Back in the day, I was a member of the UCC church (located next to the famous Sanders store in Greenville, Maine) and I sang in the choir. I sat in the back row with four other men – three undertakers, a dentist and me. We were singing a one hour cantata for Easter. And we had practiced much. The choir director was Ray Miservy’s granddaughter, Eva Davis. She was a nice lady with musical ability who had volunteered to help us get ready for Easter.
The problem was there came up a man’s solo and we had no men’s soloist. So we back row men took out a coin and flipped it. I lost. I had to take the solo. I could range in both directions – tenor or base. Base I preferred.
Now I would go out in the woods and stand under a birch tree to practice. I had heard that it is important to sing from the diaphragm and I tried my best to do so. Standing there in a grove of trees behind my Pleasant Street house, I let my voice soar. ’I knowww that my redeemer liveth.’ I hated to spoil anything because the choir was doing such a great job. We were singing this cantata in three parts and all – soprano, alto, and men.
So after weeks of practicing, Easter Sunday came around and we all filed up to the choir loft. We men were dressed in our best suits and ties with our hair slicked back as was the style. The women looked nice gussied up in their Sunday finest; some even wore Easter hats. As we stood to sing the sun shone through the stained glass windows and the Easter lilies at the front of the church added to the beauty of the day. Standing there with my fellow choir members, I felt excited and ready to do my part to make this Easter morning service a resounding success.
I was a little nervous but determined to sing to the best of my ability. The cantata began and I thought it sounded great. I was more than ready when my solo time came. I jumped in it with all my might, remembering to sing from the diaphragm.’I knoooow that my Redeeeemer liveth…..” I sang straight from the heart and I don’t know what it sounded like to anyone else, but I know it was beyond my normal voice, very loud and full of power. I sang with gusto and feeling and outdid all my practice sessions.
Well, we got through the cantata in extremely good voice. At the end of an hour we came down off the choir loft. In the first pew sat Jess Drew, a kind and sweet older lady. Understand this- Jess taught singing, although she never taught me. She held singing lessons at her house and had a reputation for being one of the best in town! Not only was Jess Drew built like an opera star (pleasantly plump), she could sing like one too. And for good measure, she had a daughter and son who did quite well in musical careers. I had noticed her sitting there as we sang and I hoped she was impressed.
Anyway, as I came down from the choir loft after the cantata and church service was over, Jess Drew was the first to greet me. She took one of my hands in both of hers, looked me right in the eyes and gave me this wonderful encouragement. “Eddie,’ she said earnestly and sincerely, ‘You knew just how to sing that solo!’ Well, I thought, I guess I did do a good job. But then she added this heartfelt and honest remark, ‘It’s a shame you don’t have a voice!’
By Viv Walden and Gramps Walden