A Little Dose of Humility

Singing in the choir of our parish has been a mixed bag.  For the most part I really enjoy singing, learning new pieces, and the camaraderie. I love the music we are given. Our choir director has spent many years reading and learning about liturgical music and has a definite traditional bent to his choice of music for Mass.  We sing quite a bit of traditional chant in Latin and English and recently our parish purchased the Saint Michael's Hymnals, which have some of the most lovely, old school Catholic hymns.   I am still struggling with nerves on the occasions I am asked to sing solo as cantor, but it is improving.  Or at least I thought it was improving until it came to the vast amount of material we were given to sing for the Triduum.

For Holy Thursday, several of us were given verses from the chant for the Washing of the Feet.  I had a difficult time learning my tone pattern and it being completely a cappella made it that much more daunting .  Even in the final rehearsal, I needed extra help.  When it came time to sing my verse during the Mass, my mouth was parched from nerves I was so nervous I would mess it up.  It ended up being fine. Phew, first solo down.  One more to go.  My second solo I actually volunteered for, silly me, but I'm trying to conquer my nerves and what better way than to force myself to sing solos, no?  This was for a beautiful piece called Stay Here for the reposition of the Blessed Sacrament.  It was also a cappella and timing was a key issue.  With the rest of the choir 'oohing" in the background, I needed to wait through several rests and make sure I held my half notes correctly.  It sounded fine, although I think key wise it was a bit of a stretch for this alto.

Having come out of Holy Thursday, mostly unscathed, Good Friday was a cakewalk.  As most Catholics are aware, there is very little music if any on Good Friday and I felt no pressure or nerves and was able to relax and sing and pray throughout the entire service.

The Easter Vigil had the most music of the three nights.  The 7 Old Testament readings are paired with a responsorial psalm each.  I was given the third psalm and I knew that baby forward and back, or so I thought. In my eagerness (and pride) I wanted to show I could nail this solo on my own, and even though he offered to go over any of the psalms we wished during the final rehearsal, I chose not to.  I definitely regret that choice now.  After the third reading, I took a deep calming breath and a quick sip of water.  My nerves weren't all that bad and I walked up to the mike to sing.  The chorus sounded fine and I dove into the verses, and then something horrible happened.  I began to notice I was singing a different note at the end of each phrase than the organ was playing.  I then sang an entire line of different notes than the organ.  I could hear our choir director try to correct by changing the notes he was playing.  I'm sure my eyes were huge at this point.  I could not figure out what was going wrong.  Finally it hit me.  Every G is saw on the page I was making into an A!  Ack!  4 verses, and I wasn't able to finally correct to a G until the final line.  It was a bit mortifying, to say the least. I felt absolutely terrible.  I've been shaky on psalms before, but not singing the absolute wrong notes shaky.  Sigh.

Oh well, water under the bridge, as my choir mate has admonished me several times the last couple days.  If nothing else, I have now learned I should not pass up the opportunity to go over a piece, even if I think I know it forward and back.  It was a wonderful little lesson in humility for me, and that is what I'm taking from the experience.  Fortunately, only folks in the choir, and those with a music background even noticed there was a problem.  Most of my own family didn't even realize how bad it was.  I need to remind myself I am not singing for the esteem of others, but for God and I can only do my best and believe He appreciates my offering, no matter how imperfect.

I'm beginning to believe my word for the year should have been humility and not surrender, but then again, for one to surrender to God's Will, one must have the humility to do it.  Surrender and humility go hand in hand.


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