Singing into Grace

Yesterday was a bright and sunny day in Tucson, balmy compared to much of the country who shivered with temps at or way below the zero degree mark. Six members of our choir gathered on the humble front steps of an adult care home to ‘warm up’ our voices for singing winter carols on what might have felt like a spring day to many folks. We went inside to find a semi-circle of elderly faces in the living room, some sleeping, some expectant, with a couple of caregivers present amongst them. Just what we hoped. We came to sing in honor of a woman who had recently transitioned in this home, to celebrate her life, and those who knew her and/or cared for her on her journey, all on behalf of her family.

We sang a few of our core Threshold Choir songs, yet realized quickly that on this ‘ninth day of Christmas’ the holiday spirit was still mighty present! We shifted into familiar tunes like Away in a Manger, Silent Night, Joy to the World . . . you know the stable of songs. Faces brightened, singing along opened up with cheer. Jingle Bells was likely the crowd favorite!

Then we went to the house next door and sang to a new group in the living room. One lady had a series of questions for us: “Where did you come from? What church do you go to? Do you know my minister?” I can see why she wondered from where on earth we appeared in her living room. Understandable! And as our ‘voice’ of the choir that day answered her questions with the response “we come from many faiths and our songs are written by members from various traditions or beliefs systems” – Baha’i to Jewish to Universalist to Baptist to well, you name it –  I stood in quiet awe of what Threshold Choir does across this country.

We sing from a place without faith boundaries for people during fragile times. We sing openly from our hearts. We let ourselves be vulnerable. We sing into grace.

And hopefully, from there we issue peace.

(And yes, we learn something every single time.)

Then, this morning my meditation reading catalyzed this post. It relates so well to our experience yesterday and this sweet inquisitive lady’s questions. The author of my reading, Mark Nepo, writes:

IMG_2528

“Each person is born with an unencumbered spot – free of expectation and regret, free of ambition and embarrassment, free of  fear and worry – an umbilical spot of grace where we were each first touched by God. It is this spot of grace that issues peace. Psychologists call this spot the Psyche, theologians call it the Soul, Jung calls it the Seat of the unconscious, Hindu masters call it Atman, Buddhists call it Dharma, Rilke calls it Inwardness, Sufis call it Qalb, and Jesus calls it the Center of our Love.

To know this spot of inwardness is to know who we are, not by surface markers of identity, not by where we work or what we wear or how we like to be addressed, but by feeling our place in relation to the Infinite and inhabiting it.”

More and more through singing with Threshold Choir, it feels like we sense our place “in relation to the Infinite” because we honestly do stand at infinite thresholds. It matters little what faith we do or don’t bring into these spaces; what kind of clothes we wear or where we work. All that matters, really, is the grace we sing into along the way.

Threshold Choir on NPR Today

This is so exciting: you can listen to our founder, Kate Munger, being interviewed on an “All Things Considered” segment here. As I listened to the radio this afternoon in my kitchen, I felt my heart race when I heard Kate’s voice and happily began singing along with Threshold Choir sisters as the piece aired.

During this season of gratitude, a path in my life for which I am most grateful to walk is being a part of the Tucson Threshold Choir. (Based on recent emails to each other over the holiday, I think many in our choir would agree!) When Kate mentions in the story how singing bedside is more of a form of prayer than ‘performance’, in response to Arun’s question about it being kind of stressful, I felt tears well up in my being.

“Yes. Thank you, Kate!” I said aloud. And felt a huge swell of gratefulness to her: thank you for bringing the possibility of your songs to so many of us across this country.

Whether our choir rehearses together in the Little Chapel of All Nations or sings in an ICU hospital room, care facility dining room, inpatient hospice hallway or silent bedroom of a home . . . singing for the dying and their caregivers – or even sometimes for ourselves – is a tender experience. A delicate and sacred unspoken kind of prayer is woven throughout our songs.

Grateful for the path we walk in Threshold Choir
Grateful for the path we walk in Threshold Choir

 

Update from East Side singers

Greetings to all the Ladies of Song!

It’s wonderful to be back in the fold, never having left in spirit, and time creating a fortuitous connection with Stephanie during which the idea of an eastside branch of the choir was planted, germinated and bore fruit on April 10th.  Erin and Stephanie joined my good friend and Threshold aspirant, Marci Fredericks at our home where Marci jumped in to song and harmony without hesitation and we sailed through an hour and a half of mostly our old favorites, invoking that familiar feeling of something greater than the sum of the parts.

Stephanie kindly hosted the second rehearsal as I was out of town and we just had our third gathering last Tuesday back here where Erin introduced two songs new to me, Calling all Angels and Kinder, which we sang together several times to get the feel for the rhythm, sound and sense of form and content.  Marci was familiar with a slightly different version of Calling All Angels and the additional verses which she will bring to our next gathering.  As well she offered to bring the version she knows of the Chant to Tara.

Stephanie sang one of the Threshold songs (about walking in Sunshine – I don’t have the title right now and she is off on a mountain birding trek) )at a recent ceremony where she sponataneously translated it into Spanish, and has offered to write up the translation for us.

We meet on second and fourth Tuesdays each month, at 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 (near Broadway and Camino Seco) and will love to see any of you whon live close and/or want some extra song time. Please contact us for the address.

Onward and Upward!

Caroline