November 25, 2012
Sunday, 4:00 p.m.
Letter #252: Down and Out or … Up and at ’Em?
This week of Thanksgiving I had much to be grateful for … from great friends to great food and so many of life’s simple pleasures, such as the amazing sunrises, sunsets, and moonscapes we experience here in Arizona. And, for the first time ever, the La Palma Community Choir performed.
A few months ago, when I stepped down (or out?) of the Christian church choir leadership role, I chose to stay involved in leading a choir practice on Saturdays, which was open not only to the church choir but also to other interested singers or singer wannabe’s. (This was due to the fact that Saturday choir rehearsals were not under the church leadership, but rather were something our volunteer, Sister Peggy, and I added.)
Due to my rather high-profile departure, the church leadership all of a sudden took note of these Saturday rehearsals and banned the church choir members from participating. They claimed they didn’t want the church guys singing stuff that was contradictory to their faith—though the songs we were rehearsing were “The Hallelujah Chorus” and classic Christmas carols. (I know: darn facts! They always ruin perfectly good arguments.)
Well, I steered clear of the controversy by being supportive of my church leadership’s decisions, even after meeting with the board (again!) and explaining the facts, which no one had bothered to ask me about. I had to start an entirely new choir from scratch, composed largely of guys from a different compound and from all sorts of faith and non-faith backgrounds. I was encouraged by their enthusiasm.
Just two months ago, I was asked to participate in the GED graduation exercises, to be held the day before Thanksgiving. This would be my tenth such graduation ceremony since being out of state, my seventh since being at this facility for 1½ years.
I enjoy the change of pace a graduation ceremony brings, as well as the perks of the job: cake, outside food, pictures, and the fun of performing, but most of all, I like creating new challenges for myself, pushing myself to do something I haven’t done before. At past graduations, I’ve sung the National Anthem as a solo, trained a group to sing an arrangement of the National Anthem written by my brothers and me (by listening over and over to a recording so I could pick out my brothers’ parts to teach to the guys), and played and sung the Mexican National Anthem. I’ve accompanied Sister Peggy as a soloist and have sung with her.
However, recently I’ve wanted to use graduations as an outlet for the choir to perform—especially since they don’t have church services to “perform” in. Besides one guy in my choir, none of the guys had ever performed anything on stage, and half had never sung in front of a group—ever. We sang a barbershop quartet arrangement of “America the Beautiful” for the graduates’ entry, the “Star Spangled Banner,” and an inspirational song Sister Peggy chose: “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
Sister Peggy and one of the guys sang the classical song “The Prayer,” with my accompaniment, but the most fun I had was my remake of Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days,” a song about fond memories of high school. Because it referenced drinking five times in its three verses, I changed it up a bit (see lyrics below).
One guy soloed while I played keys, and the rest of the guys sang the choruses in harmony while doing a cheesy dance step. It was hilarious, and everyone loved it. I enjoyed letting other guys have the glamorous spots, and I practiced staying out of the limelight with grace and tact.
We prayed together before and after the performance, asking God to bless our efforts and to use us to be a blessing to the guys on their special day. Several staff members commented on how good we sounded, but God sees my heart, and I know He’s pleased with my motives and attitude. Up next: some kind of a Christmas thingy. We’ll see.
La Palma Days
Music: Bruce Springsteen (“Glory Days”)
I used to be a football player back in high school
I could sneak a touchdown by you, make you look like a fool, boy
But I got caught up in a life of crime, I was lost in sin, I was all strung out
I got locked up for a while, had time to think, but all I kept thinkin’ about
La Palma days, well, they’ll pass you by
La Palma days, in the blink of your momma’s eye
La Palma days, La Palma days (Repeat)
Well I really didn’t have much to do, so I went back to school
I did my best, took lots of tests, I studied like a fool, boy
Got better at the stuff that I never liked; it was happenin’, I had no more doubt
My time was well spent, I knew; I got my GED, and now I can brag about (Chorus)
Soon I’ll be gone; I’ll be heading home, that’s right—I’m done; I’m cool
I’ve learned my lesson—I tell ya, I’m nobody’s fool, boy
I’ve made a big change in my life; I’m workin’, putting all my time into gettin’ out
This time I’ll do good, stay clean, live a good life, but I’ll never forget about (Chorus)
Yes, thanks to DelSordi, Prince, and Ms. Carr, I have somethin’ to brag about! (Chorus)