Saturday, April 21, 2012

Singing with a crowd

When’s the last time you sang along with a crowd? If you’re part of a chorus, or some other organized singing group, you may get to experience it on a regular basis, but other than that, opportunities for group singing are rarely found in the world around us.

Actually, that’s not true for very young people and very old people. Children sing quite a bit, particularly at school. I can remember singing a lot at summer camp. I still know all the words to the “Camp Luella May” song, “They Built the Ship Titanic” and “On Top of Spaghetti.”

I also know that older adults like to get together and sing around the piano because I’ve done it with them many times through the years. They sing the songs they grew up with, like “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” and “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” I wonder if future generation will do that when their time comes to grace the activity lounges of nursing homes. I can’t imagine a bunch of old people with sagging tattooes sitting around yelling out rap songs together. No, it’s not a good image.

So, for the very young and the very old, there may be an appreciation for group-singing, but not so much for us folks in the middle. One of the exceptions I can think of is sporting events. Of course, there’s always the good old “Star Spangled Banner” to kick everything off.

I was taught proper national anthem etiquette by my high school choir director, Mr. Shie. First of all, whenever it’s played, of course, we should all stand. But we also should all join in singing it, even if it’s being led by a soloist. So, whenever a soloist takes liberty with the melody, making it’s impossible to follow them, it irks me somethin’ awful. Not that it matters a whole lot, because most people aren’t trying to sing along anyway. Of course, you can hardly blame them, since it’s pretty much unsingable. But, for Mr. Shie’s sake, I always give it my best shot. He also taught us that when the national anthem is over, it’s not proper to applaud. Of course, that’s not something I ever experience at a sporting event, but he would be proud of me because I never whoop and hollar along with everybody else.

One of the reasons I enjoy going to professional baseball games is the 7th inning stretch where we all stand and sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” together. Fortunately, they’ll flash the words up on the electronic screen so everyone can sing along. The days when people knew the words to old standards like that are slipping away.

In Charlotte there are these wonderful musical events called “The Tosco Music Party.” One of the things I love about them is the sing-a-longs. Several times during an evening of varied musical offerings, the audience rises to its feet and joins a band of local musicians in belting out old favorites like, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or “My Girl.” These are moments of pure joy.

What I like most about group singing is that it draws us into instant community. When you sing with someone, you feel connected, even if only for the duration of the song. Even though you may not know the name of the person next to you, you’re creating something beautiful together. Even if you may not exchange words or even so much as a sideways glance, you’re supporting one another. Even if youre not much of a singer, your contribution is appreciated.

You may have noticed that there is one venue for group singing I’ve not mentioned yet. And that’s the singing many of us get to enjoy each week in a house of worship. I confess that this is my favorite part of Sunday morning. More than the Bible readings. More than the liturgy. More than Holy Communion. And... do I even need to say it?... more than the sermon. There’s something about singing together that does it for me. Yep. That’s what draws me into community.

A house of worship may be the only place where many of us sing regularly with a crowd. It’s also the only place where we sing together for the express purpose of raising our voices to an audience that consists of one very uncritical, forgiving listener. There’s nothing else in our lives quite like it. I encourage you not to miss the opportunity.

When in our music God is glorified,
And adoration leaves no room for pride,
It is as though the whole creation cried:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

1 comment:

andersonsbigtrip said...

Nancy, I agree with you -body, mind and spirit! I remember the times at Lutheran Memorial Camp and "King Jesus", "The Three Bears", (Gary illustrated for me for a Children's Lit. project-which I shared with my 1st graders Friday) and John Denver's music. I will retire from teaching public school music K-8, May 25th, but I hope to always have that blessed gift of song, if not vocally, but in my heart.
Thank you for sharing your thought so wonderfully through your blog. God has blessed you with the gift to reach out to others through your writing. Bless you and Shalom, my friend. ML Anderson