Empowerment. Engagement. Authenticity.

Take Me Back - A Choirgirl at Heart

In Vancouver's Christchurch Cathedral, organ music crescendoed, multi-part vocals soaring in its wake. I was on my feet with the rest of the appreciative audience, the mantra of my grade school choir mistress coming to mind.

"You are singing to the Lord," Mrs. Sammy constantly reminded us. "Smile and sound joyful."

Every Christmas, we stood in rows on a raised dais in the decorated schoolyard, angelic and festive in white cotton dresses and red satin capes that curved around our shoulders. Each small pair of hands clutched a songbook, emblazoned with our school crest and the motto "Knowledge is Light." I looked around at the other girls and wondered at the apprehension behind their forced smiles and bright eyes.

"Eyes on me," Mrs. Sammy trilled, nudging bashful chins up with her brisk fingers, brown eyes never missing a detail despite her thick spectacles, silver-grey hair drawn into the tidiest bun I'd ever seen.

I was beaming. Not just because I felt pretty in the dress Grandma had made me, with its lace embroidery copied from a bridal magazine, or because of the trio of silk roses pinned among my black curls, but because I loved to sing. Singing always made me smile and feel joyful, whether I was singing to the Lord or to my dolls or to myself in the shower.

Back in the present, listening to the Good Noise Gospel Choir, I smiled at the memory of getting scolded for singing Whitney Houston's 'All The Man That I Need' a little too 'joyfully' for my mother's liking.

"Proper young ladies do not sing such things," Mom lectured.

It tugged at the tip of my tongue to ask why but I nodded meekly.

Okay, my adult self reasoned now, so maybe a ten-year old singing about a man filling her up and giving her love wasn't appropriate, but did my mom really think I cared about the lyrics? Back then, I was just a kid who loved to sing along with her transistor radio.

Now, the Good Noise choir leader was urging the audience to join in. Most of the room elected to clap in time to the music instead. Thinking of Mrs. Sammy, who would curve her arms in a dramatic charade of a smile meant to coax our mouths into obedience, I sang to the Lord and to the memory of little choir girls in red capes.


(c) Kristy Kassie, 2017


Take Me Back

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