I have a close neighbor and friend who is an especially talented musician, composer, and singer. In fact I have several friends who qualify in this regard. Two of my closest including the aforementioned neighbor eventually wind up becoming the choristers of their respective wards. They will also direct choirs.
I don’t join choirs; I never sing solos in church; I lack the capacity. It is beyond lacking musical knowledge I am one of those American Idol train wrecks who auditions to the sincerest of my ability only to have Simon take me to back lot, burn me to ash, and jettison the remains into space so as ensure no organic imprint of my musical ineptitude defiles mother earth.
I had once been invited to work with a quartet of men singers. I was told later that a replacement for me had been found. I was not insulted. I was relieved; I get it.
Why I Sing
I asked the director who assembled the quartet, why he invited me. His response, “of all the men in the congregation, you are only one I saw who actually who sang." He figured I would only sing because I knew how.
The idea that I would sing because it does change my heart, or that it is important to participate, or that I have a deep appreciation for the hymns if not an understanding of their structure did not occur to him. Apparently people who sing because it is a form of worship are rare. I was the only guy in the congregation who sang; but actually, I couldn't.
While I have been cursed with a lousy pitch and no ability to translate printed notes into tones, I have been blessed with a powerful diaphragm, lungs and voice box. In other words, the ugliness of my voice is combined with an ability to have it carry. The result is the vocal equivalent of being hit in the ear by Brock Lesnar.
I have considered the need to keep the voice toned down a bit. In fact, I have been encouraged by fellow members to do so. My initial emotional reaction to this not pleasant. When I suppress that emotion, I usually nod and give a nervous chuckle. What I am really thinking is, if you really do not want to hear me, sing above me.
There are about 150 people in the average LDS ward congregation. Twenty of whom are singing. Fifty are Milli Vanilli-ing it. Thirty are reading the words silently. The rest have just given up even faking it. They probably consider it higher moral ground because they are not being hypocrites.
So I will sing. I lived through a time when all I was allowed to do in this church was sing. That’s when I learned to love it.
I am also considering taking voice lessons next year from my talented neighbor. Maybe decades of singing poorly have helped me to gain some skills that a could benefit from a little coaching. I am putting it into my long term goal. Till then, do yourself a favor, sing with some gusto of your own.
And if you’re sitting in the pew in front of me when Hymn #2 comes up, brace for impact. There are exclamation points in the lyrics for a reason.