In chatting with longtime friends, a common memory often bubbles up about going to church. There was a woman, a very nice, well-educated and turned out teacher, who attended the same church.
The only hitch was that in congregational singing she didn't keep up.
Looking at something that far back is like looking through a shower curtain, but there is enough agreement on this that my little brain is not toying with me.
She was always a half-step behind the congregation and sometimes a full measure on a slow song. I think she was aware of it and didn't care.
I was told that years prior she sang in the choir, and when that group performed a “special,” it only motivated the lady to close her eyes and sing louder. And slower.
On those Sunday mornings the standing joke was that the choir became “the quire.”
In the day before the new air-conditioned building came along, she could out blast any noise that invaded the numerous open windows — a beat behind.
Some people stand out because they are on a constant unchanging note that is nowhere near the correct pitch.
I developed the notion that “monotones” do not know they can't sing or maybe they do and don't care: They are intent on creating “A Joyful Noise” despite the cringing, skin-crawling result.
Both Jack and Arnold became ministers of mostly small rural churches.
I'd known both as undergraduates and sat near them during the Tuesday and Friday Chapel services at 10:00 a.m.
The two young men sang with great enthusiasm but couldn't find the right note if it sat in their laps.
The pity was that they were not only pastors of the small churches, they also led the singing.
A friend who knows all there is to know about the science and pathology of hearing told me that his wife could not carry a tune, that she was a “monotone.”
When I asked how that worked, he admitted that he felt like the cobbler whose children had no shoes because his wife's issue was not being unable to sing but that she was unable to hear and detect pitch. To her one pitch was the same as another or even all others.
I asked Tommy if she could whistle a tune and he said that she could, so where did that put us?
He said that he'd get back to me on that because in nearly fifty years of marriage, it had never occurred to him to notice that his wife could whistle on key but not sing.
I'll let you know.