She raises her arm and with a downbeat, the song begins. Her purple flowered blouse doesn’t hide the excess flesh hanging like an upside-down Popeye muscle in need of a spinach fix. It flaps to and fro in perfect rhythm. Her hair is dyed a deep carrot orange that brings out the complimentary blue of her eye shadow. That, in turn brings out the sparkle of her clear, root-beer-colored eyes.
It’s evident that she loves leading the music. The longer the hymn can be drawn out, the better. A simple 3/4 time can easily be transformed into slow-mo. And don’t try speeding things up by singing faster—it’s totally ineffective.
I’m gonna be honest with you here. The Church Chorister doesn’t really look like that. I made her up. Well, all but the slow-mo. That part’s true. And the uselessness of singing faster. Trust me, it doesn’t help.
What I really want to talk about is the people singing the songs the chorister leads. Not all the people. Just one of them. You know the one—there’s one in every congregation.
Sometimes it is a male voice, but most often it’s a woman. She’s well trained in the art of projection and vibrato. She is very proficient in her ability to suck up and swallow the unassuming voices around her. People in the range of say, three pews in either direction, suddenly find themselves unintentionally lip-syncing.
One day we happened to be sitting in front of one such ingénue with our five-year-old grandson. Suddenly he stood up and turned around to face her. Sticking a finger in each ear he grimaced loudly. Grimacing doesn’t usually make a sound, but trust me, this one was deafening! I bet you think I made up that as well. Nope. It happened just like that.
The most surprising part of this incident was that the singer’s volume didn’t even falter. Not one decibel. Which leads me to believe that these particular singers are in all probability, deaf.
They say if you listen to loud rock music long enough it will affect your hearing. I’m sure it’s the same with loud church hymns. Never mind that they’re slow, it’s not so much the speed of the music as it is the volume. You can’t get any closer in earshot than the vocal chords between your own ears. In illustration, have you ever talked to someone wearing headphones? The reason they speak to you in that unusually loud voice is that (duh) they can’t hear themselves without shouting.
Now that you know this, I hope you will have more compassion for these talented individuals. When you approach her after the service to say how much you enjoyed her singing, remember to exaggerate the movements of your mouth so she will be able to read your lips.
I'm not trying to be critical. I know that you know if you’ve ever been to church and sung a hymn, there is always one loud voice singing above the crowd, holding the last note in each stanza just a little bit longer than everyone else. It's a fact. If you disagree, check out my theory the next time you go to church.
And if there happens to be a sluggish chorister with blue eye shadow, you might try singing the word “watermelon” over and over as fast as you can. It just might jaunt up her speed. At the very least it will liven it up for you.
*Seems I hit a nerve on this one! Lots of defensive comments! Sorry, guys, that's how I see it... hahaha