A choir is a funny group of people. In some cases, we have absolutely nothing in common with each other. Any rehearsal will see people sitting next to those they’d probably never talk to in any other context, not out of disrespect but simply because some worlds don’t often collide. There are people we’re friends with, and there are people whose stories and passions and lives we’ll never do more than skirt the edges of. There are people we sing with every week who we’ll never really know. And yet, everyone who spends time in the dusty, cluttered choir vestry has at least one thing in common: being a chorister. We can’t help it. There are certain hymns or pieces of music that we can’t help but sing along to; there’s shorthand we all understand, there’s experiences we’ve all shared; we all respond to music the way a plant does to sunlight. We can’t help it — it’s what we are.
And perhaps because we are connected by something much larger and deeper than ourselves, we have become a family. Perhaps because it’s music that flows through us all — music and the love of it — we in the cathedral choir are connected beyond what we do or don’t have in common. Just like a family, some of us are closer than others; we annoy each other or mystify each other; we’re imperfect humans and sometimes we even hurt each other. But we’re a family, and despite all our differences we love each other.
Last week we lost one of our own. Some of us knew him well; others of us didn’t. Some knew him as a friend; others knew him simply as a singer who lent his talent to the bass line every Sunday night at Evensong. It doesn’t matter how well or not we knew him: a member of our family is no longer physically present with us.
He had other family, of course, people who loved him and for whom he leaves gaping, painful empty space, even as he leaves his legacy of love and action. For them, all his choir family can do is pray: it is the least, and the most we can do. We can pray, and we can be reminded of the fragility of life and the eternity of the Divine love, and in the name of that love we can remember we’re a family, and we can care for each other all the more.
And we can sing. That we can do as well. We’re choristers.