough choir practices under my belt and the wonderful direction of Kelly Luther Stultz, I was more confident. Kelly had emailed the songs for us to download. That made a big difference! I took my choir folder home to keep practicing and I was finally ready to sing in front of the church. Not having sung for quite some time, I do not have the voice I used to. Like any muscle, you lose it if you don’t use it and this was true of my vocal chords. My voice will crack or I will run out of breath, but I know that if I continue to ‘work out’ my voice, I will get stronger and I will start to see it coming back. Of course, there is the aging thing that comes to play for some peoples’ voices, but I don’t think I am ready to be put out to pasture yet.
Since I was wearing a white summer jacket, I thought I had better take that off before putting my robe on just in case it got hot underneath the robe.
The choir room is always freezing so I didn’t really expect to be hot, but I also have been dealing with occasional ‘hot flashes’ and did not want to trigger one while in front of the church. It’s not pretty.
Luckily, I only experience one every now and then and it is usually when I am asleep. But the moment my body becomes that searing inferno I cannot just ignore it. For men who just don’t understand this, it is like lying on a heating pad – but it’s on the inside too! When I move from my place in the bed, it literally feels as though the bed is a heating pad itself. I do not remove the covers from off me… I THROW THEM OFF! I flop to the other side of the bed, which is cooler. Once the fire is extinguished, I then get cold again and fumble to find my covers.
As we practiced our music in the choir room, a few of the ladies mentioned how warm it was. I was grateful to be wearing robes because I was cold. The Bell Choir would be playing during the choir anthem so we went early to the sanctuary to practice with them.
When we were lined up, to sit in a certain order which I don’t understand; I followed instructions. I was put in the top row in the back. There was a girl in front of me who was a bit tall. When we stood to practice, I knew that in order to see Kelly’s direction from my five-foot-two frame that I would need to step to the side a bit during service. I was singing first soprano and I think we need to be in the back row for sound purposes.
I’m short and I can’t read music - I feel as though I am Kelly’s special needs choir member.
After practicing, Kelly announced that we had four minutes to take a break. I really, really had to go to the bathroom… but I didn’t dare leave! I still get lost trying to find my way and I am sure that I could not find a bathroom and be back in the loft in four minutes. The congregation filled the pews and, as we sat waiting for service to start, I saw a few of my friends and I smiled at them. One of my friends waved at me and I was scared to wave back.
When I first joined the choir, I was given a sheet that welcomed new choir members. It spoke of how we are to be cautious of mannerisms while up in the loft. The choir is on camera and also in front of the whole church. It wasn’t as if we would get ‘sent to the preacher’s office’ if we coughed or blew our nose or fiddled with our hair – but it is encouraged to be aware of these things so that we are not a distraction.
The bright lights over the loft seemed to be on high beam. The heat from the lights caused my hair to flatten a bit and a strand of my bangs fell on my eyelashes causing my left eye to water. I tried to make a quick swipe of my hair and wipe my watering eye before service began. I tried not to be distracting by reaching my hand up to my face.
By the time church announcements were made, the heat of the lights made me feel as though I were a chicken on a rotisserie! I was thankful that I had not worn my jacket under my robe as I felt very, very …very warm. A woman next to me made a comment of how hot it was. Relieved, I told her, “I am glad to know that you feel it too- I wasn’t sure if it was hot or if I was having a hot flash!”
Though I was enjoying service and all that was being said – I was aware of my full bladder and the desire that I had to fling off my robe and move away from the heat – in the same way I treat my random hot flashes! Now THAT would be a distraction; I felt that my occasional brushing my hair from my face and wiping my watery left eye was not so bad.
Making it through the service without dropping my large choir folder, being able to turn the pages in time and to not miss any words was my main concern when we stood up to sing. I was glad to be on the back row so that no one could see the effects of my full bladder possibly turning the whites of my eyes to shades of yellow. I was so focused on watching Kelly that I could not pay attention to the congregation - so there really wasn’t the issue of being nervous.
Kelly’s vibrant, loving personality shone so brightly that I forgot about hot flashes and Mountain Dew eyeballs. It reminded me of when I would attend the Chattanooga Symphony and Orchestra. I always made sure to get a good seat because I liked watching as well as listening. Former Maestro Bob Bernhardt was a joy to watch as he conducted the orchestra. He had such an energy and fun spirit; he knew how to bring the spirit that he wanted from the performers. I liked watching Bob’s performance as much as the musicians.
This was true in watching beautiful Kelly. From the congregation, I would see her back as she would lead the choir but I could tell she was pulling the very spirit from deep within the choir until it reached their faces and shone out to the congregation! She definitely had a gift and it was such a joy and a blessing to see. I learned first-hand in choir practice that she takes this calling seriously but with such elation.
I was proud to be singing in the choir under her direction. When music is alive – people are alive. What a wonderful way to spend your life each Sunday being with friends who love the Lord and to be a part of leading in worship. I love being a part of the choir even if as a choir member we may have to deal with the heat of the lights, no time for a bathroom break and trying not to scratch our nose. I know that the congregation appreciates their choir and the efforts each person makes. Some years ago, I was led away from going to church and had vowed to myself that I would never go again.
Now, I cannot see being away from it!
When a body of believers acknowledging God’s worth come together and draw from each other, this sense of family as we lift our eyes to the Almighty…wow… you realize how miniscule many things you fret over during the week, really are. My car making funny noises, juggling my work schedule and having other personal concerns that weigh me down; it is when I participate in the ‘action’ of worship, that I gain empowerment. I cannot see myself ever missing out on that again. Bravo Kelly Stultz, for being a beautiful instrument who enables us to do the same. PS- Thanks for ordering the lighter choir robes.