Mic Mistakes

I’ve been singing in my church choir for a number of years now. When  I first began I was a practically silent member because I was terrified to sing loud enough to be heard. I feared being off-key or hitting the wrong notes and so would stand out.

Those fears are not irrational because I have no formal music training. I remember being enrolled in a junior high music class, but we didn’t learn how to read notes. All we did was sing old-timey songs like “The Erie Canal” that made no sense to a young child.

I’ve always loved music. In high school I bought a portable radio and took it everywhere with me. If we were picnicking or visiting relatives, it was on. Only in the privacy of my room did I sing aloud, primarily because my father told me I couldn’t carry a tune. But I loved the way the words moved me, the way the melody carried me away in its wake.

Our church had a choir and so I was able to sing along, enriching the experience for me. But I was terrified to join. When I worked up the nerve to go to a rehearsal, I expected to be laughed out of the room. When it didn’t happen, I became emboldened and returned week after week, but not singing louder for I was learning how the rise and fall of notes carry the melody.

Things went well at first. There were about five of us who showed up on a regular basis. All of the others were experienced singers, most with formal training. I attempted to blend in and not destroy the music. But one Sunday morning none of the others came. It was just me and the pianist. At first I felt like sitting in the pews with the congregation. When the choir director smiled at me and told me I could do it, I stood there and gave it my besteffort. I know I flubbed some words and notes, but I survived.

After a six year hiatus, I recently returned to the choir. Maybe it’s my age, but I’ve made some major mistakes. I’ve sung the wrong lines for verses until I realized what I was doing. Instead of singing “desert and wasteland will bloom” I sang waistband. More than once. When I realized what I had done, my knees weakened and I felt a blush creep up my neck. I listened for snickers from the congregation, but either they didn’t hear or they were too polite to laugh.

I came back the following week, determined to get all the words right. Unfortunately the director cranked up the mics, so every little thing I did wrong blasted back at me. I sang rhyming words instead of the right one. I got lost and mumbled, but pretended that I knew what I was doing. I thought about quitting, thinking that I was destroying the holiness of the moment, but I keep coming back. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment, or maybe at my age I’m already starting to lose my faculties, but I’m determined not to give up.

I am a natural alto, but I’ve been singing the melody, which is for sopranos. My choir director decided I should sing the alto parts in the worship music. To help myself, I record the part during rehearsal and go over it, again and again before church. The song begins, I sing, but when we come to my part, I fabricate notes.

This past Sunday I didn’t think my mic was working. I sang louder, thinking maybe the  sound level was turned down. That was a huge mistake for several reasons: my voice cracked, I ran out of breath and I had a hard time hitting the right notes. After Mass I found out that the mic wasn’t working. What a relief!

Despite all the stupid things I do, the choir director hasn’t asked me to leave. I’m sure I’ll substitute more words and hit more wrong notes. But I’ll keep singing anyway.


About Terry Connelly

Terry Connelly is a retired high school English teacher. She earned her BA and Single Subject Teaching credential from California State University of the East Bay, in Hayward, California. She taught for 18 years at Newark Memorial High School in Newark, California. She was gifted to work with both College Prep students and those with learning disabilities.
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