Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Heaven on Earth?

About two years ago
I received a phone call
from the man who is now my pastor.
He asked me to come to his parish
to direct the children’s choir.
After some discussion
I accepted
and I started rehearsals
at the end of September 2008.

It was a very messy process.
There were discipline issues,
both in behavior
and in commitment to the project at hand.

But directing children’s choirs
is one of the things I like best.
And,
to be quite honest,
I think it’s one of the things
I do best.

Children are eager.
They learn quickly.

Now,
that’s not to say
that teaching them is always easy.
A rehearsal must be well planned out.
You can’t skip a beat,
not even when a child comes in late
and their mom has a question.
If you lose their attention,
even for a second,
you need to know how to get it back
in an instant.
But if you know how to teach them,
children just learn quickly.

And children don’t have opinions
the way adults do.
Now,
I love working with adult choirs,
so please don’t get me wrong.
But adults are quick to tell you
that a song is too high,
too low,
too fast,
too slow.
They are quick to tell you
that they don’t like a particular melody
or that the song doesn’t fit
this or that particular mass.

Not so with children.

They just sing whatever is presented to them.

But this particular group of children,
well,
let me just say that
anything you can think of inner city
was/is going on in their lives.

I have children who are survivors
of domestic violence.

There was one child that I thought had measles.
When I asked about it
the child responded that
“Mom just can’t get rid of the bed bugs
no matter how much she cleans.”

One evening I came in
and one of the children was already there.
I unlocked and opened the church door
and suggested that she wait at the entrance
until I turned on the lights
so she wouldn’t have to walk through a dark church.
And then she said,
“It’s OK.
I’m used to seeing by candlelight in the dark.
Sometimes my daddy can’t pay the bills.”

Many of these children
live in neighborhoods
with abandoned buildings.

There is a woman
who comes to beg for money sometimes,
standing just outside the church entrance.
To me,
she has sort of become an unofficial greeter.
She is there just about every Sunday
before the rest of the community.
I don’t know her story,
as she doesn’t speak much.
When I try to start up a conversation with her,
she often just walks away.

One child knows her well.
She said, “That’s so-and-so.
She lives in the abandoned house
next door to me.”
I don’t know what hurt me more,
the fact that this woman
lives in an abandoned building
or that the child
just saw it
as a matter-of-fact circumstance.

These are just some of the fabulous children
that form this choir.

And then,
there is one child who is taking guitar lessons.
And I just learned
that two of these children
will be taking piano lessons
in the summer sessions with me
at the performing arts school where I teach.

Somehow,
God has called all of these children together
to form this choir.
What a magnificent God we have!

This past Saturday
the kids sang in concert.
Now,
we’ve done a few concerts already,
but something was different about this one.
Something was just so different about this one.

One of my personal goals
when I took this ministry on
was to have the children
singing in parts
by the end of my second year with them.
Now,
if you would have seen them
at the start of this project,
one wouldn’t think this possible.
Their attention span
was all over the board.
And again,
the discipline thing was. . .
well. . . let’s just say
that they needed refining.

I formed them into two choirs:
Choir 1 and Choir 2
(Soprano and alto).
It took them awhile to get it.
At first they thought
I was separating them
into two different choirs.
But I finally got them to understand
it was about singing in parts.

At the concert on Saturday
they debuted some of the music
they have been working on.
The seemingly unattainable goal
of having them sing in parts
has been attained!

And you know,
I think they knew it.
They knew and understood
that this was big milestone.
And I think they sang so well
because they knew they had managed
to do something major.
They have started to ask me
if we will be forming a “Choir 3" and “Choir 4.”
Little do they know
that I have Taize plans. . . .
. . .something they should be able to accomplish
at this point!. . . .

My babies did great
in the concert on Saturday.
My Beautiful Bilingual Babies
were awesome!
Those in attendance
actually gave them
a standing ovation.
“Nothing gives me greater joy
than to know that my children
are walking in truth.”
(3 John 1:4)

Four of the children,
for a variety of reasons,
could not participate in the concert.

Two children in attendance
asked if they could join the choir.

Another child who left the group
wishes to return
now that he understands
a little something about
long range visioning and planning.

So,
next time around,
the photos and video
will have at least seven more children.

My ultimate goal
is a Children’s Choir
of forty-five members.
Wouldn’t that be just awesome????

And one of the parents
volunteered as choir secretary
to help me keep lists and phone numbers in order.

. . and you know,
I don’t remember where the statistic came from,
but at an NPM conference
many years ago,
a speaker stated
that some 80%
of people who sing in choirs as adults
sang in a choir as a child.
This being the case,
Detroit is Making
some Marvelous Music Ministers!!!

Yeah,
inner city Detroit. . .
. . . would it be a stretch to say
this is heaven on earth????

- - - - - - - - -
St. Gabriel's Children's Choir
singing "El Fuego Cae"
Detroit, MI - June 19th, 2010 Concert

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sometimes it takes a miracle to find God, other times just a song. I know from past experience God is all around us, but we have to open our hearts and souls to see Him. The children choir is just such an opportunity for that grace. May God bless your minsitry, and the children. And, may they live to see their childrens', childrens' children sing glory to God. -- A friend from Saint Elizabeth's church, who been touch by your work.

Rubi said...

. . and the two children who came up to me after concert made good on the their word!

A Big Welcome to The Children's Choir of St. Gabriel, Detroit to Elizabeth B. and Angelica E.!!!

Anonymous said...

Repito y sostengo: Fue una gran bendición y un privilegio poder acompañarte y a los niños el sábado. Gracias por otorgarme la oportunidad. ¡Que se repita muy pronto! ¡Bendiciones!

Proyecto Artifice said...

Es increible, pero cierto; Dios nos llama a una relación personal de amistad y la música es el medio por excelencia. Algunbos no ven y no saben de los beneficios de ser parte de un Coro, ya sea cantando y/o tocando un instrumento musical...
Pero los que lo saben, lo aprovechan. Esta comprobado que en el aprendizaje de nuevas abilidades, el cerebro desarrolla una nueva circuitería; entonces, te haces más inteligente.
Además, de ejercitar las cuerdas vocales y desarrollar la capacidad de expresión linguística, el ser parte de un coro sirve también para cultivar valores y virtudes; por ejemplo, la puntualidad, el aseo personal, la capacidad de trabajar en equipo, las abilidades de socialización, la satisfación de persiguir y lograr metas junto con otros, crecer en adoración y alabanza a Dios-que es una actividad humana por excelencia.
Además se alimenta y se nutre la fe.
He visto además que se va construyendo una comunidad. Las convivencias después de los conciertos han sido lindas. Las mamás trayendo galletas, agua fresca, ensaladas, pastas... y sirviendo la nieve de vainilla y de chocolate.
Gracias Señor por dejarnos ver tu amor y tu gloria trabajando en medio de nosotros.