“I’ve got soul, but I’m not a soldier.” The Killers
I realized this week that this Sunday marks ten years of me singing in our church choir. Ten years! Another way of saying that is a decade, or even a tenth of a century if you want to get fancy. (Who DOESN’T?)
Let’s slip into the ol’ TARDIS and have a looksee, shall we? The Black Eyed Peas were on the radio asking where is all the love, and Gwen Stefani was telling us that the SHIT is bananas. (It really was, back then. That just shows how far we’ve come as a scociety.) I had just bought tickets to see U2 in Milwaukee that upcoming fall, with the hope that I’d finally see “The Killers” open for them. (I was off by one or two dates. By the time the Milwaukee show rolled around, The Killers were replaced by some outfit calling themselves “Dashboard Confessional”. Right? I don’t remember them either.)
But in the spring all things were possible. The Blue Jays had a pretty scrappy team lined up, a team that Joe Torre of the Yankees said he “most feared” of all the teams in the American League East, and we’re talking about the spring after the Red Sox’s historic 86 year ending drought. Let’s just look at those Jays for a second. Gregg Zaun was our catcher, you guys! And Ted Lilly and Shea Hillenbrand were still there. That was before Shea wrote that mean-spirited message on the clubhouse’s chalkboard and before Lilly tried to kill his manager, as I recall. Well the joke’s on HIM, because he is long gone, and his manager? Well, his manager is none other than the CURRENT manager of YOUR 2015 TORONTO BLUE JAYS, JOHN GIBBONS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! Also on the team that year? That walking douche bag Eric Hinske and the doomed Corey Koskie (the pride of Anola, Manitoba!). My personal favourite dude on the 2005 Blue Jays? Reed Johnson. That guy knew how to take a pitch, and he got hit by so many of them, I bet Billy Beane still thinks about him. Speaking of Billy Beane, I just googled him to make sure I got his spelling right and you know how Google tries to guess what you are trying to look for? Well the first thing that comes up is “Billy Beane GAY?” [caps added by editor]. Can this be true? I mean, he was married twice to ladies and has a daughter BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN ANYTHING IN THIS DAY AND AGE. I don’t want to be the one starting rumours, but if you’re reading this Billy, COME OUT OF THAT CLOSET! It’s 2015! You live in the Bay Area, for God’s sake!
But I digress, obviously.
It was the spring of 2005 and I somehow got dragged into ushering one Sunday at this church near our house. We had been attending off and on in the two years previous, but nothing too serious. I had some family connections at that church and that was about it. How I came to be ushering on Palm Sunday remains lost in the mists of time. But I’ll never forget a shortish lady approached me after church and asked me if I could sing. At this point, I hadn’t sung in a choir for over a decade, since high school. The choir director at our old church was a bit of a dick and I didn’t want to be involved full time. I’d join for the odd “big thing” but that was about it. I think I kind of stammered. “Um, yeah. I guess.”
“Well, why don’t you join our choir?” It turned out this shortish lady was Helen, the choir director.
“When do you practice?”
“Oh okay. Well, maybe I’ll think about it and join after Easter.” My old church started practicing Easter stuff way back in January and it would have been unheard of for a “Johnny Come Lately” to join up the week before Easter, on Maundy Thursday, no less.
“Why wait? You could come on Thursday and sing on Easter Sunday.”
My first Sunday in the choir being Easter Sunday with only one practice? It sounded crazy, but you know what?
I did. And that’s how I joined the choir.
At my first practice, a lovely older man, John, came up to me with a twinkle in his eye and introduced himself. He really took me under his wing and got me a folder and asked me if I was tenor or bass. A slight shadow passed over his face when I told him “bass”, but we soon got past it. I learned that my choir debut wasn’t going to be Easter Sunday, but the very next day! Good Friday! John made sure I had a gown that fit me (more or less) and from the very first day I felt loved. I also soon remembered how much fun it is to sing in a choir, and how much I actually missed it.
What I wasn’t expecting was how much this choir would become such a loving source of fun and friendship over the next ten years. [Editor’s Note: This is the part of the blog post where we mention God, so feel free to go to the kitchen and make a sandwich or put the kettle on, or just skip ahead to the next paragraph.] In addition to the challenges and joys of learning new pieces together, it provides an opportunity, for me at least, to connect on a spiritual level to something bigger than me. To God or whatever, as Jesse Thorn might put it. [Editor’s note: you can come back in now. How’s the sandwich?]
A couple of years later, we were doing a combined service with the Anglicans down the road. My wife entered the wrong door, and instead of ending up in the sanctuary, she walked right into the hall where the combined choirs were warming up. That’s all it took for her to join the choir! Before she knew it she was filing onto the chancel . After church, some people approached my wife and expressed amazement that she was in the choir. I don’t think anyone was more amazed than she.
My wife, the more outgoing one, quickly made friends with the altos on either side of her, and those friendships have remained strong to this day, transcending the choir and even the church, despite the fact that my wife hasn’t been able to sing in the choir in a number of years due to her work schedule. She still has a gown, though.
Time is odd. Sometimes an hour-long dental appointment lasts for ever, and other times you can blink and ten years have slipped by. Where will we all be ten years from now? I’m not even 100% sure what I’m having for lunch today. I hope that I still get together with friends for meals and general goofiness, and I hope I’m still singing somewhere, even if it’s just in the shower.