I've worked with our church children's choir for the past several years, first as the piano accompanist, then as the assistant leader, then for the past year as the leader.
But now that I've gone back to work, I no longer have the time or energy to wrangle the little angels.
Ours is not a huge church, so there have never been more than a dozen or so kids in the children's choir. Which is good, because I have absolutely no experience leading a choir.
I'm a piano player. I have been playing for choirs since I was 13, and the choir director at my new school found out that I was a pianist. I was immediately drafted as the choir accompanist, and not released from service till I graduated high school. I played for the junior varsity choir, the varsity choir, the show choir, the school musicals, for most of the vocal soloists in competitions, and for most of the band soloists as well. (Tuba solos ... now those were interesting.)
They let me try to sing once, in seventh grade. They quickly sent me back to the piano bench.
None of this prepared me for trying to teach songs to a bunch of 4- to 8-year-olds.
There were the two boys who staged a wrestling match in the middle of rehearsal.
There were the girls who could sing all 32 verses of a Taylor Swift song, but had trouble remembering the 12 words of their solos on "The Butterfly Song."
There was the time I was teaching a lesson on Psalms when one of my sopranos interrupted me by loudly announcing, "I can burp my name!"
Somebody once brought their pet cricket.
And that was just rehearsals.
For my debut performance as choir director, the 4-year-old twins got into a shoving match behind my back while I was announcing the songs.
One young man, all dressed up for the Christmas Eve performance, decided in the middle of a song to pull his arms out of his long-sleeved shirt, wiggling around up there on stage like Harry Houdini trying to get out of a straitjacket.
There was the Christmas we tried to sing "The Little Drummer Boy," and I spent an entire weekend turning a dozen oatmeal boxes into drums, before we realized the day before the performance NOBODY knew the words to the song.
Oh, but the payoff ... Somehow, amidst all of the wrestling and burping and crickets, they learn the songs ... and they sing like angels. One first-grader brought down the house when he let loose his "opera voice" for a loud and hearty solo on "Praise Ye the Lord!" Another boy and girl brought the congregation to tears with their solos on "Amazing Grace."
I suppose that's why, when church called last week to say they'd recruited another children's choir director, who was wondering if I'd come back and play the piano again, I said yes.
Just please, no more crickets.