Have you ever had one of those nightmares where you walk into school, and someone grabs you by the arm and tells you that you're late for your presentation, and you're all "What presentation?" and you get pulled into an auditorium full of very serious people who are interested in your presentation, and you still have no idea what you're supposed to be presenting, and then you look down and you aren't wearing pants, and it's not in any of the good ways that not wearing pants can be, and everyone is looking at you and you still have no idea what you're supposed to be presenting, but it is obviously very important?
(Wow, holy run-on sentence, Batman.)
Well, that happened to me on Sunday. Ok, not exactly that same thing, but very similar. I didn't have to make a presentation exactly and I at least had an idea of what I was supposed to be doing, but I was pulled into a situation that I was not altogether prepared for and it wrecked me for a while.
I actually wasn't wearing pants, though, but since I had on a dress that didn't seem to matter.
When our minister of music picked out the Easter music earlier this year, instead of picking out a proper, ready made Easter cantata, he picked out three songs that were specifically arranged for a choir. One of those songs was called "This Blood" and it is a beautiful, very powerful, very long and kind of complicated song that was a soloist backed with a choir. Originally, the music minister wanted me to sing it and I had agreed to do it, but I was very intimidated. It wasn't exactly in my range, and it had a lot of ad lib sections that I didn't know if I could pull off. After I thought about it, I asked Jim (the music minister) if he thought me doing it was actually a good idea. Number one, I'm not exactly in the choir. I am the sound tech and I really enjoy doing that job. I've sung with the choir as a featured singer, but I never know if people get offended that he'd pull me in to do a solo since there are so many other people already in the choir that are available. Number two, it's such an awesome song, I didn't want to screw it up. I suppose he must've had second thoughts about me doing it as well, because a week later he told me that he'd asked another choir member to sing it instead of me. To be honest, I was relieved. I really liked the song, and wanted to sing it at some point, but it was supposed to be the climax of the Easter music service and that is a lot of pressure, even at a relatively small church such as ours.
Jim is such a sweetheart and he was convinced that by asking someone else to sing, that he had hurt my feelings. That wasn't the case, but he was genuinely worried about it. He fretted so much that I finally told him that I'd learn the song on my own as the understudy of the woman he'd asked to do it. We do not generally have understudies for our choir, so I mainly offered to do it to make him feel better about the whole thing. I didn't really bother to learn the song, because what are the odds that the woman wouldn't be able to sing on Easter Sunday, right? I mean, I knew the song well enough from sitting in the sound booth and listening to her during practice, but that was pretty much it. I knew enough of it, but not enough to perform the song.
The soloist Jim had picked had been working her ass off for weeks learning this song. She had the range, but she mainly sings country/gospel songs, and this was not in her comfort zone. She was very worried that she couldn't do it, but she could do it and she was coming along very well during practices. She practiced during Wednesday choir practice and sometimes on Sundays in between services. She was very dedicated. She was also terrified of singing this song, but she had a lot of encouragement, and I think she was feeling better about the whole thing.
Saturday afternoon, I got a call at about 2:00 PM from Jim telling me that the soloist was sick and she didn't know if she'd be able to sing, and he wanted me to be ready to sing just in case she wouldn't be there. I believe my initial reaction was a silent, but very intense "F*ck!!!!!" I didn't say that to the music minister, of course, but I felt it in every cell of my body. I'd been telling him this whole time I'd learned the song, but of course, I had not. As I said, I knew it enough, but not enough to perform it, but I told him I'd be ready, just in case. After we got off of the phone, I went to my computer and played the song on repeat for two hours. I didn't know all of the words, so I had to pull them up on the iPad to look at while I was making strawberry pretzel salad (the word salad doesn't make sense here, but just go with me. At least it didn't catch on fire.) to take to my mom's house for Easter lunch. So in between making a horrendous mess and getting covered in jello and whipped cream (also not in any of the good ways that can usually happen) I learned the words to the song, tried to figure out the ad-lib parts, and tried not to have a complete nervous come-apart. I also didn't know if I'd actually have to do it at all, because for all we knew, the lady would be much better by the next day, but that didn't help me feel better about it!
I barely slept the night before because all I could think of was how badly I could screw up the song if I had to sing it. My whole thing was this: church music can be incredibly important in setting the tone for the service, and I know from experience that if you really, really screw up a song, that will be the only thing people will remember when everything is over. I didn't want that to happen since there would be people visiting because of Easter and I didn't want to take away from the service. I was also supposed to sing "Via Dolorosa" before the choir songs, because that song is kind of a tradition for our church and I know how to pronounce the Spanish parts. Y'all, I was so scared. I know it doesn't sound like a big deal, and it shouldn't have been one, but I'd gotten so psyched out about everything that I was convinced I was going to ruin church forever!
When I got to church the next morning, sure enough, the soloist couldn't come because not only was she sick, but she had completely lost her voice. My nightmare solo was a go. Oy. I only got to practice twice before services and then everything happened. I got through "Via Dolorosa" just fine, and went to stand with the choir after that and pretended (I mean, literally, I mouthed the words to the song like a freaking muppet) to sing the next song with them. By the time it was time for me to do the other song, I'd worried so much that I broke through to the other side and managed to sing the song without any major incidences. I know that sounds anticlimactic and everything, but I was so relieved that I didn't ruin the song. I'm sure it wasn't as good as it could have been, and that if I'd practiced the way the original soloist had done, it would have been much, much better, but I didn't mess it up at least. I was so riled up by the whole thing that by the time I got back to the sound booth to finish the services, I had no idea what the pastor talked about. I honestly don't remember big chunks of Easter Sunday services. That's just how nervous I had gotten.
Anyway, as it turned out, for a last minute, barely practiced solo, it wasn't terrible and I didn't ruin Easter.
And not ruining Easter is a good thing!
BTW, this is the song I sang yesterday, only we used a recording, there wasn't any hand waving that I know of, and our choir is much smaller.