Michelle has challenged us to write a post based on the one-word prompt of sing.
“Stop, stop, everyone be quiet. It sounds like someone is off key.” The choir director’s glaring eyes hinted at the pressure building inside her head, “and it is coming from somewhere over here.” She pronounced each word as a sentence—pensive, thoughtful—walking toward the section of the room opposite from where I was standing.
Miz Rita was a perfectionist and she demanded nothing less. Miz Rita did not take prisoners.
“Again, Cheryl, from the beginning.”
The pianist played the opening notes to the hymn that we were learning. Miz Rita admonished us, “I want to hear everyone singing. I am going to get to the bottom of this before tomorrow’s service.”
We began to sing . Miz Rita began to pace, her hands clasped behind her back. She listened to the individual thirteen year-olds who made up the Youth Choir as she walked past them. In truth she looked more like a Drill Instructor inspecting young recruits.
“Stop. Stop right now.” She turned to her left and glared across the room to the section that I was standing in. “It’s coming from over there.”
Oh, Christ—strike that— I mean: Oh, crap, she’s coming this way. Now I was nervous, I was about to be exposed.
So here’s the deal, I can’t sing. I never could and still don’t. I might launch into a ditty every now and then but it is always off key and the words are often no where near close to the ones that the composer used.
At the time of this choir rehearsal I had just gotten over a bad infection in the Mastoid area behind my right ear. Unknown to any of us at the time, this was the start of a profound hearing loss in my right ear. What I hear, what I say sound fine to me, but I am usually alone in that assessment.
“Again please, Cheryl, from the beginning.” Miz Rita headed in my direction, her eyes flicking from one singer to the next.
I made a quick decision to mouth the words but not actually sing them aloud. Miz Rita was one row in front of me inspecting her choir members, this might just work.
I caught a break when a the chorus got to a part of the hymn that my friend Eddie enjoyed. God works in mysterious ways because Eddie happened to be standing next to me. He belted out the verse loud enough for both of us and I just mouthed the words along with him.
Miz Rita eyed the two of us and cast her attention on me for just a moment. I tried my best to smile and mimic singing and she moved on down the line.
We finished the hymn and waited for the appraisal. “Well, it seems like whoever was having a problem has been able to get in tune with the rest of us.” Miz Rita continued to flick her gaze at individuals around the room.
“Okay, then, if you will turn to page…” She droned on and on about the next hymn and I vowed to quit the choir after our performance the next day.
That was the last time that I did any singing in public as part of a group. To this day I try to keep my voice down, if I sing at all, when I am at any event that requires audience participation.
Do not despair, it is not all doom and gloom in Al’s World. I am the guy who is in the yard humming, whistling or singing quietly to himself. I may not get the words right to Creedence Clearwater’s hits—There’s a bathroom on the right. I might even be wrong about Jimi Hendricks now and then—‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy.
One thing that you can count on is that I always sound pitch perfect inside my head. But then again, it is Al’s World, afterall.