Then I got to college theory classes and was expected to sightsing! Now that is a completely different issue. Looking at a page of notes and singing them seemed like an impossible task to me. It takes a natural ear. If you don’t have one, you have to train it. I had to put mine through boot camp the entire first year of theory classes. Eventually I learned to do it—I could look at a piece of music and sing the notes, without accompaniment of any kind, not even chords to keep you in the right key. I wasn’t any more perfect at it than I was at the piano, probably less, but I was musician enough to pass my tests, classes, and juries, and to make two college choruses and a women’s sextet.
Most of the hymns in our books are written in standard major keys, with standard four part harmony. They are nothing like the music I had to sightsing in college, so I can usually sightsing them without too much trouble. It’s sort of like being asked to boil an egg when you have been making soufflés for four years--simple. Most of the congregation, though, do not have the advantage of being trained musicians and they just sing it the way they first heard it, which in many cases was incorrect. That means that very often I stick out like a sore thumb (or a sour note).
I have tried to sing what everyone else is singing just so I won’t, but I have trained myself so diligently that I can’t. I’m a musician—I see the note, I sing what I see. We were singing “When We All Get to Heaven,” the other day, and every time (at least three) I sang it right I created a clash that was hard to go unnoticed. “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” creates at least five such clashes. With “Amazing Grace” the list is nearly as long as the song itself.
But you know what? While I don’t want to cause those clashes, my training makes it nearly impossible to sing the songs wrong, and my desire to please God by obeying His commands to sing makes it completely impossible for me to stop singing.
Isn’t that the way life is supposed to be for a Christian? You really don’t want to clash with your neighbors. You really want to “live peaceably with all men.” But you should have trained yourself so well that you find it nearly impossible to sin. Sticking out like a sore thumb shouldn’t matter to you. Yes, it may be difficult, but no one ever promised us “easy.” We are supposed to be different from unbelievers. We are supposed to “conform to the image of His Son,” not to the world. It should be a habit by now.
Sometimes when I sing things correctly, but differently, I get funny looks. Once, a song leader even went to the microphone when that section came up on the next verse so he could sing the (wrong) note loud and clear. I guess he heard my different note on the first verse and it bugged him.
This coming Sunday morning, if you hear someone sing a different note than you are singing, maybe you should check the notes you are singing. Then do something much more important. Use it as a reminder to check your life. Could anyone tell you apart from your neighbors, or do you blend right in? Out there in the world, you should be sightsinging a completely different tune.
But the wisdom from above is first pure—then peaceable…James 3:17.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed…Rom 12:2.