“Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play as a team is another story.” Casey Stengel
Happy New Year ChoralNet! I hope you all had wonderful holidays. And I also hope you spent some time recharging and refreshing before your next batch of rehearsals and classes begin.
January’s Choral Potpourri/Choral Ethics Blogs will be a bit of everything; including ChoralNetter problems. Toward the end of the month, I will begin sharing my experience participating and rehearsing a very special choral performance— as a singer for a change— more about that later in the month. But this first Thursday of January is story time.
Maryrose* wrote me early in December with a story about doing what she believed was the right thing. She thinks it’s important for others to be given permission to do what they know is right in their hearts. Maryrose wants me to tell her story because she struggled deciding what to do initially but when she thought about it, the answer came to her easily.
The story isn’t unusual; one of her church choir singers nagged her for five years to sing “Oh Holy Night” on Christmas Eve. The congregation had a “Christmas Eve Prelude Concert” and it was quite a big deal. It was usually thirty to forty-five minutes long, right before their Christmas Eve service. The service, itself, was modeled on Lessons and Carols with some space for music. The choir usually sang one or two anthems; there were occasionally non-scripture readings (Shakespeare or Dickens or even O. Henry) and congregational hymns and carols. Solos were saved for the Prelude-Concert.
The day they met, Sue-Rae* told Maryrose she had been cheated out of a chance to sing on Christmas Eve a few years before and demanded to be allowed to sing that year. Clergy told Maryrose that Sue-Rae brought up not being allowed to sing on that past Christmas Eve all the time. And it wasn’t for the reason you think; Sue-Rae had had pneumonia and was in the hospital. Somehow she thought she should get to sing anyway, no matter when, and asked to sing “O Holy Night” during the Easter Service that year. When told “no,” she was angry and unreasonable.
Maryrose was told to hold off doing anything too unusual on the Christmas Eve concert her first year so she could see how it worked. The adult choir sang several beautiful anthems, a soloist sang “Gesu Bambino” and the bell choir did a stunning piece with the children’s choir. Janice*, her best soprano, told Maryrose to watch out for Sue-Rae because she was not reliable. She decided not to have Sue-Rae sing that year simply because she had “O Holy Night” fatigue. Sue-Rae was furious.
Things went along at the church the way they usually do. And every year, without fail, as the choir year was winding down, Sue-Rae would ask to sing “O Holy Night” for Christmas Eve. Maryrose would tell her she would think about it during the summer as she was doing her Advent and Christmas planning. And she did. The thing was, Janice was right; Sue-Rae WAS NOT reliable. Every time she was supposed to sing a solo, Sue-Rae would have a cold or decided to go to Florida or one of her kids had a game at the last minute. Maryrose spent too much time after asking Sue-Rae to sing, getting a Plan B together for the inevitable. As the years went on, she would still think about Sue-Rae doing “O Holy Night,” on Christmas Eve as promised, but only for a few seconds!
The last year Maryrose served that church; she acquiesced and decided to have Sue-Rae sing on Christmas Eve. Maryrose knew she would be leaving due to her spouse’s job and thought it would be nice. But she didn’t realize she had inadvertently created a tempest in a teacup. She asked Janice to be her Plan B in the event, after all that whining, Sue-Rae backed out at the last minute.
That year, the Christmas Eve Prelude Concert was wonderful; Sue-Rae did a more than adequate job. But Janice’s nose was out of joint and she told Maryrose she would not be back to choir practice until Lent; she was punishing her for the whole Sue-Rae thing. Maryrose told me; at that point, she was HAPPY she was leaving at the end of the choir year!
Last October, Maryrose ran into one of Sue-Rae’s daughters in a department store. She learned Sue-Rae had died the year before and her singing “O Holy Night” for Christmas Eve was something she had talked about until the end of her life. It made Maryrose tear up because, in spite of everything, she knows she did the right thing. She has no regrets.