Tonight I was scrub-a-dubbing in the shower and, as usual, I was singing Christmas carols. Without realizing it, I started singing one of my favorite songs of all time, Lead Me Lord. This brought back a flood of memories of where that song came from and before I knew it, my sick ass was laughing hysterically in the shower all by myself. Cold pills are glorious things.
The memory of my favorite song was too good not to share, so here you go. A story from my youth. Merry Christmas.
When I was in middle school, I was in our church choir. (Interesting fact: Chris, my sister, my brother-in-law, and my friend Sarah were also all in this choir) It was not a show choir. Anyone could join, which is the only way I would ever be permitted to join a choir. Or a softball team, incidentally.
Anyway, every year we met every Wednesday for choir practice after school, performed several times during church services throughout the year, performed an end-of-the-year concert, and then went on choir tour, where we basically went on a trip and stopped to sing in random churches along the way. The point of choir was not the singing (thank goodness), it wasn’t even God (sorry, Jesus, I’m just keeping it real). The point of choir were the cute boys and best girlfriends and the trip at the end of the year.
One year, our choir sang such a beautiful song that even today – almost 15 years later – I still sing it in my shower. “Lead Me Lord” sounded like it needed to be sung in a Southern Baptist church with a gospel choir singing back up. Instead, we sang it on the beach in flip flops. The thing about “Lead Me Lord” was the solo. The soloist got to sing over and above the choir as we sang the chorus in the background. It was beautiful. When our choir director announced there would be a soloist for this song and we had to audition for the part, I immediately thought, “I’ve got this in the bag.” Which is actually incredibly funny if you know what I sound like when I sing.
Turns out, my choir director had Q-tipped his ears that morning and heard all the glory of my voice and he gave the part to someone else. And not just anyone else. He gave the part to Ashley Brown. (Interesting fact: Ashley Brown went on to star in Beauty and the Beast and was the original Mary Poppins on Broadway, so I guess technically she had a good voice…) Though I would never admit it at the time, Ashley sang the crap out of that song. I mean, seriously. No thirteen year old girl should be able to sing like that. It was incredible. (Interesting fact: Every year, Ashley comes back from her fabulous Broadway life to sing “O Holy Night” at our hometown church and it is very seriously the highlight of my Christmas when I get to hear her.)
The choir performed that song at our spring concert just before choir tour and as Ashley crooned the gospel song like a pro, I stood behind her in the choir stands, silently mouthing her solo along with her. No, really. I’ve got a video somewhere. You can see me singing with her.
The plan was that our choir would sing this song on choir tour. It was our big finale number (well, as big as middle school church choirs that are open to the general public can be), but in a startling turn of events, Ashley wasn’t able to go on tour with us. Apparently, she had better places to sing. Like, on Broadway or whatever.
I remember the exact moment that I found out Ashley wasn’t going on choir tour. I was standing in line to get on the tour bus and I overheard some people talking about it. As I stood there in line, I started yelling out to our choir director across the parking lot, “I’LL SING IT! LET ME SING IT! I WANT TO SING IT!” But, apparently, our choir director HAD forgotten to Q-tip his ears that morning because, apparently, he didn’t hear me. Or see me waving my arms. Or feel me clinging to his shirttail, begging.
All during the first day of travel on choir tour, I begged our poor choir director to let me sing. He’d walk down the aisle of the bus to go to the bathroom and I’d just start singing out random lines, “Oh, Lead me, Lord! I WILL GOOOOOOOO!” Eventually, I started singing both the choir back up and the solo part, just to show him how dedicated I was. “Lead me, Lord, (OH, LEAD ME!) I will follow, (OH, I’LL FOLLOW!), Lead me I will go (OH, I’LL GOOOOO)…” After hours of singing in the back of the bus to no avail, I made my way to the front of the bus, walking straight past our choir director and up to the bus driver, where I took the bus microphone out of the little stand and clicked it on.
“Warren,” I said over the intercom, “Warren, if you’ll just give me a chance, I think you’ll see I really can sing this song just as good as Ashley Brown. (Interesting fact: That was a lie.) What has been missing from all my auditioning, though, has been a microphone. I sound way better when I’m singing in a microphone. (Interesting fact: That was a lie, too) And, oh! Look! I found a microphone! Right here in my hand!”
And before Warren or the bus driver could wrestle the microphone away from me, I started belting out Ashley’s solo over the tour bus. By the time I was done, the whole choir was singing back up for me and I was ON FIRE! Let me tell you…
When I was finished, Warren and the choir politely applauded and he mumbled something along the lines of, “We’ll see…” But when we got to the church where we were performing, there was no “Lead Me Lord” on the program. Oddly enough though, I didn’t even care. For three shining moments on that tour bus, I sounded like Ashley Brown. (Interesting fact: That’s another lie)
I have a notoriously bad memory. I can’t remember anything from high school, barely anything from college, hardly anything from last week. But that memory is too good to forget.
(Interesting fact: Ginny and I both married boys that were on that choir tour, Sarah and I now live down the street from each other and work together, and Ashley Brown is a Broadway star. Who knew?!?!)