I recently read a novel about the life of a woman in north Canada entitled “Mrs. Mike” by Benedict & Nancy Freeman. I highly recommend this book – it’s a fast read, is a Hallmark Channel kind of book, and is escapist in all the good ways. Somebody told me that there is a movie of this book starring Dick Powell. After being sent to her uncle in the wilds of Canada (Calgary, Alberta) in 1907, Katherine Mary O’Fallon meets the love of her life, a Canadian Mountie named Mike Flannigan. They live through adventures and tragedies with many First Nation people (Iroquois, Mohawk, Cree) and end up adopting children from two different families. One of them is from the Cree tribe – they call her Kathy – but she is the daughter of Mamanowatum (O Be Joyful). The book has a sequel – The Search for Joyful. A quote from the book really stuck with me because I have been thinking about this subject for a while as it relates to singing and choirs.
“I began […] to wonder if I could get back to being happy. Not merely happy as a great many people are . . . but joyful. Joyful is past happy. Happy is more a quiet content. Joy on the other hand is actively seeking moments when you’re high on life and if those moments aren’t there, to make them, to cause them. […] I wanted to live up to my Indian name.”
Joyful is past happy. We are told to sing and rejoice and worship the Lord in songs and scripture. Recent news in a national forum about church choirs being the ones to spread the virus more than anyone has been a hard blow to take. Congregational singing has taken a hit, as well. Singing produces aerosols that spread far and wide. Now, some are saying that they don’t know if it was singing that spread the virus or not. It’s sort of like the wear or don’t wear the mask thing. Studies have been done with instruments, with results that aerosols do not get spread as well as with singers. Wind instrument players regularly clean their instruments to prevent bacteria growth, etc. They have spit valves to open and drain during performances and practice. Eww… TMI? There’s still a debate about the actual singing and the ventilation in the room and the size of the space and which one is more the cause of spread. Suffice to say, for now this makes us very sad in the choir.
How do we find “Joyful” so that we feel like singing? Our society doesn’t promote singing as much as other cultures. John McCall reports (through a source) that in Taiwan they are singing with masks on and doing well without spreading the virus to their knowledge. This is a singing culture from birth until death. The answer to my question about finding joy so that we feel like singing may be found in the Book of Psalms. Maybe we don’t need to find joy to sing. There are psalms of comfort, lament, absolute joy, and some sound angry to me. Laments are sad, but we need to sing them anyway. Reading through the Psalms is an experience – I hope that you’ll do it sometime. It’s all that Presbyterians sang in the days of the beginning of the denomination.
The Chancel Choir has stepped out on a limb to offer a virtual audio experience with Sunday’s hymn, Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee. My resident tech, Harlan, has spent hours syncing 17 (at this point) entries into this recording. For many, it wasn’t exactly a joyful experience to record their solo voices. It’s a very difficult thing to do in addition to the technology it requires. This is a temporary fix, folks. We’ll be back together as a real choir and congregation should be when the time is right. We don’t always have to burst into joyful song like Giselle from the Disney movie “Enchanted” in order to sing. We don’t have to win American Idol or The Voice, either. Singing around the house on your own is a release and a mind soother. If you can, sing a few notes today, then more on the next day. When we gather again to sing, you’ll be in practice! Even the Whos in Whoville sang when they had no Christmas!
The anthem is “Joy in the Morning” from our Christmas presentation this past year. “……there’ll be joy in the morning on that day.” To quote another well-known hymn, “What a day of rejoicing that will be!” (Bonus points: what is the hymn? Email or call me. Could be a prize involved.)
Pentecost is on May 31 this year. Bring out your reds, oranges, yellows (flame colors) to decorate your door or mailbox. This is the birthday of the church! I’ll be calling on some of you to help with a very special prelude. The Chancel Choir will offer a recording of “Fill-a me up” by Pepper Choplin with Bud Longley as soloist and several percussionists.
Love & Gratitude,