Wednesday, October 12, 2005

the choir did it.

Church mayhem: Rogue choir, earlobe twisting - News -

back in the day of being a baptist, i was a tenor in my church choir. i loved singing in the choir, especially during revival time. during that time we'd bring in T-- a young pastor from another south central congregation but one who had his masters in music. it wasn't that we didn't have a choir director - we did. but she was a little tone deaf and couldn't bang on an ivory if it jumped up her dress.

T-- was great. we were like the tone deaf nuns in 'sister act' until T-- came along; under his hand we actually sounded like a real gospel choir. (then he later fell under some scandal and, well, T-- is now just a sad man who perhaps should have told his wife he was "on the down low."

uh, i mean, gay.)

but while it was great singing in the choir it wasn't always great having one around. i don't know about anyone else's church traditions, but in the black church, if you want to put your finger on the source of gossip, backbiting, machiavellian machinations and rotating coup d'etat, then put your finger on the choir. i've never seen a bunch of folks get so fussy about who got which solo, who was on/off key, who got to sing the pastor's favorite songs, whatever.

you never hear about this stuff happening with the methodists or the episcopalians, you know? i mean, my presbyterian church choir is fabulous. they sing things like 'the planets'. it's kind of hard to get really jazzed with shaker songs, you know?

it's when my choir tries to do gospel or 'spirituals' that they make me squirm in my seat and want to run screaming down michigan avenue. don't get me wrong: i'm all for cross-cultural expressions. but if you don't know how to sing like a gospel choir, for the love of all the black folk in your congregation, please don't do it. it's bad.

for his part, dad always had a tight rein on the choir - just two songs during a service and that was it. (ideal conditions for his famous 90 minute sermons...) but the day he had to sit my godmother down because she was running the choir like her own banana republic - that was classic. she never forgave him for that.

but at least he never had to call the cops on us.


Gwenyth Paltrow is my idol said...

that was funny. you have an interesting perspective, and I don't know how i found your site but it's bookmarked now. i grew up baptist too, i always heard the choir was more political than the pulpit-which is saying a lot it seems. but i like church choirs-not so much the church "praise team" but choirs are rad. glad to know an intellectual, educated, culturally caring person lives in this city. chicago kicks serious ass aye. cheers.

ding said...

that movie with cuba gooding junior and beyonce? that comes closest to how choirs are in small black churches. of course there is that new movie 'gospel' coming out. i might have to rent that one just for the music.

choirs are a trip. and don't get me started on visiting choirs and competing A&B selections...

DL Foster said...

this is really funny. Dont get me started on my choir days and allllllllll the accompanying drama. It was the best of times, the worst of times. Please give us more choir stories!

ding said...

well, there was that one time sister so-and-so's upper bridge fell out during her solo...

but all choirs have stories like that, right?

(thanks for stopping by!)

greg said...

Not Lutheran choirs. In a Lutheran choir, nobody wants to solo. Of course, when we sing "How can I Keep From Singing" at about 44, that has its own special drama, if you know what I mean.

ding said...

i love choirs. it's like community theater every week.