“I miss the music so much. That was always so important to me, but now it’s just too hard to get to church anymore. But I so appreciated the organ music and the choir.”
The elderly woman on the other end of the phone was calling to thank me for the birthday card I had sent her in response to a card shower organized by the church. She always complimented the choir after a good anthem day and rarely missed performances of the church’s concert series. As a long-time choir member, I understand how she feels. At one point during the pandemic, I thought if I had to spend one more Sunday watching streamed services and not singing, I was going to lose my mind.
For those of us who have been in the music business in one form or another since we were kids, it’s easy to become jaded. To get lost in the weeds of endless rehearsals and drama with personnel and budgets or constantly fighting for the survival of school programs. Or in the case of my husband and me, navigating the ups and downs of behind-the-scenes management of a choir and a drum corps. It’s easy to let frustration and stress get in the way of reaching people, or to question whether the cost of livestreaming a concert or doing a run-out somewhere is really worth it. Or whether we should keep banging our head against the wall trying to get students to practice and come to rehearsal. Sometimes it’s just so damn hard that we want to give up.
But I think if we’re honest, whether we’re performers or listeners, we’ve all had those moments when music takes our breath away, sometimes when we least expect it. To paraphrase the commercial—they’re priceless. Suddenly, out of nowhere, we feel the hair on our arms rise and even tears come to our eyes because something being played or sung is so impossibly beautiful that it just reaches down deep into our soul and hugs us.
We are bombarded with sound and stimulation to the point that we’ve become almost numb to the noise. Something is always pinging or ringing or demanding our attention. When those rare and extraordinary musical moments occur, they take us out of ourselves and remind us of what it means to be human. The last time it happened to me was in a rehearsal last summer, and the anthem we were singing will forever take me back to that day and to the people I was with at the time.
We who have signed up to create music in any form can’t lose sight of those moments. They’re like diamonds in the rough and believe me, I know there’s a lot of rough, whether we’re in professional, school, community, or church settings. Some days, it feels like rough is all there is. But we figure out how to make it work because, like the conductor of our choir always tells us, “You never know when someone is hearing a song for the first time. Or the last.” Yes. And I’m grateful to that lovely lady who called to thank me for the birthday card for reminding me once again why it all matters. Why touching another person’s heart with music and changing his or her life for the better, even for a short time, is enough.