This year my son decided to do something different at school. He joined the choir. For years, we’ve been following him to baseball games, cross country meets, and track meets. From the hottest games of summer, through the blustery rains and bitter cold of late fall or early spring, there we were. You can count on two hands the number of parents who regularly attend their son’s baseball games, and it only takes one hand to count the regulars at a cross country meet. You usually run against the same teams week after week, in cross country, so it’s pretty easy to pick out the regular parents on the other teams, as well. You also tend to notice which athletes never have anyone there to watch them… as in ever. It makes you feel sad, wondering about their home lives, and why nobody cares.
A choir concert is decidedly different. First off, they are indoors! Yea! Secondly, they ask you for $5.00 apiece at the door. Okay, I guess every extracurricular activity has its price, and there aren’t any concessions at a choir concert. I still contend, by the way, that athletic departments could make more money by including a burger and coke with the purchase of every admissions ticket to a track meet, or baseball game—sort of like a “loss leader” that gets people to belly on up to the concessions counter, where the real profits are made. After all, who wants to pay to sit in the stands to watch their child run in only one race, or sit on the bench during a ball game? As economic times get tougher, you see more and more parents camping out around the perimeter fences, rather than part with money for nothing.
At a choir concert, however, there is no bench. Everybody performs, and nobody loses. It feels less bandit-like to part with couple of fives when you know you are actually going to see little Johnny or Nancy perform. They may not have a featured role, but, at least they are out there, and you have a right to smile and be proud of them. Granted, the music may be in Latin, Italian, or German, but there is usually enough American English in the mix to satisfy the less cultured among us.
The third difference between a choir concert and a minor athletic contest is relative attendance. We got to our son’s first choir concert over an hour early. It was being held at a local church. We were the first ones there. There was a ticket taker already ready. I paid for two, and we waited in the foyer for the doors to be opened. By the time we went in to the auditorium, there were perhaps thirty people who had paid. I was impressed. Still I wondered how the kids would feel if there weren’t very many people to watch them after all their hard work. I expected the same kid-abandonment phenomenon I was so used to at cross country meets.
People spread out wherever they wanted, a couple in this pew, four or five in the next one over, all near the front. I read some materials I had brought along during the forty minute interim remaining before the concert. About ten minutes before the concert, I decided to visit the restroom and get a drink of water. When I got up from my seat, and turned toward the exit, I was stunned. The auditorium was nearly full. I counted the pews on my walk to the back, and estimated there were over 200 people in attendance, with more still coming in the door. By the time I returned to my seat, people had begun seating themselves in the church choir loft just to have a seat.
Most pews could comfortably accommodate five good sized adults, or six people counting children. Our row already had five people in it. I noticed a man and his wife near the choir loft, looking for seats. He was wearing a crisp yellow shirt, yellow pants, and a black leather vest. I commented to Sandy that he looked like Andy Williams in a rodeo vest. But then, the man and his wife started heading our way.
“Is that seat taken?” he asked, pointing to the middle of our row.
“What seat?” I said.
“That one there,” he said, as his wife began wriggling past me to claim the area. Then, with her firmly settled in, he asked the obvious, “Is there room for one more?”
With that, Unrude Sandy, the darling I married, placed her coat in her lap, scrunched me over, and made room for Rodeo Andy, as ours became the first pew with seven people wedged in it that evening. When the concert began, over 300 people were there to listen to 84 young people sing in Latin, Italian, and German. I was thoroughly impressed.
Not long into the concert, I became aware that there were a few “culturally-challenged” individuals among us. One row back, and to the right of Rodeo Andy, was a boisterous couple and child. They were happy…obliviously happy… with no regard for the decorum of silence or the thought that most people had paid to hear the performance, not the chatter in row two. I suspect I might have liked them and their liveliness outside of the concert, but no amount of shushing from those around seemed to register with them that night.
Perhaps they had come from a home where three tvs and a radio are always blaring, and everyone talks all the time. I don’t know. Perhaps, they are only used to rock concerts where you can shout into your neighbor’s ear from three inches away, and not bother anyone else. Again, I don’t know. At any rate, I found the annoyance of their rumbling, running commentary to be actually quite amusing, as they began to punctuate the applause at the end of each number with shouts of “WooHoo!” and “You rock, Justin!”
The choir compensated by singing loudly. Still, I can imagine the choir director, sometime in the near future, saying, “Justin, the next time we have a concert on, say a Tuesday, I want you to tell your parents it’s on a Wednesday.”