The Counterpoint to the Melody.


There are times I’m convinced I’m simply living wrong.

For the second time in less than a year I’m having the discussion with a church choir over singing in unison. I left the first church on account of that. If my owl looks a bit peeved, you’ve got the point.

It sounds so simple. Let’s just all sing the melody! The congregation will follow you better. It will sound more strong. It will be more simple.

Unfortunately, it is simple. It doesn’t take into account just what it sounds like if you can’t sing the melody.There are people who can’t sing in a key outside their voice without singing in the key of off. So what it really is, is a way of telling people who are different to be silent. I hate to be told to be silent.

It used to enrage me. Now it makes me breathtakingly sad.

So much of life is about finding a way to bridge our differences. For some the gap is wider than others. I do believe it’s counterproductive to see ourselves as terminally unique. The word special has had connotations that make my teeth hurt. Sometimes ordinary is an amazing accomplishment. And what is worse is that once you get around to that kind of thinking, nothing about yourself is ordinary enough to pass. It’s a counterpart to the melody. It’s the artist’s theme song, sung Allie McBeal style in your head.

For those of us without homelife, we sing the counterpoint of independance, interdependance and constructive work to the constrains of people who have people who need them.

For those of us without children, we sing the aunt or uncle’s lullaby. Odd but endearing, a counterpoint to the parent’s world.

For those of us who write, dance, draw, sculpt, sew and struggle, we sing the counterpart of creation past the security of a regular job.

It would be so simple to sing the melody. But simple isn’t always possible. It’s completely out of my reach. So the counterpart is what I have to offer. I try to tune it to the mass of music around it. My hope is that it’s place and purpose is to enrich the melody I cannot really sing. And to believe it all to  be a single whole sound.

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8 Responses to “The Counterpoint to the Melody.”

  1. Marilyn says:

    I find it amazing that a choir director with any directive talent would be so restrictive. I am so fortunate that our choir director takes a bunch of ragtag folks together with some really “professional” singers and blends us all into an amazing performance every Sunday regardless of whether there are 6 who show up or 12. He chooses a song from our repertoire based on the voices there that morning, we practice it and sing it that day! And we always sound great. I cannot read any music and have to “memorize” my part by listening to it. He is always supportive and Never puts anyone down for their lack of expertise. Thanks for reminding me how lucky we are as people who love to sing that we have such a person to lead us.

  2. Betty says:

    I also try to sing Alto. I do not understand why a leader can not accept all kinds of wonderful people they are susposed to be leading. Look at your work. It’s amazing for many years I was told where to sit, corrected in their way of thinking because I used the wrong hand to write and and do things. Made fun of, and restricted in all things. I learned I was really smarter than others as I had to figure out how to everthing my way. Now days it’s ok to be the weird one who makes wonderful things with hand work. Fooled a lot of people. So sing loudly anyway you can. All the birds in the world sing in their own way and sound absolutely beautiful. Keep making all those wonderful works of art.

  3. LynDee says:

    Singing in the choir…Yes, that hits a note pretty close to home for many of us. One thing we do is sing the first verse or verse and refrain in unison and then let everyone, including the congregation find their own notes for the remainder of the song. The director reminds us that, “It just has to harmonize” and “Listen to each other” – to balance the voices, but, most of the time it comes out at least okay…and, truly, why are we there? For the joy of lifting our voices in celebration! So why not encourage everyone to sing, Sing, SING!
    This is a good topic for Easter week, where many of us will find ourselves in church and singing more days than not.

  4. Helen from Hobart says:

    My voice IS Alto. I cannot sing the tune to most hymns because they are set too high. So if anyone tried to get me to sing in Unison, they would be most unhappy with the result.

    Why do you need a choir if you sing in unison ? That’s what congregations do.
    Trained voices in choirs do the harder stuff – make REAL music in harmony.

  5. Ellen, you are not terminally unique, you are wonderfully, delightfully,joyfully unique. You are on the right track. I am still at purposefully unique, it is still early in the game and I am progressing. Keep up the good fight!

  6. Unfortunately, this is what comes of churches hiring “professional” choir directors, or someone who aspires to be professional. (Although I don’t see the appeal in all the voices sounding the same.) The point of a church choir is to raise your voices in praise and jubilation, not to put on a show. Thank you for a thoughtful and thought-provoking post … and by the way, I LOVE your “Bugged” owl!

  7. Cathy says:

    But, but, we WANT you to be different!!! Why should we all be the same, think the same, look the same or act the same?? I look at nature and see such diversity of beauty in flowers and plants. I look at people and I am happy to see the same. Who wants to be average anyway, where is the fun in that? I am Swiss, have chosen to live in the tropics, have 12 children and am learning new things all the time. I think it’s sad when we try to force any person into prepared molds of behavior or expectations, we should just be what god made us to be and others should be happy for us. If they are not, it’s their loss. And I love your owl! Happy Easter!

  8. The reasons you site are the reasons I never tried to sing in a choir, and why my kids quit. There is always someone who thinks of it as a competition, rather than raising our voices in praise, together or in harmony. Learning about music and singing should be a joy. A professional music director should know that as well as a self taught director. It’s the attitude that counts – and their understanding of what it means to worship through song.
    Thanks for another very thoughtful post!

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