Friday, March 9, 2012
In the little village in Ireland I grew up in, there's a small but colourful choir that sings its collective heart out in the local church.
They get together for all sorts of celebrations and ceremonies, and can routinely be heard from over the hills as they harmonise the various hymns.
The choir, so I've been told, when they sing with all the gusto they can muster, can lead sheep to pause in their chewing; cows blink slowly in rapture.
My mother told me today that about a year ago, one of the older members passed away.
I remember the fellow well: always, Billy could be heard head and shoulders above everyone else, so deep his tones, so boisterous his style of singing.
He quite literally belted out the songs, his throat in full throttle, rattling some of the other choir members, and even, I would wager, the enormous hefty church bell up in the rafters.
Billy was notoriously quick to nudge the others with an elbow if their volume was set too low for his taste, or if they were concerned to distraction by the rumblings of the church foundations. As he prompted others with a not-so-subtle dig in the ribs, he never stepped out of tune himself.
Paddy was one of the other regulars, and he typically stood next to Billy during choir time.
He'd open and close his mouth at the proper times, turn the pages of his song book with vigour, and he'd put his all into every tune: his all, that is, save for the voice.
Because Paddy, oddly enough, didn't sing. Not a note.
He mimed it all.
Paddy mimed, and Billy knew it. He'd nudge Paddy from time to time to encourage him to pipe up and join the choir for more than just his physical presence.
I was struck by the idea that if all the choir members mimed like Paddy, there wouldn't be a sound out of anyone.
The church bell wouldn't tremble, not even the slightest wobble or hum.
It's important, I determined, for everyone to do their bit. Every voice carries equal weight.
I was thoroughly baffled.
Why then, I asked my mother, did old Paddy go along to the choir every week, year after year if he was only going to pretend to sing?
A way of getting out of the house, she said, even for an hour a week.
A place to go, even if it's only up the street.
Friends to see, even if they elbow you continuously.
Being a part of something greater than yourself.
I strongly believe that Paddy wasn't the only one of the group to get such commonplace pleasures out of belonging to the church choir.
And with that, the notion of the whole choir make-believe singing- it didn't seem so outrageous after all.
Even if there wasn't a note to be heard on the wind, there'd still be an honest-to-goodness reason for the gathering.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 5:59 PM