We are back! Hallelujah, we’re back!
While I didn’t say those happy words last summer, they certainly expressed how I felt when our choir resumed singing at the 10 am Mass at St. Joseph’s in Port Moody.
The precautions in the event of a pandemic had of course relegated me and my fellow choir members to, at first, watching masses broadcast live at home and, later, not singing on the benches.
After three decades of singing in a choir whose basic composition remained virtually unchanged during this period, I felt a particular loss when in-person Masses were closed, forcing me to leave my room. Choral praise (Second edition) and Catholic Worship Book II hymns in my carry bag for months.
What did I miss? In short, “joy”. And, my God, it’s wonderful to find that joy again now that we’re together again.
It is the joy of fellowship, teamwork, and accomplishment that we feel when we come together for our short rehearsals, and then we head to the church to lead the congregation singing during mass.
It’s the joy we feel in the very act of singing, itself – merging into a four-part harmony, finding the right rhythm, the right texture, and the right volume. It’s hard to describe, but a special warmth envelops you when you sing in a choir.
And it is certainly the joy of giving life to Saint Augustine’s constant observation that “he who sings prays twice”. The health benefits of singing are well documented, and the spiritual benefits are surely just as powerful.
Indeed, there are several special hymns, such as Were you there?, Come to the water, and How tall you are that I have sung scores if not hundreds of times and that continue to evoke a powerful emotional and spiritual response in me.
Yes, it’s wonderful to come back and sing, with our ever-patient director Jeff Cabralda in the lead. Our pastor, Father Mark McGuckin, is obviously delighted, as he often thanks us at the end of Mass. And we love to listen when the congregation joins us, and then hear them later tell us how much they appreciate our singing. I don’t think they realize that we get much more than we give.
Some things have changed, however. We’re all wearing masks now, of course, and that’s no fun, especially for deep breathing basses like me who tend to fog up their glasses when they hit and hold the bass notes. (Fortunately, I was able to buy a very effective anti-fog spray that I apply to my glasses every Sunday morning. But I can’t buy anything that will make it easier to breathe through several layers of fabric.)
On a sadder note, two choir members pictured accompanying this column died during our recess in the event of a pandemic. We miss them dearly and keep them constantly in our prayers. In addition, another person pictured is now seriously ill. We hold her close to our hearts.
I will surely be missed by all of our deceased members as we progress through Advent and Christmas, seasons when our hymns are particularly rich and moving.
But I will also be supported by the knowledge that those who came before us have joined the proverbial heavenly choir, their souls singing praises, proclaiming the greatest of God.
Once a chorister, always a chorister.