Monday, December 17, 2007

Step along the journey

My freshman year, I auditioned for choir at Dordt. “Everybody gets in,” someone said to me. I was no stranger to singing. I had done plenty of it in my high school days. I got lots of solos in programs and chapels. So I may have been slightly over-confident when I auditioned for choir at Dordt. I marched into the room thinking “piece of cake”, sang and walked out. Never once did it occur to me that I would not be chosen. The thought never entered my mind. But I wasn’t chosen.

For weeks I thought someone must have made some kind of odd mistake; they would call me and beg my forgiveness and invite me to grace them with my presence. But no call ever came and I grew somewhat bitter. And humble.

My sophomore year, my Dad told me to go try out for choir again. I refused at first but he told me I had nothing to lose. Just go try. This time, I walked into the room and met a different director. I carried no predispositions about my abilities. I had lost so much of the pride and arrogance that I had last time. I knew my limitations and I knew no audition was a given. I first filled out a form which asked a variety of questions - things like what part I sang (soprano - first or second) and my level of ability to read music (absolutely zero). He tested my range and gave me a familiar song to sing - Beautiful Savior. And then the dreaded portion - I had to site-read a piece of music. My heart sank. I stared at the collection of lines and dots on the paper and knew, just knew, it would be a great and amazing miracle if I got even one of them right. He gave me my starting note and off I went - guessing at how much higher to sing based on how many lines higher the note was on the paper. I finished the short, but terrifying assignment and stared back at the director. Part of me really believed he was going to either try valiantly to stifle his laughter or be horrified that this girl for some reason thought she could sing and had now wasted 5 minutes of his time. He did neither. Instead he said good and sent me on my way.

At Dordt, there are two choirs - Chorale and Concert Choir. The form had asked me which one I was interested in and I, being not at all convinced I would get into either, checked both boxes. At best, I hoped my new-found humility would have given me some kind of boost and I would get invited to join the Choral. The Concert Choir - well, that was for the really really good singers. Only those with amazing voices got in there. They were, in effect, the best.

One of my girl friends had also tried out for Chorale and/or Concert Choir - like me not really even aiming for Concert Choir. Days passed and it was a warm summer afternoon when I took refuge in the basement of one of the dorms to work in a cool computer lab. I sat there emailing and doing homework when she bolted through the door. I didn’t quite know what to make of the look on her face, but I was intrigued - if not alarmed. She all but knocked me over as she ran and dropped to her knees beside me. “We got in,” she exclaimed breathlessly. My heart leapt. She MUST mean we had been accepted into Chorale. I pondered the feeling of redemption for a few moments before I saw her shake her head, “No. Concert Choir. Second sopranos.” Computer labs were, in my day, similar to library settings. A place where studying happened and by some social unwritten rule you did not speak much above a whisper. Needless to say my stunned loudly-exclaimed response made a few heads turn. She couldn’t possibly be serious. Concert Choir was for the kids with the really good voices. The best singers on campus. Only the best got into Concert Choir. Surely, that wasn’t me! I couldn’t read a note of music. But she was right. There on a webpage were our names listed under Concert Choir. I read it. I re-read it. And I RAN back to my apartment, grabbed my phone and dialed my parents’ number.

Mom was thrilled and told me she would tell Dad first to get off the roof (he was shingling) and then that I got in Concert Choir. She was afraid he would jump off if she told him before he got down. We were all stunned.

I can’t tell you just how woefully unprepared and unqualified I felt those first several rehearsals. What I had heard was true, the people in Concert Choir were amazing singers. Amazing. I spent the better part of several months completely and totally overwhelmed that I was asked to be part of this group. For weeks I thought someone must have made some kind of odd mistake; they would call me and apologize about the error saying I was not fit to be in their group. But no call ever came. Soon concerts were happening and I was making friends. I would sit in my room and though I could not read a note of music, I studied it, I marked it lightly with a pencil, I circled parts to pay attention to, I sang in a different language, and I memorized. Never in my life had I poured so much of myself into something. And the truth of the matter was that I needed to. I was not naturally as gifted as many of the others in the choir. I was not able to read music and bluff my way through anything. I worked very hard to even be worthy of holding down my chair in the middle of the front row.

We went on choir tour (stories for another time) and I think I may have had more fun on that trip than at any other time of my life. I seemed to open up in a way I hadn’t ever been able to before. I sat on a bus surrounded by 50 people and realized that I would never have another experience like this ever again. I remember so much of that trip so vividly.

And that whole year, never once did I stand there and think “yeah, I belong here.” Not one time did I feel worthy of adding my small voice to the chorus of beautiful ones around me. You would think I would be proud to say I stood among them. But to this very day I am so humbled that I was ever once invited to be part of it.

Its unbelievable to stand in the middle of some incredibly talented people and listen to the intense beauty in their voice. I had a hard time wiping the stupid grin off my face each time we sang. It was like a warm blanket being wrapped around you, inviting you to close your eyes and find peace. Certain songs still make my heart swell and others make me laugh.

I believe God did a special miracle in me the day I auditioned. I never could have sung those notes on my own. I never would have gained such an appreciation and respect for music without that year. I never would have been able to imagine what it was going to sound like in heaven when the angels sang. Now I can.

Heaven is going to be awesome.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2: 8-14

1 comment:

Laura said...

Jean, that was again, a beautifully written tribute. I honestly didn't know choir meant that much to you! At the time, I wasn't very observant.