Voice Unpopuli

11 Oct

Letterbalm Opera Singing WomanDear LetterBalm: I have a delicate problem, and I don’t know what to do about it. My mom is in hospice and not expected to live for much longer. A dear friend overheard me talking with my siblings about what she wants for her funeral. Mom has always wanted someone to sing “Amazing Grace”, and we were going to approach our pastor for permission to have it sung. My friend got all excited and volunteered to sing it – to our horror. She has taken amateur voice lessons for years, but she is terrible. I mean she sings noticeably off-key and shrill, and everybody knows it. What can we do? She’s thin-skinned and won’t take rejection well. We want to honor our mother’s wish, but no one in our family has a good voice, either. Help!

–Fingers in Our Ears

This is a sad time for you, your mom and your family. Of course, you want to respect her wish and have this favorite (and beautiful) spiritual sung at her funeral. Ms. L.B. is not above a social lie at this time to preserve family harmony and prevent hurt feelings. If your church has a choir, go to your pastor and ask if “Amazing Grace” can be sung by the best singer in the group as a solo (or, if he prefers, a few voices from the choir). If your church doesn’t have a choir, try alternatives: If your mom is an opera buff or has educational ties, perhaps you can approach your local opera group or the music school at a nearby university for an appealing voice or two. After the arrangements have been made, take your friend aside and say this:

Brunhilde, it was so generous of you to offer to sing “Amazing Grace” at Mom’s service, and it is a comfort now during her final illness to know you’re thinking of me and my family. But I know you understand that we have to honor Mom’s wishes. Our pastor wants only choir members to sing in the church, and he’s asked some of them to sing.

Or: Because Mom has been such a supporter of the local operetta troop, we asked three of them to sing, and they said yes.

Or: Because Mom has been committed to education all her life, we approached the dean of the university music school, and we asked one of the graduate school students to sing.

We wanted to give special meaning to the service, and we know doing this will be a comfort to the family. Just having you there as a dear friend will mean a lot to me.

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