I was at local coffee shop today and ran into Halifax’s version of Kramer (Seinfeld), Hugh Creighton. I love Hugh. He is absolutely authentic, says what he means, no filters. Recently Hugh was to attend a funeral for a woman who possessed all of the things any human would want. Hugh knew there was nothing he could offer that this family needed. So Hugh did what Hugh does best, he thought outside the box, he wondered what would honour this friend, bring joy to her family and enhance the celebration of her life. He would slip into the choir.
I’ve noticed at a few recent funerals friends of the deceased joining the established choir, slipping on a gown, swelling the numbers of those who stand behind the speakers at the celebration. Choirs are hard to muster at the best of times but a funeral on a weekday morning or afternoon presents a challenge to choir members. Working members simply cannot go to a funeral that is held 9-5 and retired members often have commitments of their own. A typical 15 member choir might be full strength on a Sunday but at a funeral you’d be lucky to find 7 or 8. For the family and friends of the deceased this can look somewhat underwhelming.
And there is another issue. Choirs aren’t just for anthems or special music. Increasingly those who gather to celebrate someone’s life a) don’t go to church and thus don’t know many hymns and b) don’t like to sing in public. So the hymns that we sing at funerals, chosen either because they were special to the deceased or because they are meaningful to the family, will not be sung with the spirit or energy needed without a good sized choir to lead.
Choirs appreciate recruits at times like these. I wonder if choir leaders might want to start institutionalizing this process, putting something in the bulletin to offer people an opportunity to make such a difference, supplying people with directions to the choir room, where the gowns are located, etc… If there are designated seats or folders for each choir member consider leaving extras and open spots at funeral services so it is easy for someone off the street to blend in.
One last thing, you never know how this experience will affect the singer her/himself. Consider that someone who has not sung in a choir for many years or has never sung in a choir might well be inspired to take a leap and join an established choir, a church choir, a community choir, or some group like the You Gotta Sing choir.
Thank you Hugh. You are one of my favorite critters…