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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Life as a Member of The Shepherd's Ensemble

Choirs are not choirs unless they make mistakes while singing in places packed with hundreds of people. Choirs are not choirs if the members don't get hoarse sometimes. And choirs are not choirs if they don't learn their mistakes and look for a way to overcome the obstacles lying in the paths.

The Shepherd's Ensemble is the choir of Grace Fundamental Baptist Church. It has a good number of sopranos (with small voices), a few altos (with big, strong voices), a small number of tenors (with powerful voices), and also a small number of basses (with strong-enough voices).
This choir was formed in the same year when the GFBC Choir disbanded...which was *pauses and thinks* sometime in the Year 2004, if I am not mistaken. During that year, the new GFBC Choir, known as The Shepherd's Ensemble, performed in a thanksgiving concert since it was the church's 30th Anniversary. Since then, TSE has been exploring new and different areas of music, especially a cappella songs.

But life as a TSE choir member isn't always sunshine and laughter. There are moments of wrong notes, wrong sharps and flats, wrong timing. There are times when the lyrics are forgotten, the notes cannot be reached, the voices become too soft or too loud.

As a TSE member, as one of the Sopranos, I've experienced TSE's ups and downs.

There are times when we can't seem to get the song, now matter how hard we've tried. There are times when we're already up on stage, and then we all come down with stage fright and forget the lyrics, forget the timing, forget that the conductor is there to help us.

Despite all those little holes we fall into, there are green valleys and green pastures. There are times when we sing and we sing just like we've practiced. And if we pay extra attention and not get swayed by what is around us, we sing even better.

Two of the "Finest Moments in The Shepherd's Ensemble History" occurred yesterday and today.
TSE's choir conductor, Tito Pyo, treated out the members - and the honorary members (consisting of the children and siblings of some other members) - for a dinner at Chowking. Out of the blue, one of the tenors (not the original soloist) sang the beginning of "O Sifuni Mungu," a Swahili African song that TSE rendered last month during the anniversary. (For those who don't know yet, it was a disaster, a disgrace, thus resulting in the somewhat-official name "DIS-Grace Fundamental Baptist Church.")
But yesterday, after that delicious supper, Tito Pyo gave the pitch to the original singer, Pastor Rogel. Why not try it out to see if we still remember? "Vium be vyote vya Mungu wetu..." Pastor Rogel sang out, to the surprise of the Chowking staff and the other customers. "Na mefal me wetu," we responded, with matching animal sounds. And gradually, we "broke" into song. It was perfect. Slower than the original timing, but perfect enough. No undesirable, unnecessary sharps. We started the tune, and we stuck to it. That's why it was one of TSE's finest moments in history.
The other was today, while we sang "Seekers of Your Heart." Such a beautiful song, reflecting on the love and sacrifice of God! We sang it with all warmth...all feeling. And we enjoyed it. We enjoyed singing the song, just as we did when we sang "O Sifuni Mungu" yesterday.

But why could we sing "O Sifuni Mungu" and "Seekers of Your Heart" without difficulty? Particularly "O Sifuni Mungu." Why didn't we sing it during the anniversary with as much pleasure and passion?
I think...when we saw the crowd, it was like Peter looking at the waves. I think we were all afraid (especially since it was a new kind of song, and we didn't know what the reaction of the audience would be). We were looking at the crowd, we were so caught up by our unvoiced fears that we forgot to look at the conductor. We forgot what we had learned; we forgot what we had practiced. Just like Peter. He was looking at the waves, billowing and crashing all around him...that he forgot to look at Jesus...he forgot that Jesus told him to TRUST.

That's life as a TSE member. One moment, you're singing with all you've got. The next moment, you see the people and forget all you've learned.
Another thing that God has taught me in this area of my life is that He gave me a voice to use. I don't always use it (or at least, use ALL of it). As a TSE member, as a Music Minister, I should...because it's what God gave me. Gifts are meant to be used. Not stored away and hidden.

The Shepherd's Ensemble has stacks of new songs coming up. They're not just mere songs...but challenging pieces. May God remind us to look to Him (and to our choir conductor) while we're singing, and most of all, when we perform. It's not for the people, but for the Lord.

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