Several different memorable characters are described at length in this poem. The sing- ing teacher is a tall, lean, grim-looking man who resembles “a tuning fork turned on its end.” One of my favorites is a Mrs. Caro- line Dean:
What a method was yours, of appearing prepared
To make every tune in the hymnal look scared!
Your voice was voluminous, rather than rich,
And not predistinguished for accurate pitch;
But you seemed every word to o’erpoweringly feel,
And humbled and drove away skill with your zeal.
Then there was Nathaniel F. Jennings:
…how sadly you tried,
With your eyes a third closed, and your mouth open wide,
To sport an acceptable voice, like the rest,
And cultivate powers you never possessed!
They were just out of music, it used to be said,
When they drafted the plan of your square, shaggy head.
You fired at each note, as it were, in the dark,
As an amateur rifleman would at a mark,
And short of opinion, till after the shot,
Of whether you’d happen to hit it or not.
Those last lines remind me of a soprano at a former parish who was having trouble hitting the notorious high B-flat in Paul Manz’s “E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come,” and politely asked the director “When we get there, is it all right if I just sing as high as I can?”
This reminds us that our collective efforts in volunteer choirs can reach heights that, individually, we could not hope for. The satisfaction comes from getting better and better, and we will not achieve perfection until we join the heavenly choir. We hope that our musical offerings will continue to inspire beyond our individual efforts. As for making the occasional loud and obvious mistake, we must cultivate the virtue of gratitude for the opportunity of providing the other members of the choir with so much entertainment.