I used to have a beautiful singing voice. I performed at the Alaska Folk Festival many times, with different bands, and as a solo act. Over the years I was in the chorus of several musical theatre productions, and have participated in many choral performances. I led the music at Mass for over twenty-five years at the Cathedral and at other parishes before I moved to Juneau.
I was proud of my voice, proud of my talent. I could hit the high notes and really belt out a song in my youth and up until a few years ago, thought that I would never lose my ability to sing.
But, then, it became more difficult to hit even moderately high pitches. My voice began to give out and I now find myself dropping an octave when singing in the congregation at Mass.
This week, I have been participating in a Gospel workshop (as an alto, not a soprano!) where the choir, led the the amazing Rev. Bobby Lewis, learns several beautiful songs in preparation for a concert this weekend. Rev. Bobby held auditions for solos in the performance tonight. We sat and listened to many singers, some nervous, some self assured, sing a variety of songs, some well, some not so good, but all of them were applauded for trying. I decided to try. I sang the chorus of a song I must have sung at least 100 times: “Alleluia, Give The Glory”. I remember singing that song at a Diocesan Institute many years ago and blowing the roof off the place. Tonight, while it wasn’t exactly horrible, it wasn’t very good, either.
“Oh, well,” I thought, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
The last time I sang at a big Diocesan event was at our current Bishop’s ordination. Later, when I watched the video, and listened to my brief solo, I was horrified. I was off-key and strained and it sounded terrible. That’s when I decided that I would never lead the music at Mass again. Then, our regular guitarist/cantor left for awhile to go to school and I was needed to fill in at Mass. I reluctantly agreed, crossing my fingers. It was really hard. I couldn’t sing well enough to lead, and sometimes was the only cantor. I was ashamed and embarrassed that my voice was so bad.
But our song leader came back and I was again off the hook. Breathing a huge sigh of relief, I went back to being a part of the congregation.
Now, I find myself needing to fill in again during Lent. Again, I am finding myself reluctant to do so, knowing that my voice is not good. However, I have decided to turn this into a Lenten observance. I’m going to try to be prayerful about choosing the music and leading the assembly during Lent.
Because, I have discovered that it can be just as distracting to the assembly to be too good a singer as it can be to be too bad of one.
Because all those years of singing so beautifully gave me a bit of a big head.
Because it’s not supposed to be about me.
It never was.