Posted tagged ‘choir’

Christmas Penance

December 20, 2009

They say karma is a bitch.    That what goes around, comes around.

And based on what happened to me this weekend,   I must have done some really bad things, and I ended up paying for it.  

You see, I was visiting the Big City to get some cross-country skiing in, and I was staying with Friar’s Mom’s.    She mentionned that there was a Choral Group performing that night at Church, and would I like to see it with her?  

It’s not church,  there’s no Mass, she reassured  me.   They’re just putting on a Christmas Concert.

“Are these serious professional singers?”,  I asked.

“They’re volunteers…but they’re quite good.”, she answered.

“I mean…this is a serious singing group, right?   Not just the regular-Sunday-Mass choir, where anybody can join, and they play the stupid chimes, and everyone sings off-key?”

“  You actually have to audition to join this group.”

“…so…it’s NOT going  to be like that amateur musical in Splat Creek that I just attended, where I wanted to gouge my eyes out….this is actually going to be GOOD?”

“Yes…I think it will be quite good…and it might help put you in the Christmas spirit”.

Seeing how I was tired form skiing, and I was just going to watch TV anyway, I thought, what the heck, why not?

Little did I know what I was  in for.



The church was packed, and the average age was 72.    Then the choir,  director and pianist  walked in…and THEIR average age was 75.    

This did  not bode well.

First warning sign: whenever there’s a white-haired lady sitting at a piano, in front of a bunch of other white-haired seniors,  you know you’re in for a loooonng evening.  

The men were in bow-ties.   The matronly women were dressed in red velvet, wrapped from shoulder-to-waist with a stringy silver shawl thing.     God help me,  but the first thing that came to my mind was they looked like plump Christmas  hams wrapped up in string.

The Lead  Senior  introduced the first  song,  making cute Old-Lady jokes….and everyone in the audience went “Ahhhh” and chuckled politely.


And they started singing.   

Picture 2 dozen grandmas facing you…the type of soft-spoken grandmas that  normally sit their grandkids on their lap and give you cookies. 

But suddenly these grandmas have transformed, and they’re staring at you,  with there with their mouths gaping open,  grimacing and bobbing their heads,  screeching out their high-pitched siren songs.  

It’s actually quite frightening.  

I hope you never have to experience that.

I swear, one of them was one of the original Munchkins from the Wizard of Oz.    Four foot nothing.   Her eyes were so crinkled up…seriously, I don’t think she had any pupils.

One man had an extremely large head…Good lord,  how did he walk with that on his shoulders?

Another  woman sat there a cane, appearing to be half-asleep.  Poor thing, she didn’t look like she had long for this world.

Still, the choir sang reasonably well.    Heck…this was free.    They were volunteers.   I just had to sit there and listen.   

 This wasn’t so bad, really.    I could take this…

But little did I know…



Suddenly,  there was a change in the program.   The conductor (who looked like Liza Minelli plus 20 years)  informed us that now WE will be having to work.    WE will be doing all the singing now…and the choir disbanded,  and sat among us.

A spherical woman squished past  me to  sit next to Friar’s  Mom.  A septuagenarian Librarian-type sat to my right.    Another baritone set behind me.

I was surrounded.

And now we were given song booklets, and we were to call out requests, and the whole church would sing.

I glared at Friar’s Mom.   My unspoken words were quite clear:  

This is exactly what I did NOT want to come hear.    You promised.   You TOLD me it wouldn’t be like this. 

Friar’s Mom just smiled at me, egging me on.    

And thus, we spent the next half hour listening the  Lowest-Common-Denominator Catholic Choir Sing-Song.

They sang  “Frosty the Snow Man”.   They sang  “Silver Bells”.  They sang EVERYTHING.

They even sang the “Little Drummer Boy”.

Nothing like hearing 200 people go “Pah-rum-pa-pum-pum”  off- key.  

Where’s someone’s hat-pin?  Maybe I can pierce my eardrums.

Of course, Friar’s Mom didn’t help.     

She kept looking over to me seeing, and delighted to see my distress,  she kept cackling with glee.   Then she deliberately raised her tone-deaf voice and sang like Edith Bunker.  And laughed at me again.

In perfect stereo, the Librarian sitting next to me  wailed in that reedy soprano-tremolo that only ladies of a certain age can (and like) to sing in.   The baritone behind me was trying to harmonize. 

Liza Minelli  got “into the groove”, and started to waddle-dance to the songs, quite pleased with herself at how “cool” she was.   

(Please stop doing that.   Please.)

Which everyone in the audience, of  course, thought was hilarious. 

Seniors everywhere were tapping their feet,   humming along.   Mommies tried to coax their toddlers children to participate.    The choir were bobbing their old-lady brush-cuts to the beat.  

A splendid time guaranteed for all. 

And truly I had entered the Seventh Circle of Hell.



Then,  in an attempt to be send us into a diabetic coma, they had the children to come  up and sing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”.


Because there is NOTHING I’d rather do,  than to hear some rug-rats sing,   especially rug-rats I’m not even remotely related to.

Of course, the kids stood there goofy and shy, and mumbled incoherently.

And of course,  everyone in the audience thought this was the bees’ knees.     You’d swear they just heard a performance of St. Michael’s Freaking Boys Choir, or something.

And I’m sitting there,  and it dawned  on me:

I”m single.  I’m 45.   

And THIS is how I’m spending my Saturday evening.



Just when you think it couldn’t have gotten worse,  it did.

It was the public singing of the “Twelve Days of Christmas”.    

With (Oh, joy) even MORE audience participation.

We were broken up into twelve groups, each one with a designated person holding a sign.   Everything time your number came up (i.e. “four calling birds”), you were supposed to stand, sing your part and  then sit down again. 

Oh, and EVERVYONE was supposed to stand up for “Partridge in a Pair Tree”.

Thus began the Simon-Sez Song of the Damned.

Partridge  in a pear  tree.    Two turlte doves… etc.

Stand up…sit down.   Stand up…sit down.

Just like Mass…only sped up.

As an added bonus,  the group singing “Five  Golden Rings”  had quite a  few ringers wrom the Choir.  

 These Senior-Bats sang their loudest.    Successively wailing louder and longer, each time, almost shattering the stained-glass widows.   

 The eight maids milking pretended to squeeze udders.

Good Lord.

Patridge in a Pear Tree.

Stand up.   Sit down.

The Five Golden Ring Ladies wailed louder.   “Five Golden RINNNNNNGS!”

One geezer pretended to hit them with his cane.   (At this point, I’m not sure if it was part of the act.)

Simon says stand up.     Sit down.

Lords leapt.

Five Golden RINNNNNNGS!”  (this time, almost knocking Sweet Jesus off the stations of the cross). 

Stand up.    Sit down.

Would this song EVER end….? .



It finally DID end.    

To get through the whole twelve days of the song, there were  

12 + 11 + 10 + 9 +  8 + 7 + 6 + 5 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 =  (what felt like) 10,317 repetitions.

There was coffee and snacks in the reception hall later.    I got to watch Friar’s Mom make conversation with peole we never met and will never meet again.

But I survived.

 I did my penance.

I sat through this whole thing, without killing myself  (or someone else).

Whatever it was that I did that’s so bad, I feel I’ve  more than made up for it.

And not that I’m a terribly religous man…

…but if this  doesn’t get me into the Gates of Heaven,  NOTHING will.