Cantata

When the holidays are filled with commercials about loving families who all get together and bestow lavish gifts of diamonds and fancy cars, it can get pretty depressing. When you think that you don’t belong in a society where big family gatherings are the norm, and being alone is somehow un-American, you have 2 choices. You can wallow in self-pity, or you can find something meaningful to do for somebody even less fortunate than you. Yes, you’ve all heard this many times, but let me tell you about an experience I had this past weekend that not only filled my heart with joy, but also strengthened my faith in the Christmas story.

I was one of 68 singers in my church’s annual cantata. It’s a lot of work for me to do that. First, I have to have someone come over and dictate the words to 9 songs, so I can transcribe them into braille, being careful to insert page numbers, because the director skips around at rehearsal, from one piece to another, and tells us to turn to measure such and such on page such and such, never mentioning the name of the song or the word we are to start on. Then, if I can manage it, I have a friend come over and sing the alto part with me, along with the CD we’re given to practice with. This year, no one was available, so I had to rely on just listening very hard to the CD. During rehearsals, I recorded the whole practice, hoping to catch just the altos, so I can learn that part. I must have spent 100 hours practicing at home. Yet by the time we performed on Saturday, I still didn’t feel confident about the alto part. After praying about it, I realized that I didn’t have to know this thing perfectly. So what if I didn’t come in exactly on time. As long as I didn’t sing out whenever everybody else was silent, and as long as I did sing out when I was confident about my part, then it should be a good experience. I had been ready to quit several times. But then my friend Kathy reminded me of the joy I felt when I sang at last year’s concert. She was right. I did feel joy.

So I ironed my white blouse, gathered up my brailled music, and took my place in the second row beside Kathy. We had been moved several times because one person or another couldn’t see the director, but Kathy insisted that we were a unit. She was the one who tapped my leg when it was time to stand up and again when it was time to sit down, which wasn’t always at the beginning or ending of a piece. In fact, when we first rehearsed with the standups and the sit-downs, Kathy wasn’t sitting next to me, and the people on each side of me did not think to let me know when the director signaled us to stand. There I sat, while everybody was standing, and I was angry and embarrassed. Did they think I was going to sit through the whole cantata. No, they just didn’t think. But after Kathy and I got ourselves together, things began to fall into place. And speaking of falling, there was the issue of climbing 2 sets of stairs to the choir loft. I wouldn’t trust anybody else to help me with that.

The bottom line is that it was thrilling, and singing made the Christmas story much more meaningful and believable.

If you can carry a tune, I recommend that you volunteer to sing in a cantata. It’s worth every frustration and worry. When you’ve sung the last note, and the choir and orchestra bring the whole thing to a crescendo, your heart will burst with joy.

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