Beware The Meeting of the Choirs!
The Rev Dr Gary Bowness continues his tongue-in-cheek letters from ‘Uncle Eustace’:
St James the Least
My Dear Nephew Darren,
You agonised recently over your Ecumenical Service*, namely, who should be invited? Who should preach? What about the order of service? If you had attended our recent combined churches’ Choir Festival, your own dilemmas would have seemed a little less acute.
At the pre-meeting, there was heated discussion about whether those choirs who normally wore robes would be comfortable standing among those who didn’t. The more aesthetically sensitive worried whether St Agatha’s Pea-Green cassocks may clash with our Red ones. Intending to be helpful, but phrasing it rather badly, someone suggested that the normally robed choirs should wear nothing; Colonel Wainwright was a little too quick to chuckle!
I began to wonder if a prize was to be awarded to the person who raised the greatest number of concerns. Should the choirs stay separate? Would the tenors be next to the altos or the basses? Where would extra seating be placed? Would the heating be on for the rehearsal? Then came what you would call the ‘elephant in the room’. Of all the choirmasters, who would conduct and who play the organ? Tension mounted, and expressions grew grim. But before the committee started to dig trenches in my carpet and position howitzers under the desk, I briefly left the room, turned off all the electricity and claimed we’d had a power cut. This is a useful device for truculent committees; sadly, it can be used only rarely.
Come the day, an uneasy truce lasted while everyone adopted the traditional solution to disagreement within congregations, and simply did exactly what they wanted. Some were robed, some were not, some choirs congealed in their own huddles, while others joyfully sat next to people from other churches – mainly so they could point out their neighbour’s wrong notes. Some sang in the right key, some sang in the wrong key, some sang what sounded like quite different songs altogether.
The service ended with one choir thinking that the organist had played too loudly, while another choir thought that the conductor wasn’t up to much. Everyone agreed afterwards that we must do it again, while firmly stating that if their own choirmaster didn’t conduct next year, they wouldn’t be there.
Thankfully, one fundamental thing on the day united them; they all said that our church was too cold, and they all went down to the pub afterwards to warm up!
Your Loving Uncle, Eustace
*A service where everyone is invited, regardless of denomination.