All they did was raise their hands and try as much as possible to show their faces, just to get noticed. Just before a boring sermon which people never looked forward to, we had to cope with a lazy choir that couldn’t make praise and worship session lively.
With the way they sang, combined with tunes from the inexperienced pianist, the best you could do was clap your hands. Even when you tried to force the dancing out of your body, it just did not come.
Mama never heeded our plea to switch churches. Several times I told her about Rehoboth, the one not far from home, with several branches around the country. I was lucky to have attended Rehoboth with my younger siblings during the period mama travelled. That church was a real church because I danced and danced during the praise and worship session. Even the way they welcomed us with the tasty meat pie and cold coke, my plan was to keep standing up as a new member whenever I had the opportunity to attend again.
Why mama preferred we go to a church where we had to use transport fare every Sunday, where everything was boring, still remained a surprise. Each time ‘Rehoboth is the church’ slipped out of my mouth, all I got from her was, “forget about those wordly churches, they are not spirit-filled”. Mama believed our spirit-filled church would aid her in bringing her children in the way of the Lord. Several times, she had disturbed me to join the Church choir. How could I? My voice was far better than the ones singing in that choir. All they would do was kill my singing talent. Besides that, there wasn’t a single cute guy in that choir. The ladies had face like men. They looked like sisters who were desperately looking for life-partners, their voices hitting the roof while dancing to their songs that couldn’t move the congregation.
I looked forward to last Sunday, I was going to follow Onyiye to her Catholic church, where they were going to have Palm Sunday. Having discussed it with and she had agreed, all was set. We were going to dance round the town carrying palm and celebrating Jesus.
Sunday came, and I had gotten up earlier than anyone else. Had to prepare as early as possible to avoid keeping Onyiye waiting whenever she came knocking. Getting to the room, after a cold bath which was compulsory, since mama thought boiling water to bath was waste of Kerosene, there was mama waking up my siblings to start preparing for church service. “Mama good morning” “Morning my dear. You’ve taken your bath already? Thank God o. Why didn’t you wake your younger ones now?” “Mama, you know I’m following Onyiye to her church. It’s morning mass and she’ll be here soon”. “Which church? When did you plan that one?” “Ahnahn mama, I told you o. Have you forgotten the day Onyiye came?” “Not me, we have our thanksgiving today, so you must be in church”.
To say I was dazed was an understatement. How could mama say I didn’t tell her about following Onyiye to Palm Sunday? Like a big girl that I was, I held back the tears that wanted to embarrass me when Onyiye came. Boldly, I told her “Ha! Onyiye, I’m sorry. Can’t come, mama just remembered we have thanksgiving today”.
The look on Onyiye’s face was like, ‘really?’ I ignored her look, closed the door, after she had dropped her, “Ok now, no wahala”. It was embarrassing, really embarrassing.
We got to church a little bit late, as praise and worship had almost begun. We had barely settled on our seats when the choir stood up, signalling the congregation to also stand up, as praise and worship begun.
There was something different about this choir. I was here last Sunday, and it was the normal boring tunes which couldn’t move the body. Right now, it was different. I could see people dancing, the voices were more sonorous, the choir master had been replaced. I could sight a cute face. He must be the brain behind this renewed choir, he sang with all passion as he led the sonorous voices. He’s the new choir master. God is with this one, and this choir I must join.
As praise and worship continued, I could barely sing. The thoughts going on in my mind had overshadowed what went on around me. Mama was an elder in church, and she had always disturbed me to join the choir. So, I had every reason to join in the choir. Those proud girls in the choir can think I was joining the choir because there was a new choir master, that’s their cup of coffee.
It was high time I began to work for God. Boosting my spiritual life, dating a cute born again, using my talent would all come together when I joined the choir. As service came to a close, I remembered what had happened in the morning, and couldn’t help but thank mama in my mind, for bringing me to this wonderful service. While different after church meetings took place, I walked to choir section, where few of them where still around chatting. “Good afternoon”,I said, putting on a little smile by the side of my mouth. “Hi, afternoon. Happy Sunday”. Whenever I come out to talk, I only appreciate it when I get response from the right people. Why did the lady have to reply me? I thought to myself. Was she a lesbian?
After her reply, I took a long pause, giving her an ‘excuse me’ look. Then, I turned to the choir master. “Good afternoon”, I said, giving him a broad smile. “New choir master, right? Welcome to our church”. “Yes…yes. Thanks a lot. Happy Sunday!”
