Right Note vs. Right Spirit

Today in our Male Chorus rehearsal, which has several ‘challenging’ voices, we premiered a song by DeWayne Woods – “Let Go, Let God”.  It does start with a male background group, but then transfers the vocals to a choir, so we spent the rehearsal re-arranging the vocals to fit the model of 1st and 2nd tenor, baritone and bass in our male choir.  One gentleman in particular has been diligently working on his singing recently, and today the section leader did not arrive at rehearsal, leaving him to fend for himself.  The parts were close together, and tricky to maintain even in triads, but my baritone made his best effort. He slid up, and then slid down, but kept at it.  At the end of the rehearsal, the director (I was simply assisting) turned to him and beamed. “Jimmy!” he said. “Way to go! I’m proud of you.”  

This man could have burst, he was so happy with that comment. Now, in my musical mind, the wheels were turning furiously. Did I just affirm this singer’s wrong notes as acceptable? By letting the compliment slide, was I complicit in allowing a culture of low expectations to continue in this choir?

I thought, and now think, the better of it.  Whether or not all the notes were right, the spirit of the singer was to keep at it, to ask if he was doing it right, and to try his best.  We in music ministry must often be reminded that we’ll never have the perfect set of singers, but better to have a group of dedicated and willing servants that will listen to instruction than a group of highly talented but highly opinionated ‘professionals’.  I’ve dealt with both kinds, and I got a much better feeling from seeing this man’s effort than I would have from a perfect triad harmony, only to have the singer expect or demand such praise.  We shouldn’t ever become totally accepting of musical mediocrity, but the first priority is to have our choir’s hearts and minds in the right place – a place of unity, togetherness, self-sacrifice and hard work.  Then we can get a lot more right notes along with the right spirit.  

Feel free to comment about time when you have  been faced with a moment of deciding to encourage a choir member even when your ‘standards’ weren’t quite met.

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