This year, not.
I have learned a few things from the experience.
I like feeling needed, and most of the time a church choir needs tenors. So for the last twenty years I have filled the need. Besides, in choir, you have something to do in church, and you don't have to talk to people you don't know.
Also, I found out, singing is way cool.
Sometimes I didn't feel like going to choir, but choir guilt is powerful. You miss a week and you get The Look when you come up for communion. Miss two weeks, and you get The Talk. Miss three, and your choir robe is up for grabs.
This year, I have never been so swamped at work, and I have not mastered the skill of teaching Latin and Greek without talking. So at the end of a 10-12 hour workday, I have no legitimate singing voice left. It makes rehearsals close to useless. In fall, after several weeks of croaking through practices and slumped over with fatigue, I begged off.
I appreciated having my Wednesday nights free so that I could collapse at 8 PM, and throughout the year there were times when I had the greatest appreciation for those in the choir who were soldiering on, Sunday after Sunday, and sometimes for special services as well.
But Holy Week trumps all of that.
Choirs in traditional churches such as mine are on duty in Holy Week from Wednesday through Sunday, singing at least one and sometimes two services a day. The music is special, there is a lot of it, and it is often difficult. The maddening part: you can't rehearse enough for any one thing, and yet you're rehearsing hours for everything.
In my previous church, I felt compelled to do something extra that upped the ante considerably on my fatigue factor: the Vigil. This is a prayer time lasting from the end of the Maundy Thursday service through the night until Good Friday mid-morning. It is designed to let people have the experience of being in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus as he prays to his Father the night before he is to die.
I did the manly thing every year and took a shift somewhere between 2 and 5 in the morning. For many years a friend and I would take a 5 AM shift, then drive to the Farmer's Market and buy vegetables for our Easter dinner. Then we'd nap for a couple of hours and go sing in the noon Good Friday service.
By Saturday night, where the most emotional service is held and you go from deep depression to giddy elation, I would be so sick with exhaustion the only thing keeping me going would be Easter candy.
Easter Sunday could be comical. The twice-a-year crowd would be out, thinking it was such a terrible imposition to wrestle their children into dresses and suits and combing their hair. In my worst moments I would be, not humble and thankful, but scornful, sitting cocooned in the choir while the ushers set out chairs for the latecoming thousands.
But in better years all the rough edges got smoothed out by a grilled lamb dinner, wine, and a strong sense of accomplishment-- a sense that I had done something worthwhile. It was wicked fun most of the time, too.
This year I have bypassed all that, bypassed the fatigue and sweat and feeling of not measuring up musically, as well as the feelings of grand adventure. I got truly terrorized by the Tenebrae "great noise." I slept through the night Maundy Thursday. I went to a noon Good Friday service where we walked around the block with a big cross, in sunshine, with a lovely, cool breeze, and bearded irises nodding in the garden.
I had the energy to write a blog post.
I meditated on the meaning of Holy Week.
I guess a sabbatical was long overdue.
I don't feel guilty. Much.
Next year I am hoping work will be less taxing, although there is no guarantee of that. I will be back in choir and see how it goes. I don't know that I have learned a great truth from all this.
Maybe I have learned that you don't need to grit your teeth and find a great truth in everything.
Image, what Christians celebrate at Easter, from here.