Nearly 20 years ago, I participated in several seasons of singing in the Fanshawe Chorus, a professional choral group in London, Ontario. It was a classical, symphonic choir, and to say that I was out of my league would be an understatement. Nevertheless, it was very enjoyable, especially in our annual Christmas presentation of The Messiah. The altos around me were experienced, and I learned to attune myself quickly to them. Conductor Gerry Fagan, with his wife Marlene as accompanist, worked tirelessly during rehearsals to harmonize the group.
As the concert date approached the pressure increased. Because I had somewhat of a musical ear, keeping the alto voice was not my main problem. It was the keeping count that preoccupied me and I felt I had to pay close attention to the score, fearing the potential embarrassment of hearing my note break the prescribed silence.
There must have been others wrestling with their own anxieties. This, of course, created another problem because a choir looking down has lost the full richness of sound, and Gerry Fagan would admonish us with a thundering “Get your nose out of the book!” Increasingly, as we had already learned the notes, we needed to be focused on him as he brought all of the elements of orchestra and chorus together. In a choir, you need to be alert and aware: of yourself, the score, the voices of others beside you, the instruments playing, the conductor’s baton.
Even with the last-minute panic, final rehearsal was always joyfully exciting. For the first time you could sense the majesty of the music as all participants joined in.
The choir taught me valuable skills that could be applied in other areas – to listen to direction, to let art enrich my life, to join in with the harmonizing of community. And specifically, I think about how often I have needed to get my nose out of the book and fully experience relationship. I think about how the Pharisees in Jesus’ day knew the Torah law, the Psalms songbook, even the Prophets writing so well, but couldn’t recognize that the Messiah was standing right in front of them.
Our Messiah is the Master and the Conductor of the Universe, and He will someday bring us all together in a joyful symphony.