“No man thinks there is much ado about nothing when the ado is about himself.” Anthony Trollope
I have a soft spot in my heart for choir ringers. You know, those paid singers who help out, fill out and sing out for typical church or community choirs who need a little extra help. My own late mother was part of a paid quartet for much of my childhood, into her late 60s. I’ve done a bit of “ringing” myself, even filling in for my own voice students on occasion. Today we have a story about ringers from a choir director. There is no solution because there is no problem—except in one person’s mind.
Martin* has been in his church position since January. It’s a nice, mainline protestant congregation. He was hired when the former choir director got his dream job across the country. There were no hard feelings or drama associated with Martin taking this position. When he began, the choir amounted to around five people. They usually sang unison, contemporary music. Congregational hymns tend to be lyrics projected on a screen with piano, bass and drum set.
But Martin is a fine organist and a real choir director. He wants to get the congregation singing hymns with the organ eventually but decided first to work on his choir singing in parts. Everything he planned from the time he began this job was to build the choir up in numbers so they could sing in parts. As the months went along, the choir grew to about 15 to 20 singers. Many of the congregants soon realized Martin was a choir director and they would be singing real choral music. They sounded better and better with every rehearsal, singing in parts.
Martin wanted to sing an unaccompanied Spiritual in late May. There was only one problem; the sopranos didn’t remember how to sing in head voice since they have been singing “happy-clappy” stuff for years. And Martin can demonstrate many things vocally but faking a mature, trained, female soprano voice isn’t one of them. After getting the go-ahead from the Pastor, he decided to ask a colleague if she would be willing to sing a solo or two and sing with his choir to help the sopranos hear what they are supposed to sound like. The colleague, Louise*, agreed.
Louise came to the weeknight rehearsal before the Sunday she was to sing. At first, she sat at the end of the row. Martin asked her to sit in the middle of the section so her “soprano goodness” could be heard by all of the sopranos. Everyone laughed. They had a productive rehearsal. Later, Louise remarked privately to Martin his choir was better than she thought they would be.
That Sunday came and the choir sang well. Martin and Louise went out to brunch together after the service. He told her he had been worried because after rehearsal, he had received an email from one of his tenors. The tenor’s wife was a soprano. He told Martin he had humiliated the sopranos by his remark about Louise and her “soprano goodness.” Tenor-husband went and on about how offensive it was to the sopranos to have Louise there. Martin wanted to speak with soprano-wife to figure out what had happened but tenor-husband refused.
Louise was confused when Martin told her the story. Because soprano-wife had stood next to her to sing, helped her find the nearest Ladies Room, showed her the best way to get to the parking lot and was generally as nice as nice could be. Both Martin and Louise think it was just tenor-husband making something out of nothing. Perhaps he thinks this is a way of being supportive of his wife. In any event, soprano-wife didn’t seem fazed by Louise’s presence AT ALL. Go figure.
I asked a most important question of Martin when he told me his story; did he tell his Pastor immediately when tenor-husband started his emails? Yes, he did. The only thing you can do in a situation like this is CYB. That is, Cover Your Behind. Martin plans to ask Louise to be a ringer for him again in the future, with the Pastor’s blessings. Go figure!