Today was my first experience singing with a real ward choir and I loved it. It was a nice change of pace after years of fleeing from choir opportunities, always with some excuse. Maybe old dogs can learn something new every now and then.
My fear of singing plagued me for a long time. It began in fourth grade when we had a cranky old substitute teacher for a month who announced that she needed to grade each of us on singing, and would do this by having us stand in front of the class one by one and sing a song of our choice. I was terrified. The night before the test, I asked my Dad for help. We had a hymnbook and I looked for the shortest one: “Upon the Cross of Calvary.” He helped me practice a bit and I thought I could get through it, but all terror broke out when I had to stand in front of the class. If you can imagine the final wheezing sounds a possum makes after being struck on the road, you might have a feel for the tonal quality I elicited from my vocal chords. Well, not that bad, but I was so scared that it must have been very rough.
After working hard to get As in every subject in my impressive elementary school career, I was devastated a week or so later when I saw a “D” for singing on my report card. The next year, during singing events, I would try to hide behind the piano or just mouth the words, taking no risks. That silly distaste for singing persisted a long time, even though I knew it was important. I’ve almost always tried to be a good sport and sing with the congregation, but out of habit have shied away from anything more substantial.
There were a few more negative experiences after that, but my kind wife has helped me learn some of the basics of singing, and other family members have encouraged me to press forward. And now, since there were so few people in our small ward choir, I felt like I needed to help out. Our performance today in our Ward Conference turned out so beautifully – in part due to the marvelous cello parts played by my gifted son, Benjamin, and largely due to the excellent guidance provided by my wife in directing the choir. It was truly a joyful experience to be up there engaged with a live choir in a beautiful variation of “I Need Thee Every Hour.” Might even try that again!