Our church has a small but dedicated choir, but we often compliments such as “it sounds like the loft is FULL! It sounds like there’s a lot more people singing up there than there is!” It’s a lovely comment, especially as we’re often more of a quartet than a choir.
My friend (and fellow chorister) Margaret recently observed: “I think that God comes in and fills in the empty spaces for us.”
We do sing with intention. We want to give our best to God, to our church family, and to Leon (our choir director who brings out the best in us). I think Margaret got it just right: God does fill in the spaces and magnifies our efforts. God can enlarge what we do if we allow it. Here’s an example from my own musical life:
On December 27, 2011, I lost my hearing in my left ear. Unable to find any other explanation for this sudden change (I’m meticulous about hearing protection when performing), my doctors figured it was the result of “a virus.” Over the next year I went through multiple tests, consultations, and listening to well-meaning folks telling me that it might just be wax in my ears, and why didn’t I just have surgery? I clung to hope of a spontaneous return of hearing (it might happen, my doctor said, we have to give it a year). I resisted the idea of a hearing aid for a while, and then began to look forward to the one year mark when I could begin the process of being fitted for a hearing aid.
That was not to be. The sensorineural hearing loss I have does not respond to a hearing aid. Welcome to life in monaural. I cried a river.
I’ve had to adapt. In the case of Epiphany’s choir, small is a blessing for me. I’m able to hear and enjoy the other parts without being distracted or confused. You can’t sing harmony without listening to what else is going on. While that’s not a problem with two working ears, it’s very tricky with only one. Unison singing can be challenging if we’re not all completely unison. My fellow choir members have become used to my moving around to find just the right spot to stand in the loft so that I can hear. At least solos are easy.
Recording vocal parts requires adjustment, too. My music partner Joshua and I recently remixed and re-recorded some demos from our Women at the Well program and released a short CD. A main objective was to re-record vocals and add vocal harmonies on several of the tracks, and there’s where God filled in the blanks.
Adding the harmonies required overdubbing – me singing different lines over myself. You can’t do that without hearing everything, and hearing everything with only one ear means the brain is processing some signals differently. I can’t exactly describe it, but I do know I had to completely re-learn how to manage this.
Since the only budget for this project was earmarked for CD replication, we were recording at Joshua’s house. The bathroom was the vocal booth. Contrary to what you may think, that’s not because of “bathroom acoustics” but rather because it was the quietest room in the house. Since a vocal booth needs to be “dead,” we had a lot of blankets and towels draped everywhere!
It’s a pretty funny picture. I was standing in a tiny bathroom, blankets draped over the shower curtain rod and piled in the bathtub, a big stuffed teddy bear crammed into the closet-without-a-door, scribbled notation taped to the wall in front of me so I’d remember exactly what to sing (what line am I singing now?) and I’m holding one headphone a couple of inches away from my ear so I can hear where to come in – but not so much as to be confusing….In the middle of all of this, a daddy longlegs spider appeared in the corner to watch.
Our budget also doesn’t allow for autotune, so it had to be perfect.
When I heard the final product, I cried with joy and relief. I’d feared I’d never be able to do this again, yet there it was, beautiful harmonies and all.
One of the first people to hear the final product was our friend Danny, who plays keyboards and sings backup in a world-touring zydeco band. Danny knows of my hearing loss, and also understands what’s necessary in overdubbing harmony lines. How did you do that with just one ear? he asked. That’s a miracle.
God stepped in to fill in the blanks inside of my head and ears. A next-to-nothing budget, Joshua’s considerable production skills and a whole lot of Divine assistance gave us a CD we could be proud of, that we could offer to those who heard our Women at the Well program and wanted to revisit the music again and again.
God fills in the empty spaces wherever we allow God to do so. My hearing loss makes me realize that if I’m going to keep doing what I love, I need God to fill in those empty spaces.
This morning I was fixing my tea and thinking about Margaret’s comment, our “heavenly choir” and how God fills things out for us. My eyes fell on a mail order catalog that my husband had left open on the kitchen table. There was a teeshirt that simply said:
God is greater than. Can I get an AMEN? God is greater than anything and will fill in the blank spaces when we allow it.
To learn more about the Women at the Well program, visit www.women-at-the-well.com. For information about the Living Water CD, visit www.cdbaby.com/cd/bbontherock The CD page has the latest recordings.