A little while ago I was listening to some music being streamed by Amazon Music when I heard a song that took me back to the early days of guitars in church. At least in Catholic churches. My sister learned to play a guitar first, teaching herself. I had always wanted to learn so then she taught me. And she signed us up to play Sunday Mass at a local church. It was a small one, almost a mission church, and with MEG at the front I was happy to try it.
I think it was about 1971, Meg and I were going to make the Midnight Mass something special that year. We enlisted some of the kids in the congregation and even a few adults to help out in the new group we had formed. For weeks we practiced for that Mass. We were all psyched up for something great.
In the meantime our sister from out of state came home for Christmas, bringing a guest with her. A very unwelcome guest as it turned out. Naturally we all went in to mom’s house to welcome her home and hear all the latest news from her part of the country, as well as to have our favorite food. Mom had been cooking for a while getting everything ready for Christmas dinner, but we were allowed to sample the brown and serve rolls, homemade, of course from an old recipe still in the family today. The caramels were brought out, as well as pecan pie and the cake of the day, orange slice cake I think. We spent several hours catching up as all the family who lived away came home one by one, or family by family.
All was well for a couple of days. With Meg doing the high sounds and playing lead guitar I didn’t have a worry in the world. Christmas Eve finally arrived and I took a nap so I would be wide awake for Midnight Mass. I also went over some of the songs to be sure I would remember the tunes. It’s amazing how easy it is to forget the music to Silent Night when you are nervous. I didn’t worry much though because Meg would be there. She has the talent. She has the skill. She can make a guitar speak. Nothing to worry about.
Oh yeah? The hammer fell late in the afternoon when Meg called. Her voice barely above a whisper, tears in her words, she broke the news. Smc’s guest had reared it’s ugly face. Everyone at Mom’s house had the flu! Including and especially Meg! I had to be the lead at Midnight Mass.
The big problem for me is that I can’t hit the high notes in Christmas carols, and they all have high notes. Some go from the basement to the sky in the same work. I’m an alto or at best second soprano. And I had to lead the singing? But Meg reminded me that a few of the kids in the new group had great voices that could hit those notes, so all I had to do was get them assembled and started. HA!
Time arrived and most of the kids sat back down when I told them Meg wouldn’t be there and it was up to us. So there I was, all alone behind the microphone, guitar shaking in my hands, popping lozenges to keep my mouth moist each time it dried out. Father gave the signal, he was ready to begin. In a quavering voice I began the opening procession, “O Come, O Come Emanuel “. Father sang along, and as fear took over my voice became higher and higher and all of a sudden I was hitting those notes Even the highest ones were hit spot on. My group began to form around me and it happened! Our very own Christmas miracle. I had never before done that, and I never have again but that night the angels were helping out and we formed a heavenly choir.
When Mass was over there were so many people gathered around to congratulate us, and the statement I heard most was “I didn’t know you could sing like that!” I could only tell them it was news to me also, but it’s amazing what fear can do for the human voice.
So, I never heard animals talk, but that night I heard angels singing right there in that little mission church. Joy To The World! And Alleluia.
Oh, the song that made me remember that night is “Lord, Teach Us to Pray” by Joe Wise. He’s on UTube, but I wasn’t able to put it on here. Just not that good at doing things on the computer.