Exequial Choirs

I’ve always wished that I could sing.  Although EVEN IF, I’d still be frozen by stage fright  in front of an audience. Hopeless.  But that didn’t stop me from joining the church choir one year in Wisconsin.

The choir loft of our neighborhood church was exactly that–a loft/ balcony at the back of the church.  No watchers.  The choir members were friendly.  I tried to stand next to someone with a good, strong voice and stay on her key.  I thought it worked okay for awhile. 

Then came a special city-wide service.  At least two dozen participating churches and a combined choir from all of them — coming together as one magnificent chorus–in front of a sea of faces. 

Perhaps I could handle it!  After all, we’d all be practicing together  the evening before the big day.  I’d simply stand behind someone taller to be completely insignificant and anonymous in this huge chorus complete with brass instruments, descant singing sopranos,  and a cathedral-sized organ.  Oh, to feel a part of something so grand!   On the rehearsal evening, I headed for a large church in an unfamiliar part of town.

Although it was only late October,  there was already a dusting of snow.  It was damp and cold, eerily foggy, and  completely dark by the time I crossed the bridge to that side of town.  In this neighborhood of older bungalows on tree-lined streets, the mist made the quiet drive a little spooky.  Halloween was very near, so lighted jack-o-lanterns grinned on a few  porches.

 I saw a large lighted parking lot ahead and with a sigh of relief, turned in.  I seemed to be one street off, for this was surely the back side of what must be the church’s educational or fellowship building. There was no sign to direct me to the proper area, but it was well-lit.  I figured to find my group without difficulty even going in through the back way, so I parked and found an unlocked door. 

The  hallway I’d entered was dim and empty.  I walked quickly, looking side to side into the small, dark rooms.  Some rooms were open, some had closed doors, but the ones I could see into had to be the most unattractive Sunday School classrooms I’d ever seen;  no pictures on the walls, no chairs, just cold looking, metal-topped tables in the center of each room.   Surely they looked  better in daylight! They had no doubt moved  the chairs out to use for the choir, for none were in evidence.   Finally,  I saw a group of adults in a large room ahead.   I felt underdressed, judging by their Sunday-like attire.  Sheesh!  This choir stuff was serious business. 

Strangers, all of them.  An elite group who’d be singing an anthem separate from the main choir?   They were talking in hushed tones.  I didn’t want to interrupt, so I wandered to check out a lobby-like area. 

“May I help you?”   A man’s deep voice startled me.

AI’m looking for my group,”  I told him.   When he asked what group I meant,  I explained I was here to practice. 

“Practice?  We don’t usually hold practice.”

“This is for a special service,” I informed him importantly.

“Ahhhh. ”  

He nodded, still looking puzzled.  I assured him I’d find the right people and hurried off toward another large, lit room.  Once again the group was well-dressed, quiet, and completely unfamiliar to me.  Odd.  I was quite impressed with the flowers; the church had gone all out for the next day’s service!   I walked through a different door, hoping for a hall connection to the main building, but I found myself back among the small darkened rooms.  I retraced my steps.   

“You didn’t find them?”

The deep-voiced man rejoined me to ask  more questions:  “Whose service did you say this is?   What day is it being held? ”

Finally, baffled by my answers, he asked one more:   

“Are you sure you’re in the right place?”

“Isn’t this First English Church? ” Suddenly I had a sinking feeling.

“No, this is Northside Funeral Home.”

Could you point me to the back door?

The church was in the next block and my face was a still burning Jack-o-lantern color when I entered.  I saw my group immediately and hurried over to them. 

Did you get lost? 

As I started to tell them of being lost in a funeral home, wandering among . . . oh, lordy, lordy, they weren’t classrooms at all!  Suppose I’d opened one of those closed doors!   Their faces. . . at first concerned. . . started to twitch. The absurdity of the situation hit me, too,  at that point and I began hooting… laughing so hard that my bladder put out alarm signals.  

Someone on stage called for the room  to come to attention and everyone immediately quieted.  Except me.

I tried to swallow the laughter, but it only gave me hiccups.   I hiccuped loudly— three times in rapid succession, which sent me into more nervous laughter.   Heads turned, looking my way.   Three more hiccups, then more gasping, raucous, horrible snorts of laughter, all coming from ME!   It became worse with each hiccup…  the absurd hilarity that I was about to wet my pants in front of all these people. . .  that I’d ever thought I belonged in a choir.  They all watched  as I grabbed my coat,  and for the second time that evening,  I ran for an exit.

I didn’t sing on the way home.

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