The church was full of singers who shared the same genes of rhythm and pitch. Just as a child learns to speak in a repetitive environment of words, so the youngsters learned to sight-read music by watching the funny looking notes in the hymnal while listening to harmonious voices. Early on, the children became eager participants. “I’ll Fly Away,” “Glad Reunion Day,” “Have A Little Talk With Jesus,” and many other such oft repeated standards, whose four part harmony lay couched within the stacked shape notes, burst to be released from the confines of little green hymn books. Alto, soprano, tenor, and bass were all represented in the congregation and each range propped up the other, and nothing weak or timid passed the vocal chords of any. Divestment of spiritual energy spread throughout the room as sounds interplayed with other sensory cues. Playing along in the background was the piano, but only as accompaniment, making it-self prominent in appropriate interludes. The precise timing necessary for quality sound was inherent within the singers and produced through their community. It was enhanced, but not dependent upon instruments.
Willow approached the piano and ascended the raised, eight-inch platform accompanied by a slow murmur descending into expectant silence. Inevitably, there was the embarrassment of some unfortunate one whose last lonely verbiage rang forth alone, having no one to respond and thus becoming aware that persons sitting around him or her had come to attention and all was grown suddenly quite. As Willow began playing from the hymnal, the house became reverent, and nicotine, old spice, and snuff an olfactory indifference.
The great spirit of this good singing was loud and heart reaching. All sang out naturally and joyfully, offering their gift heavenward. It was the glue that held all in place. Arguments could be satisfied, wounds healed, and broken hearts mended, through fifteen minutes of the blended family sing along about better days, times, and hopes, when faith should become sight. For a few minutes, singing brought them all together. The very few who were not blessed with the talent, just sat back and smiled their agreement. Thus all (pas) felt fully invested and participatory. It was a competent prayer in one accord, zealous and sincere.
In the summer Penny, who attended church only because she knew it was expected of her, would listen through the opened windows to the babbling of Shady Creek which pooled large and deep behind the little blue trimmed yellow church and furnished their baptismal waters. It was as close as she could come to identifying churchgoing with a benevolent Being. That and sometimes she had to admit, the singing. She was a good alto and several of the hymns they frequently sang had alto leads. But this morning the flagstones leading down to the pool were slick with sun melted frost and the windows were closed because it was cold outside. Twelve year old Willie Earl was oblivious to the treasure he was part of, and did not realize how blessed he was. Doctrinisms were not forming his spiritual form, the singing was. But even while the voices perfected sibling harmonies, real world dysfunction reigned in some. Earthly trials competed for heavenly bliss. Besetting sins beset most.
There were two shouters in the crowd and one happy dancer. Willie Earl wondered if the dancer’s joy was containable or was it a real takeover by the Holy Ghost. If it was the latter, it must be a very special ecstasy, though a little scary. He knew his sister Penny, sitting over by the window, shared the same thoughts. He assumed all churches were like this. [from ‘Orphan Moon’ by rick cox]