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Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Joyful Noise

I can't sing. I know that at least one person who reads this will be thinking, "Oh, that's silly, everyone can sing!" I have to disagree with you for just a moment about that. I equate that with the proclamations by people who are gifted at drawing or painting that "anyone can draw." Right. As soon as I finish writing this, I'm going to get back to work on my miniature re-creation of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Yes, everyone can sing, barring physical issues that may prevent them doing so. But not everyone can do so in a beautiful and pleasing manner. Honestly, if I were suddenly gifted with a truly lovely singing voice, I would probably sing for days on end. I know enough to know a good voice or a good singer, and enough to know that I don't belong in their midst.

Way back when I was in elementary school, I was in the choir. In fact, I was in a smaller version of the choir that was invited to sing at the Governor's Mansion for the First Lady of Colorado. Our music teacher/choir director was an amazing woman. She not only taught us all kinds of great songs, she taught us things about the songs themselves, and about the people who wrote them, or the times in which they were written. We sang our little hearts out for her, and we all loved her very much. Just a couple of days before our scheduled "Command Performance," we lost our beloved Mrs. Schlundt in an automobile accident. Someone ran a red light, and our bright, shining light was extinguished. When I heard that she was gone, I felt as if my ability to sing had died as well. Who knows, perhaps she was just a kind teacher who felt that everyone who loved to sing should be allowed to do so. But I was never in choir after that.

When my junior high school days were drawing to a close, the director of the high school choir announced that she would be having auditions at our school. Now, I had no hope of being allowed to join the choir, even if I did make the cut. I had been allowed to act, performing the role of Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker, but after Alice (my guardian, with whom I did not live) heard that I really loved it and was quite good in the part, I was no longer allowed to do any more theater. Only "rough people" did things like that. It was not something that nice people did. The drama teacher/director told me that if I ever got permission to try out again, she would give me any part I wanted. But Alice didn't want me to have the acting bug. She did relent in my last year of junior high, and I was in the last play of the year. Naturally, she never went to a single one of my performances. There was always some excuse about why she couldn't make it. I didn't realize until years later that her younger sister had been a very talented dancer who performed with the USO. Perhaps she resented the attention her sister had gotten, and turned that resentment toward me. I will never know. 

Anyway, I was told via Gram that I was not to try out for the choir. After all, the choir sometimes took overnight trips, and only tramps don't sleep in their own beds at night. (Everyone that did the fun stuff that she didn't want them to do qualified as tramps and "rough people," apparently.) And they were just stupid people who wanted a lot of attention. Well, I figured that what Alice didn't know wouldn't hurt me. I decided to audition whether she liked it or not. The choir director wasn't going to call her and tell on me. And if I got accepted, I could always turn it down. To this day, I can't tell you whether I didn't make the cut because of a lack of talent, or if it was because I was so afraid of getting in trouble that my vocal cords tightened up like they were made of wood. Looking back, I'm glad I didn't make the cut, though. It would have been so painful to know that I could do it, but that I wasn't allowed to do it.

I still like to sing from time to time, but of course, not in front of other people. One day, I was in a really good mood at work and started singing softly at my desk. My boss, J, had a second job as a church choir director. She had studied vocal music in college and had a lovely soprano voice in spite of her smoking habit. But she was also what might be called a vocal snob, someone who thought that if you didn't have a perfect voice, you should just keep your mouth shut. Except I didn't realize it the day that I burst into song. "Katrina, what is that racket you've got going on over there?" she asked. And I know that my singing isn't that bad. So in true smart-alecky fashion, I replied that I was making a joyful noise. Her comeback was that noise was right, I wasn't singing, I was just making noise. Hmph. I quit singing then, but I made it a point to sing a little song from time to time, and sometimes not very beautifully. And I encouraged others to do so as well. It was my way of reminding J that even though we aren't all professional-quality singers, everyone can find pleasure in music. And so what if we aren't all talented? Shouldn't life have moments where we can all make a little joyful noise?