The Life of Church Music

Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

“See you on Sunday, Brandon,” Pastor Park says. After gathering my things, I shake his hand appreciatively and leave through the exit at side of the sanctuary. The pastor closes the broad, brown doors as best as he can, but they never quite meet due to years of strain. “97, 98, 99, 100.” It is my ritual to count to 100 to ensure that he has definitely left the premises. I climb back up the steps, walking on the balls of my feet to minimize the squeakiness of the old wooden floors. Squeezing through the slightly ajar doors that Pastor tried so vehemently to close, I look to my left and then to my right. Scanning the sanctuary, I make sure the coast is completely clear.

I walk across the plush carpet and stare at the countless rows of auburn pews. Reaching the piano, I open the fallboard and play a rigorous C crescendo scale. This calms me before even starting to sing. Playing the four chords of Adele’s “Rolling in The Deep” I sing the chorus, finally feeling released. I perform this ritual until exhausted from hearing it. Then the magic truly begins.

Gazing at the stained glass windows to my left, I commence singing the first line as tenderly as an infant’s cheek. Then peering at the organ on the far right of the altar, the velocity of sounds stemming from my windpipes increases. My diaphragm belts as I sing like a wolf howling for its long lost pack: “I’ve been thinkin’ about you, do you think about me still?” The sound emanating from my vocal chords vibrates across the sanctuary, generating an indisputable sensation of awe. “Because I’ve been thinking about forever.” Closing my eyes, I finish the last lines of the song with a melodic timbre.

Sometimes, I worry if it is disrespectful to break into my church and sing the latest Frank Ocean song. But that potential consequence cannot compete with the sweetness of synthesizing beautiful music with my voice and that ancient grand piano. Playing the massive instrument by the centuries-old stained glass window displaying Jesus as an infant continually allows me to experience a delightful calm. Pressing down on the beautiful ivory keys makes all my troubles and tribulations vanish. It pushes away the countless hours of homework I have breathing down my neck. It pushes away my judging and hypocritical parents. It pushes away the fact that I am different from the norm.

Every chord allows me to experience complete serenity before entering the hurricane of being a teenager. At The United Methodist Church of Richmond Hill, singing and playing the piano gives me the opportunity to sing my heart out to a non-existent audience that will never jeer if my voice cracks or even if I am off key. More importantly, it allows me to be completely one with my music.

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