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A Cantor's Christmas Gift from Connecticut | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother

A Cantor's Christmas Gift from Connecticut

“Can you substitute cantor New Year’s Eve?” our church’s music director asked when she called earlier this week.  The scheduled cantor was ill.

After I mentioned my cantoring to a friend, he commented, “Once I walked into a church for the first time, and a nun walked up and asked me if I could help the choir sing.  The best way to keep get new people involved is to ask for their help.”

Yesterday, I arrived at 3:30 to review music before the 4:00 service.  It was easy, except the communion song, “Holy is His Name.” I had never heard nor sung it. I struggled with the rhythms, missed some entrances, and we ran out of rehearsal time.

“God, help me not look like a fool,” I desperately prayed.

Five minutes before we began, musician friends of mine from Connecticut walked in.  He’s music director and she’s director of religious education at churches, and they love to sing.  I grabbed them and introduced them to our music director.  “Can you help?” she immediately asked. When she learned he played guitar, she handed him one.  He quickly tuned the guitar he had never before touched.

The beginning of the Mass felt like skiing downhill on a slope for the first time, when you don’t know what will happen till you reach the bottom. We had never rehearsed and had no time to talk.

We began smoothly. I worried about the communion song.  “God, please make this ok,” I desperately prayed.

When we began singing it, I realized they had sung the song before. 

Then the miracle happened.  We had finished the verses and needed more time, so we began to repeat the refrain, “Holy, holy is His name.”  In 3-part harmony, with guitar and keyboard – using music with no harmonies written. It jelled.  My arms were covered with goosebumps from the Holy Spirit by the time we finished.

It was the most profound, moving musical experience I’ve ever had. Unrehearsed, unplanned, and totally from God.

Music gives us a chance to share our souls with the world. Sometimes, we feel the hand of God with each note. This was one of those times.

Have a feeling this is going to be a great year.  When I asked for help, it was given.

If someone asks you for help and you share your talents, great things happen.

3 Responses to “A Cantor's Christmas Gift from Connecticut”

  1. wayne McEvilly January 1, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    Thank you, Mary, for sharing this story.
    As always, you are bringing us a feeling, a message, a lesson…
    “Unrehearsed….unplanned…..and totally from God”

  2. Nancy Myrland January 1, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

    Oh, Mary, what a wonderful, moving story! Thank you so much for sharing your experience. It made me smile reading every word! :-)

  3. Dave Huffman January 2, 2011 at 9:19 pm #

    My single most favorite part of playing music in a band or a group – the unplanned, unrehearsed moments where everyone seems to lock into a rhythm or a melody…

    I’ve never been able to explain it. Sometimes it comes from hours of rehearsal & stage time. Meaning the group just knows or understands how to read each other.

    Which is fun, but you can always attribute it to something sort of physical (i.e. hours of stage time, etc.)

    But in your case above – where it develops on its own – from above – that is truly something special.

    Thanks for sharing :)

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