I’m standing on stage wearing a nurse’s uniform.
December 2017. My first time to perform with the Jasper Men’s Chorale. We’re at the Jasper High School Theater.
My friend, the jovial Bill Young, Sr., is on stage beside me, playing a tipsy old doctor. I am dressed in a curly red wig, Coke-bottle glasses, and a 1940s nurse’s dress. I’m wearing white pumps that hurt my feet. Bill is stammering in his best Foster Brooks voice, while I’m delivering my lines in a German accent.
I look like Carrot Top and Mr. Magoo’s ugly love child.
All I wanted to do was sing.
We had a lot of fun those two nights, being silly, cracking jokes, and singing some great songs. I heard applause and lots of laughter.
This year, we sang at a few community events, like the Tree Lighting on the square downtown.
One December Friday night we met in the foyer of a local assisted living home. After exchanging handshakes and greetings, we made our way down the hall. Inside the recreation room, the residents sat around tables, some in wheelchairs, waiting for us to begin.
As the basses, leads, and baritones lined along the rear wall, the first tenors, (Eddie Brown, Stuart Upton, Pat Nelson, and me) gathered around Pat Bowden on the piano. With Joe Matthews and Garrett Lindsey alternating the directing, we launched into Feliz Navidad, several traditional Christmas carols, My Grown-Up Christmas List, and It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, among others.
That night, I was a little more nervous than usual. In rehearsals, I had depended on my friend and fellow first tenor, Jonathan Morrison, as a vocal guide of sorts. He was unable to be there that night because of work, and I was a bit concerned about making blunders. Then, something happened that erased all my fears of missing a note or two.
On a theater stage, with glaring spotlights in your eyes, you can’t always see the reactions of the audience. Under the fluorescent lighting of that recreation room, I saw every face clearly. Some were smiling, some singing along, some just listening.
Some faces didn’t smile. Five feet from me an older lady sat at a table, eyes shut tight, lips trembling, tears streaming down her face. The lady next to her had an arm curled around her friend’s shoulder, trying to console her. Perhaps the music had triggered some old memory, or maybe it was something else unrelated, but this lady was clearly moved by something.
I hope her tears were happy ones. I hope it was a pleasant memory. I hope the songs reminded her of a carefree, innocent time in her life when she caught the eye and won the heart of a dashing and handsome young man. I hope the music reminded her of snow-covered woods dotted with emerald green Christmas trees. I hope it made her think of riding on sleds with her siblings when she was a girl. I hope she thought of a Christmas when Santa brought her the exact present she had dreamed of all year. I hope we made her forget the pain and heartbreak and sufferings of this life for a while.
I hope she knows how much we enjoyed singing for her and her friends.
I hope, if I’m ever sitting in her chair, someone nice will come sing for me and my friends. I hope they will have the same warm feeling in their heart that I did that December night.
I hope you know that feeling already. If not, I hope you will know it soon.
God bless that lady and her friend.
God bless us, everyone. 78