Back in December of 2000, I chose to take a chance and sing with Tulsa’s All Lutheran Messiah. Not because I’m such a wonderful singer that I wanted to perform – quite the opposite. I joined and took my feable voice as a praise offering to God. I was having a rough year and brought to the table, the only gift I had. The sacrifice of praise. Praising God, when your heart is shattered, is not easy, but it is healing.
I cannot read music but was assured I didn’t have to. She lied. I shook through the whole thing. Each practice I’d go, try to sing, and shake, and then go home saying no. I even had this cute little thing next to me tell me she didn’t know the music and I shouldn’t follow her as that’s probably what was making me sing off key. Wasn’t she a sweetheart.
I made it literally on my knees. I’d pray myself up during the week and go practice again on Sunday. I could not visualize the presentation, that terrified me, but I could visualize one practice at a time. And that, is how I got to sing in the All Lutheran Church Messiah – the second longest running presentation of The Messiah in the United Stated.
I process things through writing and through humor. And this is what I came up with.
The Neurotic Messiah
Oh no! What have I done? I cannot read a single note. Not one.
This score is much more complicated Than I ever anticipated.
I haven’t sung in a choir for twenty year.
And so began my chorus of fears.
The starts, the stops, the highs, the lows
The beats, the counts, the arpeggios.
The conductors who speak in some foreign tongue
Is it Latin, or Italian? I know not which one.
The M’s and P’s, and F’s and M’s.
Oh, these aren’t your typical church service hymns.
Am I an “S” or not an “S”
I do not know
and now they say my costume I need to sew.
(Uhm, I failed home ec, ya’ll)
“Light the fire but don’t take it out”?!
Would someone please tell me what that was about?
Now I’m told to sing like Ethel Merman
and that we aren’t singing, but giving a sermon.
Oh how I’m beginning to rue the day
when Sue Paulison said “Come on let’s play.
You don’t need to audition,
just show up and sing.
Being a part of “The Messiah” is a wonderful thing.”
I’m now thinking my impulse to do this was rash.
This may be a check I’ve written that my body can’t cash.
This is not good, not good at all,
but then again, does pride not come before the fall?
I drove straight home and on my bed I sat telling my husband,
I’m not going back!
And that is that!
Then standing in the hallway whom did I see
but my 9-year-old son listening to me.
“I thought you once said don’t ever quit.
So please tell me now, why are you doing it?”
I searched through my brain to frantically look
for some wise answer to get me off the hook.
Failing that I tried for the truth
Hoping somehow he’d understand, even in his youth.
“That may be true.” I answer, “But don’t you see?
There’s too much to learn and it’s too hard for me.
Besides, I really can’t sing, not like the rest.”
And he said “That’s okay Mom; just do your best.
God won’t mind, just wait and see.
Isn’t that what you’re always telling me?”
And so I sat with a guilty heart
wondering when my son got so smart.
And wondering why he now would choose
to remember my words and those words use.
Then henceforth came my next blessing
I caught a cold while I was dressing.
I coughed and sneezed and wheezed and gasped.
My voice, once loud, now barely rasped.
I cannot sing and cough no sir, they have to let me drop now, I’m sure.
No guilt, no blame, It’s not my fault. This cruel dance can finally come to a halt.
But Leon’s good. He doesn’t miss a trick.
You’d better get well and get well quick.
I’ll let you sing you’ll do just fine, people catch colds all the time.
And so went my last excuse.
Fighting God on this one seemed no use.
My costume’s all sewn by my friend Cyndi, with care,
At least now I will have something to wear.
I thought a “piano” is what you played and not what you sang
and this cold still makes me sound like a cat in the rain.
I’m not an “S” and this much I know
that’s to keep us from hissing during the show.
The Marys and Josephs have been picked out with care
now if only they could decide when they’ll be there.
The last practice has come we should know what to do.
Stand up straight, bend your knees, and that includes you.
The Altos still outnumber the rest by a score,
next year could you please try soprano some more.
The orchestra is with us, it’s coming together.
Somehow I doubt we could get any better.
Tell us Pastor Carter how does it sound
now that we’ve done this last go around?
“It needs to be crisp, we’ve lost that somehow.
Remember, you are praising God, so let’s pull it together now.
Sopranos are too strong, bring it down just a bit.
Bass’s your not emphasizing the lines that you hit.
Tenors and Altos your entrances are late,
but other than that I think it sounds great.”
Our differences we have quietly tucked away,
as all Tulsa Lutheran churches sing in harmony this day.
Clear and true our music does ring
as we praise and worship our new-born King.
All fears and joking are now put aside.
This is a worship service and our joy we can’t hide.
The true story of Christmas can only be told
through the lives of the ones who dare to Behold.
“Behold! I bring you tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior which is Christ the Lord.”
The All Lutheran Church Messiah will be presented again this weekend at First Lutheran Church at 13th and Utica. I’m not singing in it. But I will be attending. See you there!