Jazzfest04-3I previously wrote about my choir experiences, but I wanted to revisit this experience in a different way. I will try not to be repetitive, but I cannot reread my previous blog entry due to dexterity.

My two closest friends Mark and Diana introduced me to the choir. Mark was a tenor in the New Orleans Opera and Diana had been a musician most of her life. I had taken voice lessons from an accomplished soprano who had sung at the St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter and piano lessons as a child, but I have never considered myself particularly gifted. Fortunately, when I began singing with the choir we did not have auditions. I was happy to drive an hour each way weekly for choir practice. During the early days, there were under fifteen singers. The soprano section of which I was a part included approximately four women. One evening, my greatest fear was realized when I was the only woman present in the soprano section. Knowing my horror, Mark sang soprano with me. Talk about having my back, Mark had my back.
Our African-American sisters and brothers had been singing in choirs since they were toddlers. For them, it was very much a part of their culture. For us Caucasians, it was our growing edge. We had to loosen our rigidity, which was both joyful and challenging for many. When Mark began singing solos, he was a courageous teacher for us to let go. Initially, Mark was stiff. Diana’s nickname for him was “white bread.” The humor in our choir helped tremendously in loosening up the white people and bridging racial divisions. It was actually infrequent that the divisions actually appeared.
Another challenge for us white people, was swaying to the rhythm of the music. It wasn’t unusual for some of us to be swaying in wrong direction. We literally had to designate Joe as the “sway meister.” When we would begin a song, all of my white sisters and brothers would focus on the sway meister.
These were some of the unseen challenges we faced as we broke racial and religious barriers. The joy of breaking racial barriers in the deep South, the solidarity we co-created was profoundly satisfying to my Soul.