I responded to a cry for help written in the Free-Range Methodist Church Bulletin;
“We desperately need more singers in our Chancel Choir. If you are able to carry a tune, and able to attend Wednesday night rehearsals, please schedule a time to audition with Choir Director, Rich.”
I had done some singing in high school and was in the glee club in college, so I went to my designated audition. Director Rich ask me to sing Do, Rae, Me, Fa, So La Tea, Do forwards and backwards. He then retrieved a choir robe which had been vacated by Lidia Boomershine at the time of her death. The robe fit and I only missed four of the seven notes in the Do, Rae Me scale exercise. I was a bit embarrassed by my performance, but Rich assured me that I would be a welcome addition to the Alto section.
The first rehearsal that I attended, the Choir Secretary, Hilda Christner assigned me a seat beside her. On my other side sat Florence Aberdine, the oldest choir member at 93. I was clearly the youngest alto as evidenced by the sea of “Blue Hair” surrounding me.
If you have never sung in a church choir, let me enlighten you on a few facts. The soprano section is comprised of Divas, who drink warm tea and constantly spray lemon juice mixed with honey in their throats to maintain proper vocal cord hygiene. Tenors are the subservient members in a choir. They will do anything to keep the sopranos happy. They usually have professional careers, such as law, or accounting or banking. Tenors sit directly behind the sopranos so they can respond rapidly to the needs of the Divas.
The Bass section of a choir is made up of ‘Class Clowns”, who are carpenters, plumbers and bulldozer drivers. If there is a need for a new Baptismal Font or a new closet for choir robes, the handy work will be that of a Bass. Men in the bass section sit directly behind the Altos, so they can pull practical jokes and make rude body noises during Sunday worship.
Altos are the backbone of any choir. They have exceptional organizational skills. Hence, an alto is in charge of attendance records, the music library and maintaining the “Prayer Needs” list. They plan and execute all carry-in functions and make sure the robes are dry cleaned annually. The one thing that Altos and Basses share is a vocal range of only 4 or 5 notes. If a hymn goes above or below that range, altos just move their mouths to the words. Basses do to, if they can read.
For the first few weeks in choir, I honestly tried to behave myself. I followed all of the rules, arrived on time and never fell asleep during a sermon (in my church the choir sits behind the Pastor). But it became increasingly more difficult not to be influenced by the mischief of the Bass section. My personality and sensitivities were more aligned with the antics of the “Bad Boys” than the organization of the overachieving Altos. More than once, Hilda had to reprimand me for my behavior.
Finally, one night, while rehearsing for the Christmas Cantata, Hilda reached her breaking point. She turned to me and said,
“Do you know what really bothers me about you?”
“Well, I have worked all my life to be a good Christian. I raised my children to be good, God-fearing people. Our Kevin never, ever gave Rufus or me any reason to worry. I have dedicated myself to doing God’s work here on earth. And, in the end, people LIKE YOU, will probably get into heaven, just like me. That should be changed!”
“Hilda, I am so sorry you feel that way, but I thought Saint Peter was in charge of the Pearly Gates, not you. As far as your parenting skills go, Kevin may never have caused you any worry, but I dated his son in High School and believe me, if you want to see him in heaven, you need to lower the standards on your entrance exam.