Last night at 7 pm, my husband Andy disappeared out the door with three of our girls, heading off to the weekly church choir practice. As usual, Gemma-Rose and I were left behind at home.

“What shall we do this evening?” Gemma-Rose asked me.

We discussed the options and decided to make mugs of hot chocolate and watch a movie together.

We enjoy our Tuesday mother-daughter time, but one day it will come to an end. You see, Gemma-Rose has ambitions. She wants to join the choir as well. She even wants to be the psalm cantor at Sunday Mass just like big sister Imogen. Yes, when she is a bit older, she will be disappearing out the door on Tuesday evenings too.

Every Sunday at Mass, Gemma-Rose sings the hymns with enthusiasm and enjoyment. She expects me to sing just as enthusiastically. But I don’t. I’m not a singer. If the notes rise too high, I abandon singing altogether. Until my youngest daughter notices.

“We’re up to here,” Gemma-Rose whispers, jabbing her finger at the words in the hymn book. She thinks she's being helpful. 

“I know,” I whisper back. The only way to avoid being watched is to open my mouth and make a sound. So I do. Quietly.

On every first Sunday, the parish choir sings at the 9 am Mass. As our family enters the church, our choir members peel off and head to one side towards the organ. Gemma-Rose and I continue down the centre aisle before slipping into a pew. We sit side-by-side, not taking up much space. 

One day I said, “When Gemma-Rose joins the choir I’ll be sitting in the church by myself.”

“You could join the choir too, Mum,” someone said.

“But I can’t sing,” I protested.

“You don’t need to be able to sing, Mum.”

The ad in our parish bulletin does say:

Choir practice. Tuesday evening. All welcome. No singing ability needed.

“No ‘singing ability needed’ means you don’t need to be able to read music,” I said. “And if you don't have any experience singing in parts, that's okay. But I think the musical director expects you to be able to sing at least a few notes in tune.” Which I can’t.

“You could learn to sing,” suggested Sophie. “Imogen could teach you.”

Imogen already gives Sophie and Gemma-Rose singing lessons. She could give me some as well. But somehow that all sounds a bit frightening.

Fear aside, it would be nice to be able to sing. I could raise my voice with everyone else and not be embarrassed. That might be very enjoyable. And I could take my place, with my family, in the choir. 

Or I could not learn to sing and sit by myself in a pew in the main body of the church.

Of course, I wouldn’t really be sitting by myself. In our parish, no one sits alone in a pew. It’s one of those small and intimate communities where most people know each other, at least by sight. We greet the same people, week after week, smile at each other and feel we belong. 

But, even though I'd be sitting with my fellow parishioners, I wouldn’t be sitting shoulder to shoulder with Gemma-Rose. Her hand wouldn’t reach out for mine as we listen to Father’s homily. She wouldn’t be checking up on me regularly, making sure I was actually singing.

It’s funny how things change. Not so long ago, our family had to squash together to fit into one pew. Between Andy and I there’d be children of all ages. Nowadays our pew is looking a little bare. Some days there’s even enough room left over for other people to share it with us. And once a month on choir Sunday, Gemma-Rose and I sit alone, taking up hardly any space at all.

So shall I learn to sing? Or will I resign myself to one day sitting alone in a pew?

Photos: These were taken before we left for the Easter Vigil Mass. Three of the girls are dressed up in their 'choir black and whites.'

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  1. It wouldn't hurt to give it a go? :)

    1. Kelly,

      You are right. Perhaps I will give singing a go!

  2. You should do it! Our older girls had a singing teacher who thought people could learn to sing at any age. It must be nice to be able to sing praises with a beautiful voice. xxx

  3. Lovely daughters you have, Sue! I can't sing, totally tone deaf, off key, etc. Painful I'm sure for people around me when I do sing, I've learned to sing quietly. So I get it with you if you think your talents aren't up there to maybe forego the choir, though fun family activity :)

    I sit by myself when hubby plays in the worship band at church. He comes down after the songs and goes back towards the end of the sermon. I've gotten used to sitting by myself and telling people who want to sit on the end of the row that they can't, LOL, since I'm saving it for him (he likes to sit on the end to make it easier to get up and leave during the sermon, less noticeable than if he was in the middle of the row).


    1. Betty,

      I'm an expert at singing quietly. When the notes get too high, my voice disappears completely!

      I bet you enjoy listening to your husband play in the worship band. Even though I am not musical, I do enjoy the music my family produces. It's lovely your husband can join you for at least part of the service. We know all about saving a seat at the end of the pew. When our children were smaller, I was always disappearing out the church door with a noisy child. I always hoped my seat would still be empty when I returned. Actually, I don't suppose there was much danger of anyone joining our pew in my absence. Not many people would choose to sit in the same pew as a family with wriggly children!

  4. Ah, there was a time when I would have given an eye tooth to be able to sit in a pew by myself. Not so now.

    Perhaps you can continue to pretend to sing while "singing" with the choir? :)

    1. Christine,

      I'd forgotten those days when I yearned for some quiet time in a pew by myself. They seem a long time ago. You are so right: Things change! Pretend to sing while 'singing' with the choir? Oh yes, I do like that idea. Actually I think there are already some choir members who do that!

  5. This is so dear a post Sue! I can relate as our pew has grown smaller with my son moving to Colorado last year. I miss the crowded-ness, the intimacy, and the younger people who have grown up so much with one away as I mentioned. Sing away! while they are still up in the loft to sing with!!! Enjoy...I certainly did reading your writing!!! Love your new blog!! Best blessing!

    1. Cynthia,

      Singing and pews sound like such small details of our lives, but I was hoping others could relate to my words. And you can! Maybe one day our pews will start to look crowded again as children and grandchildren come to visit. Doesn't that sound good? Oh yes, I must sing while my family is still here to sing with!

      Blogging is such a wonderful experience when it is shared with encouraging friends like you. Thank you for your kind words! God bless you!

  6. And your young ladies are beautiful like you!!

  7. I enjoy singing. And I do it enthusiastically. I had no idea I am somewhat tone deaf until I sang for the first time with the Husband when we were courting each other. He's a musician and it bothered him that I would get off key now and then Oh, well, I said, and kept on singing. Over time, he got used to my singing voice and now mostly groans to himself when I get off key. Sometimes he helps me find the key. We sound pretty good when I'm on key. La la la. A few months ago, he thought my singing improved. That, dear, Sue, is my story. I say give it a try -- either choir or your daughter teaching you to sing. Lots of joy in singing, even if you go off key now and then. :-)

    1. Susie,

      I'm surrounded by musicians too so that's how I also know I sing off-key! I can imagine the fun you and the Husband have singing together. When he groans, I bet he is smiling too. Yes, singing is joyful and when we are at home, I have lots of fun singing loudly and making my own family groan. I pretend to be a bass which somehow seems easier than being a soprano like Imogen. I suspect my range is alto. I might find out for sure if I have some lessons!


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