Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Community of Song - Family of Support

I was privileged to be part of a very special rehearsal last night. Approximately 30 veteran choir singers from 5 parishes and some young singers from a local Catholic high school convened at one of our area parishes to practice music for a funeral. As far  as pick-up choirs go, this one was excellent - with a pretty good balance among the voice parts.  The Holy Spirit called together a group of people who not only are up to the challenge, but who have the hearts to bring their best.

Our director, Todd, a talented young man who had called us together to prepare music for the funeral of his older brother, Mark, who had suffered for the past several years from a brain tumor.  Todd is an excellent director, organist and a composer and arranger of church music in his own right. Todd and Mark's mother, Janet, an alto who has sung for many years with several local choirs was also there to sing. The high school students - about 8 of them - were all young people who had experienced Todd as a teacher there - they had driven probably about 45 minutes to an hour to join us. The rest of us were local - and have sung with Todd and/or Janet over the years in several area parishes.

We all met some new music for the first time last night, but what some people did not know, the rest of us did, so all in all it was a good rehearsal. However, good as the musicianship was, the point was the gathering of a community of friends - people who feel close enough to this family in their time of grief to give up an evening and a half day tomorrow morning to be there to celebrate Mark's birth to eternal life - to pray together in song.

Anyone reading this who is an experienced choir singer will understand. Belonging to a parish choir is very close to an experience of Small Christian Community. For most of the year, choir friends pray together twice a week (at rehearsal and Mass) in word and song.  We share each other's joys and sorrows willingly over a period of years - and our commitment to each other is quite strong.

Parish musicians are a bit like each other's second family in many ways. We give up time around Christmas and Easter to be at church to sing rather than spend that time with our families.  We laugh together, we enjoy each other's good news, and we pray, cry and hug each other through the bad times.  I have been privileged to experience this in three parishes myself.  It is a special privilege to belong the the parish musicians' community, and one that fosters a spirit of great commitment in many good people.  It is an example of Christian community at its very best. The rest of the parish can certainly learn from this model of fidelity and commitment.

Last night was special. Tomorrow will be even more so, when, at the funeral, we will sacrifice our time and offer up our talent to help a family lay a beloved son and brother to rest. None of us will give a second thought to what else we could or should be doing with that time.  We know what is important.

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