Some people can sing like a bird, giving actual life to the words and melody in a heavenly strain of continuous, angelic sound. The kind of song that makes mortals weep at the beautiful notes from a trained voice, that even a tough motorcycle rough with grease under his fingernails would put down his big wrench and sob.
I sing like a metamorphic rock.
Actually, I sing worse than a metamorphic rock. But I wanted an excuse to see my teenage daughter who plays the piano for my Mormon ward's choir. She is getting older, preparing herself for college where I will never see her. She is ready to leave the nest — just pop right off like a baby peeper, and Papa Redwing is not happy with her vacant spot at the dinner table. I took action; I decided to do something about it; I followed the simple command to "Do It!"
So, I joined the ward choir. They ( the poor saps who said "yes" to the calling) announced choir practice after church. I never knew there was such a thing as practice in our stake. Do these good people practice? Do other people in other wards and stakes do this? I mean, come on, you either have it or you don't — you either sing or you don't sing. The notes are there. The words are there for anybody look at. If you got any talent, just get all together and put the notes and words together and go for it. Talent doesn't ever need a choir practice or a choir director. Right? Get up there as a group and sing after the bishop announces the half-time show.
But I needed practice. I also needed to see my daughter, so I positioned myself among the wonderful sisters of the ward. I didn't care. We're all enlisted till the conflict is o'er, and to tell you the truth, the sopranos (without guns) had the best seating arrangement to the view.
"Are you a soprano?" The two ladies on either side sang in perfect unison pitch.
"I guess I am. If you need the extra volume, I'm your man." My voice had that low, gravely edge normally assigned to the gruff side of a steamrollers roller's bottom. My offspring examined the underside of the piano, for some reason, as I had this little exchange with the sisters.
"I think you are best suited for the basses." The one on my right took up with a solo, a loving smile met me, giving off a charity-never-faileth THREAT.
I glanced up there and decided that I wasn't about to sing with the men. Those guys had a rotten angle to the piano.
"I don't think so." My loving smile (and barking rumble) received the threat, still calculating the number of obtrusive barriers between my baby and myself. Besides, I didn't sign up to sing, mind you, I wanted the quality family time afforded by circumstance.
"Brother Hill?" Brother Brown interrupted. He was the choir director and the choir dictator. Authority in the chapel, even after hours, had that automatic appeal to obey.
"Would you please offer the opening prayer?" he said.
The sisters around me smiled sweetly and moved in when I stood up. This plugged my seat for further use as the musical "amen" tossed me back to Brother Johnson, who happily shared a hymnbook and a lot of musical notes that couldn't even fit in my talent bag. The only problem was the three heads in the way of a perfect vantage point.
I learned a couple of things.
First, the ward choir sounds a whole heckuva lot better in the midst, than in front. The song had this surround sound feel that goes down real smooth — even my attempts were rounded out by the quality of voices.
Second, even though my Tara couldn't be seen, she could be heard. I remembered the time when those tiny, pinkish fingers hardly grasped one of my fingers, they were even too pudgy to wiggle around and take the dry cereal on her high chair. Everything was so cute about her then, and she kept getting cuter until she was transformed into the wonderful young woman before me. At present, those same fingers regularly move like a blur across the piano keys to make the thing she likes best — music.
As for me, I mostly kept my vocal cords locked from sound during the actual moment we had to sing, for fear of letting the congregation hear something backed far away from the heavenly strain. That was fine with me. All I wanted is my clear view of the sunshine in my life, minus the back of Sister Jenkins head.
Who knows, maybe the Mormon Tabernacle Choir could use a proud Dad.
Bill Hill is from Idaho Falls.
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