So our parish has put together a children’s choir. Nothing too fancy, just a few families who sing and play whatever instruments they can. This might take some getting used to in our church, where the 9 am choir is an institution. Every Sunday Morning, the choir sings hits from the 1940s Liturgical Top 40. I won’t comment on their general demographic except to observe that most of them can travel by tram for free on weekends.
People might try to mix things up at the 5 pm Mass. I hear there’s a man who plays an electric keyboard and does tricks with the beatbox feature. Folks call him Disco Jesus. But we have no such wild happenings at 9 am, thank you very much.
I say ‘our parish’ has formed a children’s choir. Really it was just one of the mums who asked me to be involved. I said ‘yes’ very carefully. I didn’t want to overcommit. Sometimes saying ‘yes’ to helping out can mean saying ‘no’ to my young family. Would I turn up? Yes. Be supportive? Yes. Run the show? NO!
At the first rehearsal, the children settle into the choir pews. I’ve brought knitting along so I don’t start conducting the choir by accident. My heart sinks a little when the first hymn is announced. ‘Praise my Soul, the King of Heaven’? Surely we can find something more suitable. Perhaps I should find another hymn and get the sheet music and photocopy it and … STOP IT, KATE. Focus on your knitting.
I look at my children. Annie sings in a loud and strident voice when she’s not chatting to the girl next to her; Harry hides his face behind the songbook and moves his mouth silently; Matilda wears her guitar proudly and jumps in and strums when it’s a chord she knows; Christopher sings well, but would much rather be climbing the tree outside; everybody struggles with ‘slow to chide and swift to bless’.
This rehearsal is followed by another and yet another. The children are gaining confidence and Matilda can almost play three of the hymns. As I pack my groceries at Aldi, Annie and Harry sit under the bench and sing ‘Hail Redeemer King Divine’ for the benefit of all passing shoppers.
At last, the big Sunday arrives. We rush into church at ten-to-nine, only to discover the regular 9 am choir setting up their music. Has nobody told them?
‘There’s been a mix up’, our co-ordinator says apologetically, ‘we’re all going to sing together.’
But there aren’t enough seats in the choir section. So we reserve pews near the choir and try to make them look official.
All throughout Mass, I look to our makeshift choir stalls and see the children singing enthusiastically. I say see: I couldn’t hear them at all. Without any microphones, and beside the booming organ, it’s impossible to make out the brave and plaintive ‘ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven’ as sung by our little choral gang.
‘It’s such a pity’, I mutter to my husband, whilst scrabbling in my purse for collection money, ‘they practiced so hard.’
‘Perhaps this isn’t such a bad thing’, my husband reasons, ‘it’s their first time: they can practice singing at Mass without the pressure of carrying everything.’
Or being heard at all. I think.
Afterwards, we spill out into the foyer for Morning tea. Our choir are sitting on the carpet having a picnic of Family Assorteds and chattering excitedly. And it hits me: they don’t care. They sang their little hearts out and had a grand time.
My husband passes me a cup of tea, ‘God could hear them.’
He’s right of course. Still, I might suggest to the co-ordinator that we sing at 5 pm Mass next time. If Disco Jesus doesn’t mind.