“Let us bow our heads…” is a statement I’ve said for the last 17 years before beginning a choir rehearsal. The moment where I ask God to help me. I imagine being a choir director isn’t like being a pastor, but I’d venture to say there are similarities. Once we have said “Amen” to this prayer, they will wait for my instruction. They don’t know what to expect. But in agreeance with my petition that I be granted grace, they be given willingness, and the musicians be given strength, they say “Amen”.
This night, attendance was low. In the summer months, I’ve learned not to become frustrated by low attendance. With any number of possibilities to blame, from a family’s last road trip before school starts, to church outings, or just the sheer inviting warmth of summer nights, it can be difficult to have a full choir stand. There is nothing wrong with enjoying life while you can. After all, they are volunteering. They choose every Thursday to return to the choir loft and give of their time and voices. So any time they give me to attempt to bring a vision to reality, I am indeed grateful.
Fresh off of a week of Vacation Bible School and on the heels of a community trip to Orlando, those who could and were willing, came. We opened our eyes after prayer and I asked the same question I ask every Thursday: “How are you all doing tonight?” I believe they think I’m just being cordial. I believe our Southern hospitality bleeds through in these moments and many write this off as my way of saying “hello” again. It’s not. It’s my way of letting them unknowingly and subconsciously give me an idea of what kind of mood they are in. As humans, we share more than we realize. Our natural need for love and attention will always make itself known. On any given night I may hear “GREAT!” and “Wonderful, Ms. Jacqui how about you?” On other nights, there are faint responses that reveal the heaviness weighing on them from a long day: “I’m here.” “I won’t complain.” Sometimes, they just adjust on the pews and don’t have the energy for verbal responses. This helps me figure out what they need from me. It reports the level of stamina it will require of me to get and keep them engaged so that rehearsal can be successful.
Tonight, the response is: “Just fine, Ms. Jacqui.” I’m relieved to hear a pleasant response. My day had been long and quite taxing. I remind them of things on our agenda. We talk about our upcoming concert and where we stand on preparation. I inform them that tonight I will gauge where I think we stand in our efforts and make a decision on when the concert might be. They nod to say they comprehend and we begin. When the music starts, a switch flips in my body. No matter how tired, how angry, how hurt, or how distracted I am, the sound of music sucks me into a place of serenity. Each note of each chord are like heart beats helping to pump life through my limbs as I jump, sing, clap, talk, and teach. Some days it takes longer than others, but never too long. Though they have gotten used to it, I’m sure at some point, even now, they think I’m crazy. I dance and clap. I walk and jump. I’m free.
In spite of my spill about potentially postponing our concert, the small group sang with strong voices. I could feel them pushing to show their desire to move further down the path to our concert. They close their eyes as they try to remember lyrics and notes hoping I won’t stop to correct them. And when they are confident, I watch them move beyond what they have learned to the land where I am. Freedom. The place where the music is simply the vehicle, but praise is the destination. Freedom. Their hands begin to stretch into the air. They smile at the thought of the love they are giving to God. Of all of the fun I have standing in front of a choir, these are the moments I enjoy most.
These are the moments where they trust me. They don’t realize it. But here is where they are doing their job at their fullest potential. Their confidence in me is evident. They are not focused on the next word or note. They are focused on the feeling. They look to me for the rest. It is here where I can drive the song to where it needs to be. This is the place where they become selfless. They encourage one another. A man stands to his feet and yells, “Play!” as the musicians twist and turn chords taking them down the more scenic route of praise. Hand claps and shouts inspire percussionists as drums unite our movements and hold us together until the end.
Here is where every sacrifice I make as a choir director is worth it. The hours of planning that, in the end never go as planned, become worth it. The tug-of-war I experience with personalities when I’ve had to remind them I am the authority in the room during our time together becomes worth it. It’s worth it when I can teach them a melody they can hum through a hard day. It’s worth it when I can create an atmosphere of positivity and worship. It’s worth it when after service they say “Thank you, Ms. Jacqui, for all you do for us”.
And when I’m asked, as I am often, “Why do you dress so conservatively?”, my response is “I’m someone’s choir director.” When my friends want to know, “Why are you leaving so early (from an event or party on a Saturday night)?”, they know to expect “I’m someone’s choir director.” After failed attempts at planning trips with family I hear “Why can’t you just stay the entire weekend?”, and my response is “I’m someone’s choir director”. It is, without a doubt, worth it.
I’m a lot of things. I’m someone’s wife. I’m someone’s daughter. I’m someone’s co-worker. I’m someone’s favorite blogger (yes, I went there.) But it’s only at the corner of love for people and love for God that I am proudly someone’s choir director.