We talked for a while, then I informed him of my interest to join the choir, while few of the choir members who were around looked inquisitively at me. They must have wondered why I chose to associate only with the new choir master and not them, why I decided to join the choir just when they got a new choir master.
I talked happily with the choir master, ignoring all other eyes that seemed to be following the movement of mouth, and later joined mama who had been waiting for me after she finished her elders meeting. “Mama, I’ll be joining the choir from next Sunday”, I said happily before even getting to where she stood. “Ehnehn, thank God”. Mama replied, walking ahead of me to catch up with my little sisters who had angrily started the journey home. Those girls where another case entirely, but I wouldn’t let their case bother me. Mama kept walking hurriedly, not minding if I was behind. My good news was obviously worthless, and I felt sorry for myself as I slowly walked behind them.
Saturday came for choir rehearsals, where I displayed my sonorous voice to the envy of all choir members and to the admiration the new choir master. I had eagerly awaited the launch of my career as a chorister, and after the rehearsals, I expected this crush of mine would make the praise and worship leader for Sunday service. To my surprise, I didn’t even have the opportunity to hold the mic. Even my sitting position was nothing to write home about, because mama said she never noticed me in the choir.
It was a terrible first experience, and I was determined not to be bothered by it. I kept going for rehearsals, I kept singing to myself on Sundays, I kept saying happy Sunday to the new choir master, hoping to get noticed one day.
Well, it happened. At least, so I thought. “Franca, please wait”. He called, as I was about walking out of the church to meet mama and my sisters. I heard the call, but I needed to pretend not to hear at first. Then the call came again, “Franca!” with this, I halted and looked back. “Ah! Brother Boye, do we have a meeting?” “No..no. You came a little late this morning, after I had addressed everyone”. “Yea, little traffic. You know I don’t stay around”. Now, I had to sound sweet enough. He mustn’t change his mind about me at this moment. “No problems at all, just wanted you to know that rehearsals won’t be holding this Saturday. We’ll hold it before vigil begins on Friday night”. “Oh! Okay, would try and be on time.”
That was what he wanted to say? It’s been close to 3 months since I joined this very frustrating choir, and he was the main reason I joined: 3 months and nothing to show? “Good, thanks. I’ll be expecting you”. He replied, while I forced a smile, nodded and turned to continue my journey.
Days and months ran by, and I diligently carried out my duty as a chorister for the Lord. At least, mama was proud of me, despite the fact that I’ve not been given the opportunity to hold the mic, talk more of singing into it.
One cool day in November, more than 6 months after I became a chorister, the period when I thought about giving up on the struggle and going back to join the congregation of people that weren’t even noticing my presence in the choir, something gingered my spirit to stay. The new choir master had obviously been noticing me, he probably just chose to pretend. Just when we had finished rehearsals, I got the big role. Choir master single-handedly selected me to lead every song we had to sing the coming Sunday, which was Adult Harvest. Praise and worship, special number and all the jaras (extras). Finally, I had won his heart. This was my opportunity to finally get him to ask me out. I would sing with all passion, put on my best dress, apply the best make-up and do whatever I had to. 6 months in this choir, I finally would get the new choir master.
Adult Harvest came, I did my thing happily, singing and dancing like I had never done before. Occasionally, I threw my gaze to where he sat, just to make sure he was looking. Most of the time, he wasn’t. I knew he was just pretending not to look when he saw my eyes coming towards his direction, but did I care? Main thing that remained in my mind was to have this cute born again choir master as mine. At least, mama would be proud that I chose to date a born again.
Those girls must have turned down doing the request to lead songs for this service. The service was unnecessarily long, my throat ran dry before the last lap. Just to impress choir master, I managed all through, pretending that all was fine.
Finally, I scaled through to the end, without collapsing. I could barely hear the next things that were said by the pastor, I had found a good seat at the back for a little snooze. “We’re glad to announce the upcoming wedding of our dear brother Boye and Sister Ruth, both from this church”. I couldn’t recollect if I heard all other statements made by the pastor, but this one woke me up instantly.
Choir master had a fiancée all the while and my struggle of 6months+ was all a waste. Why I suddenly quit my job as a chorister still remained a mystery to mama, choirmaster himself and those girls that looked like they were set to attack somebody.