Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Church of the Rhythmically Impaired

I am embarrassed at my occasions of music snobbery ... times when I think I'm "all that and a bag of chips" when it comes to music.  Sometimes my head gets a bit too big for my own good, eventhough I struggle to remain humble.  Yes, there is some musical ability in my genes, but not enough to permit me to quit my day job ... my "square job."  But, the Lord, in His inimitable way, has such subtle and yet powerful ways of humbling me.

Year ago, I first used the term "The Church of the Rhythmically Impaired" during a time when my old church choir was preparing for special music for upcoming Sunday.  Two guests had flown in from Chicago to help us middle-aged to elderly, White, raised-on-snoozer-hymns hymnals learn some Black gospel songs.  We were struggling ... some more than others ... at the right chords, timbre, rhythm and dynamics of the new songs.  When the guests suggested that we clap our hands and shift side to side in beat with the music, my hopes were dashed as I witnessed several individuals with perhaps the WORST sense of rhythm I had ever seen!  One lady in particular really labored at the beat in the row ahead of me, her hands coming together at odd intervals in complete incongruence to the beat.  It took all my strength not to reach around her, grab her hands, and clap them together for her.  I fretted a bit the rest of the day, worrying how we would sound the next day for Sunday worship.  Much to my amazement, on the first note of the song as we opened our mouths and burst forth with our first syllable, the sound was AMAZING!  I immediately got the little "crown of goosebumps" on my scalp, and it was then that I knew we would make it ... make musical history for our meek church.  We were divinely directed to a higher level of performance that day.

Over the course of the past few years, I have dived head long into the world of Black gospel music, richly drinking in the beauty of the melodies and harmonies ... and thrilling at that "crown of goosebumps" when I hear a gospel song swell with the spirits of the singers in divine communion with God.  I've tried to imitate the sound, both alone and with other singers.  Whether traditional, blues, or modern urban, there is a true "soul" (for want of a better word) I sense unmatched in other music genres ... except maybe Handel's "The Messiah."

I've recently left my old church and have been visiting another church.  My music snobbery has reared its ugly head on occasion as I listen to the new congregation's renditions of contemporary Christian music.  But, God gives me a good tug on my bridle as I notice the faces of the choir members.  One day, the children's choir was singing a special number.  Their faces were adorable, and I enjoyed studying their expressions: some were intense, others appeared to be thinking about their coming lunch or soccer game, a few seemed to be dazed and confused and appeared to wonder why they were there.  But, then my eyes lighted upon one particular little cherub's face: the face of a boy with Down syndrome.  He sang with such exuberance and joy that his face outshown the others' ... and his parents were beaming just as much.  He sang with purity of joy and intent.  I sing sometimes with arrogance and showmanship. 

Another time, as an adult choir was singing, I noticed an elderly gentleman whom I had seen earlier in the hallway as he slowly and awkwardly made his way to a classroom.  His spine was very misshapened.   I noticed as he sang, his mouth contorted in odd shapes like that of a person experiencing facial paralysis following a stroke.  He sang with love and gratitude ... gratitude for being able to make it to church and be an active and involved member.  Perhaps he sang not in spite of his disability but because of it. 

Both singers reminded me of a popular song written by Darlene Zschech, "Shout to the Lord" ...
Shout to the Lord all the earth, let us sing
Power and majesty, praise to the King
Mountains bow down the seas will roar
at the sound of Your name

I sing for joy at the work of Your hands
forever I'll love You, forever I'll stand
nothing compares to the promise I have in You
Lord: Teach me to sing purely -- pure in intention, pure in motivation, pure in purpose.  Teach me to sing with gratitude ... not attitude! ... or, should I say "CAT-titude?"  

1 comment:

  1. The cure for this would be to attend nearly any Catholic Church because Catholics don't (can't) sing. We're supposed to, we just seem to refuse on a grand scale. That should make every other church shine in comparison.


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