I don’t sing much anymore.
It’s not that I don’t want to sing. I have always enjoyed singing, but my voice just doesn’t wish to cooperate in the activity. Sometimes it works like a pipe organ, where birds have nested in some of the pipes so my voice can’t hit those notes. Eventually, the birds fly off, leaving the proverbial frog who often visits my throat and adds his croak to my tones.
It isn’t always like that. I can sing alright sometimes, but never for long, because my voice comes and goes with little or no warning. On Easter Sunday, I made it through two verses, then was done for the day.
This situation is rather discouraging, especially on Sunday. You don’t grow up as I did, going to church twice every Sunday, without doing a lot of singing. In the church I grew up in, we always sang three, and sometimes four hymns during the morning service. That evening we’d be back for the evening service, which always began with half an hour of hymn singing. We sang real hymns, the ones in the hymnal that had multiple verses, and they were arranged in four-part harmony, so that’s how we sang them.
Later on, I began singing in the church choir and the high school choir, and that was OK, but it was singing with the congregation that I really liked. When I sang with the congregation, I could sing bass on one song and tenor on the next. Sometimes, I tried to sing a different part on each verse, just for fun.
As time went on, though, I had fewer and fewer opportunities to sing in a choir. Occasionally I was able to join a community choir, but usually that was for a special occasion or a holiday. During most of my adult years, I have attended small churches, which often didn’t have choirs. Consequently, I didn’t have as many opportunities to sing the songs I know in the way I like to sing them. Sad to say, I became accustomed to that reality, and half a dozen years ago, my voice problems began and singing was no longer fun.
Those hymns were still good for my spirit, though, and for the most part, they are still in my mental songbook, some of them complete with all four parts. The best part, though, is that I know a hymn for nearly any occasion, and often a hymn appropriate for my present state of mind and body will begin running through my head.
A couple of weeks ago, for example, I had a rather gloomy day. I felt tired most of the day and had little energy, but when bedtime came, my tired feeling was replaced by insomnia.
So, I was lying in bed staring at the ceiling and wondering if I was ever going to doze off when a bit of poetry began running through my head. It was the first line of the chorus of one of the hymns of my childhood: “In my heart there rings a melody.” It’s a simple song with a bouncy tune, and it was just what I needed to pull my mind out of its funk and cheer me up. After a bit of confusion about which verse came first, I sang the song — in my head so as not to wake up my wife — a couple of times, and eventually went to sleep.
As we older people so often do, I woke up a few hours later and headed for the bathroom, accompanied by that song. It sang me back to bed and sang me to sleep.
I do miss singing. I especially missed it on a joyful day like Easter Sunday. But even if I can’t sing it, all that music remains in my mental file cabinet, and I know an appropriate tune is available to keep my heart and my mind in the proper place.