The Reverend Danielle Tumminio, Episcopal priest and chaplain at the Groton School in Massachusetts, spent an afternoon in the midst of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, after being invited to be a “singing guest” with them after she expressed interested in writing about the ensemble:
My original intention was to describe what it was like to perform with such an elite group. (It was incredible, by the way.) But as I reflected on my experiences, I realized that the real story was the lesson I learned about what it means to be part of God’s creation in our incredibly diverse world.
As Tumminio points out, St. Augustine said that when you sing, you “pray twice.” And she discovered connections with these Mormon musicians as they sang in the way she had learned to sing in an Episcopal cathedral choir: to listen to the voices around you, to blend, to pay attention to your vowels, to sing your part in the music as part of a wider texture made beautiful by its complexity.
That’s when it occurred to me that choirs are really metaphors for life as a person of faith. We encounter so many people who are different than us, who believe different things. But we are all part of God’s creation, all members of a kind of earthly choir. We can certainly use our voice to point to our differences, and sometimes that’s important. Sometimes we need a great soloist whose voice stands out from the crowd. But sometimes we need to listen to the voices around us to notice how we blend and what we share in common.
Because we do share a lot in common, and sometimes we forget that.
As I reflect back on that day of being one small soprano voice in a sea of talented Mormon singers, what remains with me is the way that 361 different individuals united to make a single splendid sound. For a moment, I got to be part of it. I got to glorify God beside hundreds of others who believe things that are different from what I believe.
Image above: the Reverend Danielle Tumminio (Photo credit: Danielle Tumminio by Chion Wolf. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)