It’s Wednesday night choir practice time. As usual, only half the choir has shown up. This is a problem, because we only have eighteen people to begin with: 2 basses, 2 tenors, 3 altos, one of whom sings with the tenors, and 8 sopranos. The average age is around 65, although we have one young soprano, Gina Ferrara, who is there because she gets to sing all the solos. Her mother is Philomena Ferrara, who runs most of the parish activities. At St. Chad’s, it isn’t what you know; it’s who you know.
Most of the sopranos lost their high notes 20 years ago, but they won’t admit it. There are three of us who still have our voices intact: Gina Ferrara, Avemaria Donovan and I. We do our best to drown out the others, and sometimes we succeed.
At St. Chad’s, we don’t use the choir loft. Instead, we occupy a large space over on the left side of the nave. During mass we have to wear robes, which must have been designed by someone who hates us. They are either too long or too short, and they make us look like fat, maroon-colored birds. Over the robes, we have to wear collars that look like big white baby bibs. At least, they used to be white. By now, they have turned into various spotted shades of beige and pale yellow. Father O’Donnell, who pays as little attention to the choir as possible, refuses to spend money for new ones.
Our music director, James the Organist, takes his place at the big electric organ, claps his hands to shut us up and starts the rehearsal. We aren’t doing anything new this time; we’re just rehashing stuff we’ve been singing for the last ten years. That doesn’t matter, because we still mess up, usually because the one person in a section who everyone else follows is absent that week, leaving the rest of the section to wander around the music like lost sheep. This week’s rehearsal is no exception. This time it’s the one poor alto who showed up who can’t sing her part. James, who is multi-talented, keeps her on track by singing her part in falsetto.
We all get a 20 minute break while James and Gina Ferrara alternately rehearse and fight about her 4 measure solo in “The Prayer of St. Francis.”
Two painful hours later, it’s over. The church caretaker stands by the door jingling his keys, looking at his watch and mumbling while we put our coats on and hold a fifteen minute gab fest with each other and with James, who is a fun guy when he isn’t fighting with Gina Ferrara.
Finally, we are all out of there and everyone is happy.