Friday, October 29, 2010

Preaching to the Choir

Mommy's Piggy Tales Week 4
Age 7, 2nd Grade

The whole first year of school, I sat in rapt attention listening to the dulcet tones of our school’s children’s choir. They sang at High Mass each Sunday, while I ate my heart out because I was too young to join. It wasn’t fair!

Imagine here that I am stomping my little feet (clad in Mary Jane shoes) in protest.

Although no one in my family had more than rudimentary skills with any musical instruments, we did enjoy singing. In fact, I remember from an early age how my sisters and I sang in two- and three-part harmonies. Perhaps we saw ourselves as the next Lennon Sisters from the old Lawrence Welk Show (1955 to 1968) – you know, Dianne, Peggy, Kathy & Janet. Personally, I identified most closely with Janet, who was less than a year older than me.

Having three older sisters participating in choir meant they often practiced singing at home, everything from pop songs to nursery rounds to hymnals. Sometimes they even let me sing along with them, but of course the Latin verses in some of the songs were much too difficult for me to learn. Regardless, I loved the experience and the closeness with my sisses.

On Sundays, our family arrived at Church early so the girls had plenty of time to get settled into the choir loft, which was in the front of the Church to the side of the main altar. A full set of risers elevated the choir so that everyone could “keep their eyes on” the choir director, who was a nun. An open divider, rather like a wrought iron trellis, separated the choral group from the rest of the congregation.

I recall one particular Sunday when I was again complaining about not being allowed to join the choir yet. After all, I knew the songs as well as they did; in fact, even better. Anyway, during Mass that day, my next-older sister made a point of walking nonchalantly along the trellis, looking directly at me and sticking her tongue! Naturally, I yelped out a “Mo-o-om,” in protest, but of course by then my adversary had moved on and I was shushed.

Again, I am stomping my little feet in frustration.

The big day finally arrived for me! Starting second grade, I was now old enough to join the children’s choir. It was a joyous experience for me. There was only thing that could have made it better: I dreamed of wearing a long, flowing robe like the ones I saw on television.

As it turned out, I never had the chance to wear any robes in all the different choral groups I belonged to. In fact, in college, I joined one chorus in part because of the gorgeous red robes they traditionally wore. My bad luck was that year they decided to break from tradition and go with street clothes instead.

You know what’s coming here: me stomping my little feet with no beautiful robe to flutter in the wind.

Over the years, our choir group became quite proficient with complex vocal arrangements, Latin pronunciations included. I loved the ethereal feeling of being part of a much higher calling, especially when I got to stand on the highest tier of the risers. We just had to be very careful not to topple off backwards. Fortunately, that only happened to me once, during the most sacred part of the Mass, naturally.

When it came time in the Mass for the Homily or sermon, half of the choir stepped down off the risers and quietly walked into the adjacent hallway to sit on the stair steps. It was drafty in the hall, so we all secretly prayed the priest would not be long-winded with his sermon that day.

I adored the choir leader and reveled in the knowledge that she combined our young voices to create such beautiful music. Even better, I recall the thrill of being recognized for having a good voice. I know, we were supposed to be modest about our talents, but sometimes you just have to savor that recognition.

Here is me, stomping my big feet and clapping my hands in appreciation of all the hard-working choir directors in our world. Kudos to all of them!

For ideas on how to start writing your own family stories, 1) sign up for my Newsletter at and 2) check my website for upcoming free teleclasses held each month.

As a Personal Historian, my goal is to help people save their heritage before it is lost forever. What is your favorite story?


Beth (Elizabeth) LaMie said...

If anyone happens to be in the Kankakee, IL, area, the Limestone Library is having their Fall Festival on Saturday, Oct. 30. I will be giving a writing workshop at 10:00 am, followed by a day full of fun activities. I hope you can join us!

Karen said...

Loved hearing of your choir experiences. In our church, we all worried about falling on the steep winding staircase up to the loft. We had about one accident a year, sometimes with tears (but not mine!)

Wish I lived near enough to participate in your writing workshop. Enjoy it all.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your choir story and you should tell it wearing a red robe at your workshop! My parent's watched Lawrence Welk alot I smiled at the mention of those Andrew's sisters!

Beth (Elizabeth) LaMie said...

It was such a nice surprise to hear about your being in the choir at that age, too. It was probably a good thing I didn't have to negotiate a winding staircase when I was still growing into my feet. ;-)

Beth (Elizabeth) LaMie said...

Now that's a great idea to wear a red robe during my workshop! Even better since the Library is also having a Fall Festival tomorrow where the kids can wear their Halloween costumes. Too bad I didn't think about wearing one as well.

Anonymous said...

Careful, Beth, you're going to scuff your shoes with all of that stomping!

I loved your choir stories. We went to a very small pentacostal church, so there was no big choir to join and certainly not any robes. The had children's choir now and then that I would always participate in. We had one kid that sang really loud all of the time.

Thanks for sharing, and thanks for stopping by my blog...I truly appreciate the comments!

Group 2

Beth (Elizabeth) LaMie said...

Hey Jenn, thanks for stopping by. I think one of the greatest things about being in the choir at such a young age is the feeling of being a small part of something big & beautiful.

Just yesterday, I was shopping at a grocery store, unconsciously whistling some tune. About that time, I saw an elderly man watching me & smiling. He mimed at me, making a whistling face, then laughed. A few minutes later, I saw him point me out to his wife & they both chuckled.

So apparently, I still carry songs around with me. The funny thing is that I very seldom even know what I'm whistling!