“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” Voltaire
For the month of February, I decided to share portions of a file of letters from a former singer of mine, Edie,* and others. Today, I’d like to share portions of several letters as well as my perspective about the whole situation. Hindsight is always 20/20 and with time and age, things become clearer. These letters bring back a period in my life I had forgotten and it’s clear to me why I had forgotten.
First, I’d like to share a portion of a card I received from one of my favorite singers, Betty*. The foster Mom of a young child with Downs Syndrome, we had a lot in common raising special needs children. Her child died a year before we left the area and soon after, her husband filed for divorce. She was a wonderful person, going through a lot in a short period of time and I missed her.
“…..but I have not been able to sing in the choir because of my (new) work hours. Recently I gained knowledge about serious problems between some choir members, the new director and Dotty*. I think it is unfortunate that the problems here have been unloaded on you.”
And they really were unloaded on me.
Edie’s February 1 letter of that year explains what happened recently and complains about the minister’s lack of leadership.
“Well Dotty quit and I (the trouble maker) dropped out. All the way out that is. I do not care to go where the truth cannot be told and those who do are condemned.”
“What kind of @#%&*$ minister is Mitchell* anyway?”
She then tells me what she means, which I won’t share here because it was all quite convoluted. Her next letter, dated February 15, was almost identical to the February 1 letter. Other than hoping my family was well and telling me about the weather, it was practically verbatim. In the last letter I have from her, dated July 6, she told me about her wonderful new church and their great choir. Oh, and she complained A LOT about another choir member (from the old church):
“Babs* has been calling me quite often and I hate talking to her because she never knows when to stop talking and you can’t get a word in edgewise. Motor mouth I call her. Last week though, I figured I should call her even though I hated to. She started in about the church and how awful it was with no music at all, no choir, no soloist and how dull it was.”
She said they started yelling at each other about the whole situation and Babs hung up on her.
“Is everybody at that Church nuts? I didn’t start in about the church–she did. One thing is certain she did me a big favor. I won’t have to listen to her babble for over an hour about God knows what. I could never figure out what she was talking about.” She ends telling me about the unusual summer weather the area was having and signed off with love for me and my family. I have no other correspondence with her and never heard from her again to my knowledge.
I haven’t mentioned this before, but my Mom grew up in the town where I worked, and my Grandmother lived six blocks from that church. Gram attended a church not too far away and had heard about everything that was happening at my old place of employment. In fact, Dotty was hired to be her church’s new organist soon after she resigned. Gram knew EVERYTHING and I spoke with her once a week. Everyone knew my Grandmother, so even if they didn’t know about Dotty, they knew Gram would be talking to me. If Edie thought she was telling me something I didn’t know, she was mistaken.
Most who contacted me were gossiping, tattling and generally being ugly about the whole thing. More than once on a phone call, I reminded folks I was several states away, not in their employ and trying to start a new chapter of my life. I had three young children, a substitute teaching job, a spouse doing a fellowship who was rarely home, with no time to be a referee. It was unfair to expect me to.
What should I have done? I should have ignored the letters. I should have asked callers not to put me in the middle of a situation I had nothing to do with, hanging up if they continued. Other than my obligation writing the annual report for the six months I had been music director the previous year; I should have discontinued contact with all those folks. Once it became apparent they were trying to suck me back in, I should have stepped away. It should have been easy but because I loved my choir and many were my friends, it was difficult. As a result, I did not have good feelings about that congregation, and it makes me sad to remember. Something to think about in your own situations.
In March, Choral Potpourri/Choral Ethics will be talking about self-care. I hope you’ll share some of your strategies too!
Until next week, be well and be safe.
I’ve been taking my Choral Ethics Blogs to my chamber choir’s Facebook page since April/May 2020. Unfortunately, I am not able to record today’s blog but should be back NEXT WEEK, March 4. See you then!