We stood shoulder to shoulder strong facing the congregation, sheets of music in-hand. The pianist was at her perch, back straight and fingers poised over the keys, waiting for the signal from our conductor, who stood at the ready, baton paused in the air for dramatic effect or a downbeat; I’m not sure which. I knew this song; we’d practiced it a hundred times and as the familiar music started, I filled my lungs with air and began to sing the alto part I know so well.
I followed along with the sheet music, as others around me sang their notes perfectly, waiting for my next entrance. All the voices harmonizing fill my head and I close my eyes to listen, waiting, expecting, knowing what comes next without watching. Through closed eyes I see the conductor as she commands the tenors and brings in the sopranos, all while those strong bass notes support our entire vocal ecosystem.
My heart rate increases; I know it’s almost my turn, but I want to savor this moment when I’m not needed and my heart fills with the blended beauty of the voices surrounding me. I feel a sharp jab to my left arm and realize it’s the elbow of the woman standing next to me. “What was that for?” I whisper, and through tightly closed lips she insists that I keep my eyes open. Not swayed by her agitation, I calmly reply, “Don’t worry. I’ve got this under control.”