I like the modern version of midnight mass.
At Newman, we celebrated ours at 7:30 p.m. But I arrived early because I knew there would be carols and I love a good carol or two or three.
I got there early enough that the choir was still rehearsing. And after an attempt or two at “The Holly and the Ivy” the director said, “That was kind of a train wreck.”
And I flashed back immediately to sixth grade and Sister Wilhemina. She was the choir teacher at Queen of Angels and she had no patience for those of us not born with the music in us.
“Someone is singing flat!” she announced with a great deal of ire one day in the music room. “Let’s try it again.”
In sixth grade, I didn’t know what singing flat meant. I just knew I was probably the one doing it. So I just mouthed the words the next time through and, sure enough, she declared, “That’s much better.”
That sealed the deal for me. No choir for me in high school. No choral groups in college. No singing groups at church. I am content to raise a joyful — if not always tuneful — voice to the Lord from the pews.
Nowadays, I know when I’m singing flat so I don’t need Sister Wilhemina to point it out. Still, every time a choir director expresses disgust at what she or he is hearing, I look around to see if they are pointing at me.
Not this time, I assure myself. I didn’t have the words to “The Holly and the Ivy” so I couldn’t join in even if I wanted to. But if you noticed someone off on “Angels We Have Heard on High,” that might have been me.
Sorry, Sister Wilhemina.