Unlike many of my other fears, there is a good reason for this one. That reason is because I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Occasionally, I can sing alto, if I can find the right notes while everyone else is singing around me. Then, I sound okay. At least in my own head, I sound okay. I’m not really sure how it’s coming out. I worry a lot about this, though, and I try hard not to disturb anyone else who might actually be trying to sing a tune around me in church.
It’s not fair. The Goose has an amazing voice. If she has one, shouldn’t I? I mean, I carried her in my belly for 9 ½ long months. I have the stretch marks to prove it. I should have gotten the voice.
During summer camp this year, my friend, Rose, did a sweet thing. She sent me a package in mail call. Now, in case you don’t know, at camp, you have to perform tricks for your mail during mail call. If the sender of the package writes a note on the mail saying you have to do something, you have to do it in front of the whole camp. Rose, not realizing how terrified of public singing I am, wrote a note that, in order to receive my goodies, I had to sing “I’m a Little Teapot.” When I was told this in front of the room full of campers and staff, I froze. I looked around the room and was just totally blank. I heard someone say, “Come on! Be a good sport!” I wanted to tell them that I wasn’t being a bad sport. At that moment, I could not think of the words. I was that terrified of having to sing. Luckily, my friend who was holding the microphone said, “Here, I’ll sing with you,” and began to sing. Somehow, I made it through, though I missed the words of a few verses.
After I got the package, I sat down and kicked myself for being so stupid. (Okay, I couldn’t really kick myself, because I was sitting down, but you know what I mean.) Why in the world was I so scared of singing a children’s song in front of a bunch of children? It wasn’t even like I had to sound good while singing it, but I totally froze.
Maybe that experience was to prepare me for what would happen in church this past Sunday night. We still have not found a church to call home up here, so once again, we visited a church we had never been to. We did not realize that we had arrived on “Singing Sunday,” a night when the church sang songs all evening instead of hearing a sermon. I was fine with that. Ironically, I love to sing, even if I do stink at it.
The song leader was asking for suggestions for songs. He wrote them up on a board, and then as he led them, he crossed them off. We did not make any suggestions, because we were new there. We didn’t feel like it was appropriate for us to shout out demands on what to sing. However, the preacher singled us out and asked us specifically for a suggestion, so I suggested one of my favorites, number 989, “Paradise Valley.”
All evening, the song leader avoided 989. At one point, someone said the little boy who wanted to lead could take that one. Everyone laughed. I was quickly realizing that I had apparently picked a hard song. I had never thought of it as hard before.
Finally, the last song number was called, and you guessed it, it was 989. Time for my song. The beginning was a little rocky, but the song leader gained control of it. Then, it was time for the chorus, my favorite part of the song. “Up in paradise valley, by the side of the river of life,” the altos should sing, “Up in paradise valley, we’ll be free from all pain and all strife! There we’ll live in the garden, ‘neath the shade of the evergreen tree. How I long for the paradise valley, where the beauty of heaven I’ll see.”
That’s what it was supposed to sound like. (I just sang it in my head. Did you hear it?) What happened instead was that I quickly realized that the deaf lady (not kidding) and I were the only two people in the room who were singing alto. All at once, I was singing a solo (well, with a little out-of-tune wailing in the background). My choices were to crawl under the pew, fall down and pretend like I had a heart attack or keep singing. I figured I might as well keep singing. I didn’t know these people, and there were only 22 people in the room anyway. I thought I would get through it and then never darken the door of that church again.
Now, let me interject here, so that you understand the seriousness of this situation. I am a member of the church of Christ. And to answer the most commonly asked question about our church, yes, we’re the ones without instruments. We sing acapella. That means there was no piano to carry me. Now, I return you to the previously scheduled story.
As I sang, I felt my cheeks grow more and more red. Everyone could hear me, and a few people turned to see who was singing. That was either a good sign or a bad sign, but either way, I was committed at this point. Mr. Everything looked at me, stunned. My kids looked at me with their mouths wide open. I was singing a solo in church. Holy cow.
When we finished the first verse, the song leader said, “Well, that’s enough of that one,” and ended the song. I tried not take that as a sign of how bad my singing was, but I will admit that I secretly wanted him to say, “Let’s keep going so she can sing for us again!” It didn’t happen.
The fact that got me through was that we did not belong to this church. We would just never go there again, and the solo incident could be forgotten. The only problem with that theory was, as the night progressed, we fell in love with this little congregation. By the end of the night, we were pretty sure this was where we would be placing membership. So, I guess from now on, at church I’ll be known as the lady who sang the solo. All I know is, for next month’s singing Sunday, I am faking laryngitis. -Al