You probably don’t know Alberta or Craig or Gerald or my cousin Patty, or any of the other voices heard in this month’s installment of Christmas Music all year-long. If one were singing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, your voice may be masked over by the vast numbers of fellow choir members. But not in your typical small town church. The small choir of Saint Paul’s U.C.C. is joined every year by other talented members of the Woodstock, Virginia community for the annual ‘Singing Christmas Tree’ concert.
Greens and golds glimmer in a dimly lit Saint Paul’s, as the forty-some members of the choir, both young and old, sing Christmas tunes, which are both new and old. The great thing about a small town choir is that you can actually hear different individual voices from time to time, all praising God together through their music, harmonizing together to create something so magical, so beautiful.
Watching this glorious evening from the church’s pews lacks just one privilege that the members of the choir get to enjoy. Standing front and center, with little penlights for a peak at the sheet music, is Mary Danley Catlett, the choir’s director. Just like her Mom before her, she teaches and leads and inspires a group of simple folk into creating an evening of beautiful music.
During a performance, Mary speaks without words, rather with hand gestures and facial expressions and an unspoken language with her eyes. There are smiles and encouragement for the Junior Choir, with enunciated gestures for the adults indicating “faster, slower, louder and softer”. And when it all comes together correctly, the last of the piano notes are followed by a beautiful smile, hands held together as in a prayer, and a content bow of the head, as to say “That was beautiful”.
And even if one song doesn’t seem perfect to the members of the choir, the evening is always a beautiful thing.
Here’s an audio clip from last year’s performance.