Just in case you might not be familiar with the title tradition, “Singspiration” (at least out here in these parts of the Plains) is an event where church folks get together and volunteers take turns singing songs that for the most part are of are a spiritual nature. Some might be truly worshipful, a lifting of adoration and praise. Occasionally one might doubt that a particular selection has any obvious religious meaning but in those cases will give the singer the benefit of the doubt and figure that for the performer at least, there is some sort of connection.
Frankly, my experience has been that Singspirations are usually something of a crap shoot in small rural communities. Sometimes when others are making a joyful noise unto the Lord, it can make my own joy in the moment a bit of a challenge.
I’ve heard people with sandpaper voices and dubious choices of song selection. I’ve heard some who couldn’t start and end a song in the same key and others who seemed to believe that clear enunciation was an abomination. But I’ve managed to squelch my critical nature to some degree and try to believe that all of them were doing the best they could with what they had to work with and trying to offer up praise to the Lord and encouragement to his believers. And hoped they would reciprocate when it came my time to share in the singing.
And so it was a couple of weeks ago when folks from all three congregations in South Haven, Kansas got together at the Baptist Church for the fifth Sunday Singspiration and fellowship meal. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and that turned out to be just fine.
What I found was that there was an unexpected number of folks with an unexpected level of musical ability. A variety of styles and selections but all sharing an apparent affection for music and praise. A lady playing a vintage Ovation and a song that was surprisingly upbeat. A man with a mellow baritone and an obvious love of classic gospel songs. A duet with definite bluegrass anchorings and some slide dobro. A female piano player of concert quality. The new school superintendent played his 1928 Martin guitar and sang a lifting praise of adoration. All of them with different styles and choices for sure but every one of them offering a blessing of sharing and singing.
For me, though, it was Helen who set the high-water mark of the evening.
In the most careful hopes of honoring without insult, I’d have to admit that I was a bit nervous as she came to the chorus of her song, with a near octave rise in range. Helen and her husband, unless looks are quite deceiving, must be at least twenty years older than me. That age range puts most singers well past their prime. The vocal cords thin with age, narrowing the range and shrinking the resonation. I braced myself a bit, waiting for the completely understandable tremor or breaking in the voice.
Total waste of time and effort as it turned out. That lady slid from one note to another, perfectly, smoothly and pleasantly. She hit every high note, every low note and every note in between, in a sweet soprano. The song she’d chosen was a blessing in itself and the singing just about perfect. And done with such a sweet expression on her face and in her eyes. It seemed as if she gave not a thought to what any of us might be thinking, simply bringing straight to her Savior an offering of sincere praise and devotion, a lifting of pure and pleasant incense from a pure and grateful heart.
Even the memory of it continues to bless me.