A disclaimer for the frum and soon-to-be heart attacked readers of this blog: Judaism is a deep part of my soul and identity, and I am not compromising that connection. Conversely, my Jewish connection is strong enough and secure enough to allow me to pull from the spirituality, teachings and gems of the world.
Just over a year ago, I posted a piece on the blog entitled “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!“. This post is about glory of a different kind… :-)
I admire the way that black women hold themselves – specifically how many black women sing and easily become one with whatever music they are moving to. In 2009, I rocked out with my little sister to Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten” (skip to 2:48 in the music video) for weeks and weeks, and wrote a bit about the power of black women’s voice and movement in a borderline controversial blog post over the summer.
Every now and then, I have thought: Wouldn’t it be the most amazing thing in the world to join a black gospel choir? Well, in the words of my Jewish ancestors and Ethics of Our Fathers: If not now, when? So I have!!!
I did some research over the summer and identified the most energetic, talented and prestigious black gospel choir in central Texas… conveniently located across the street from the co-op that I would soon be accepted into. I called the church office over and over again until one day the choir president called back.
We had a lovely conversation and he instructed me to prepare my “favorite hymn” for the audition. My in-head reaction was: ”Hymn? What’s a hymn? I don’t know what a hymn is!” and my “is this really happening?!” adventure was off to a start.
I selected three songs to sing for the choir’s musical director that showcased different parts of my voice (Encourage Yourself, This Little Light of Mine and Poor Wandering One). When my little sister Jess found out that I was going to be singing Poor Wandering One (a Gilbert & Sullivan song that had become a joke in our family), she begged me to switch the selection and picked out a wonderfully soulful alternative that I added to my audition list:
At first, I was scared sh**less. I’m pretty ballsy, but walking into a church as the only white and the only Jewish person to audition for the premier black gospel choir in town? That takes chutzpah!
But then I couldn’t stop smiling. I don’t mean for this to sound ignorant, but – with the little interaction that I’ve had with the black community and with everyone going “Hey brotha!” and “Hey sista!” and doing that snapping “mm-mm-mm” thing – my unfiltered reaction was: Oh my G-d! It’s just like on TV!
But on a more serious note, I felt loved and embraced by the choir. Practice was opened with a prayer in which they thanked the Lord for having brought me into their lives and having allowed me to find them at this crucial time in my life. If only they knew how true their words were – to find a community like this and be able to sing out to the universe, our spirits altogether… Wow. I was very touched and – over the past month – have indeed felt very loved and loving of my brothers and sisters in the choir.
Stay tuned for a couple of not-to-be-missed funny and powerful stories about my first Sunday service in the next post. Details to come!
posted by ayo