November 27, 2011
Thursday, 6:00 p.m.
Letter #201: This Little Light of Mine
After the last graduation ceremony here a couple of months ago, the school principal who had asked me to participate suggested that for the next GED and vocational graduation I should sing a “motivational” song, besides my duties on the piano/pipe organ (“Pomp and Circumstance March”) and singing our National Anthem. When Dr. DelSordi said that I could have the choir sing the motivational song, I jumped at the chance. Normally, I’ve been the only one from the chapel—besides the sound guy—who got to go, that wasn’t one of the graduates, tutors, or staff. The opportunity to have “real” food and enjoy a day away from the normal monotonous day-after-day I knew would be a real blessing to the choir, many who never get visits.
I began teaching then an arrangement to “This Little Light of Mine” I came up with. I figured that the primary goal of the choir should be to be invited back, so I didn’t want something that sounded too “churchy” or “preachy.” If we could show some guys what it sounds like in church, we may intrigue them to attend a Sunday service. If we could make the song relevant to the day and the big moment of significance for so many guys, plus weave in a bit about God, I knew we’d hit all possible targets in my objective list.
Those of you who know me well can probably guess what I did next: I wrote a custom song. Well, a rap, actually. Here’s how it was designed: first, the choir (12 members) sings in unison slowly through the little song. Then, we add harmonies and turn it from a church-sound to a jazz-sound. Next, for a pop sound, we had a soloist (Phillip) sing it up an octave—super high-pitched!—while everyone else “oohed” a harmony backdrop. Then, replicating the Jackson 5, we had a guy do a beat-box with his mouth while the choir sang “This Little Light of Mine, woh-wa-woh-woh” etc. Then, a different guy took over the beat, the choir “oohed” the melody, and the first beat-box guy did my rap. Lastly, we all sang a pepped-up rendition of the song. Well, that was the plan.
Dr. DelSordi was worried I’d be able to pull it off, getting a choir special ready with only an hour a week of practice time, squeezed into our already tight schedule, since we have a worship service to prepare for every week. (Since I have a different guy lead every week, our practice time, no matter how brief, is vital.) He arranged to listen in on one of our practices—and loved it. He took a copy of the rap portion of the song and said he’d include it in the graduation program, so that everyone could benefit by the words. All was well, I thought.
The day before the graduation, I found out that security had only authorized three of my twelve choir members! I asked for—and received—permission for the two beat-box guys as well. The morning of the graduation in the visiting room, we got together in the tiny restroom and practiced through the song a few times. We prayed that God would get much glory and that Dr. DelSordi would look good to his superiors, including the head principal, Ms. Carr.
Everything went smoothly. Our little group of five (Phillip, me, and three others), which included our rap guy who cannot sing, did our best. The song had my desired effect: at first we received rolled eyes and snickers … which quickly changed to murmurs of approval. By the end of the song, we had the crowd and they let us know it. What a relief when it was over!
We enjoyed the Subway sandwiches, chips, soda, and real banana-filled cake and all had a great time visiting with our very own special volunteer, Sister Peggy. Afterward, I was told the warden wants us to record the song, and the head principal said she is going to call up an associate of hers who works for a local Clear Channel radio station to ask her to come listen and record us for possible airplay on their “Amateur Night.” It was a clear indicator that she thought we sounded alright, at least, for which we thanked the Lord. I’ve enclosed part of the program for you to read what I wrote.
Thank you for praying! God is good to me. He continues to amaze me with all He has in store. May I prove faithful to run this race.