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February 29, 2004: Standing here in grace

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A few weeks ago our choir director noted that the minister had asked for the choir to sing a special song this coming Sunday, to go with her sermon. He gave us the choice between this song we’d never heard versus one that is lovely, but extremely difficult to sing. Naturally, the choir chose the one we’ve never heard, because we are nothing if not prone to music-related insanity.

We got the choral part of the song last Thursday, and then some of who are more insane than others (one of those would be me) volunteered to do the solos, all still without having actually heard the whole song. It was only after this all happened that he gave us poor soloists the sheet music, and accompanying mp3’s, and we all realized just what the heck we had gotten ourselves into.

If you have access to someone with the latest Sting CD, go borrow it from them. Then listen to “Dead Man’s Rope”. It sounds deceptively easy, doesn’t it, until you realize that how impossible the rhythm is to follow. The only saving grace is that all the solo work is, well, solo, so if we didn’t stick exactly to the rhythms or notes written we would be okay.

We drove down to Richard’s parents Thursday night so we would be there early enough for the wedding rehearsal this morning without having to fight the Bay area traffic, but we got a later start because I insisted on going to choir practice first, if only to have a chance to actually sing the song at least once all the way through.

It was painful. We were all struggling, and by the end of the night the pool of soloists had dwindled to just three of us. I burned the song onto a CD and subjected Richard to far too many repetitions of it as we drove to San Jose and back over the course of the last few days, trying desperately to figure out just how to get my notes, and how to rewrite the phrases in my head so they fit into my vocal range.

This morning during practice it finally clicked for me and for the other two soloists. When we sang it in church I think we amazed them. It's a different type of music than we normally do, but somehow, today, it worked.

I know that there is no possible way to get a recording of the songs we did for the Robert Burns dinner, even though I would love to at least have gotten a chance to hear how we really sounded (because it's very different being one of the singers than being one of the audience). Someone did record the song this morning in church. I only hope it sounds as good when I hear it again as it felt when we sang.

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