“Green and Gold our colors bold we honor faithfully, here’s to you Old Franklin, Elementary”. The lines from one of the many songs I learned singing from the back row of the Ben Franklin Elementary Choir. The highlight of the beginning of my choir career was being part of a “living Christmas Tree”, which was filled with about five tiers of kids singing their hearts out. I loved to sing especially when part of a group.
In 8th and 9th grade I had the best choir teacher ever—Mike Stefanic— who filled us with stories about growing up in Crested Butte, Colorado, where they would often ski off the second story on their snow bound home. I can still sing a number of the Rogers and Hammerstein songs we learned for the all school talent show. I am not sure why but when I hit high school I dropped choir, probably because I thought I was too cool.
I did not pick up singing in a choir until 1987 when we formed a choir at First Christian in Alamosa. I even took voice lessons from the choir director where I learned “Caro Mio Bene” by Mozart. Singing in Italian was a challenge but it was fun. From 94-97 we combined choirs from the Alamosa and Monte Vista churches— which was double the fun. The choirs would join about twice a month sharing in worship 19 miles apart.
When I got to South Broadway CC in Denver in 1997, we were able to grow the choir from about 10 to 25. One Christmas we combined with three other churches and pulled off a mighty fine cantata. When I retired in 2015 my choir days went on the shelf. All of this background leads me to a tribute I want to make today, to a man we had a memorial service for, at First Christian Church in Greeley.
I went to Greeley FCC in early 2017 to help them transition. Five years later we are still transitioning. Soon I joined their choir. I found myself sitting next to Gary D, who I soon realized was the best bass with whom I had ever sang. It turns out he had degrees in choral music and had been singing longer than I had been alive. One night I said to Gary, “Feel free to coach or critique me as I have never sang next to somebody who was so accomplished”. We slowly became a part of the best men’s section with whomI have ever sung.
I have heard it said, “When you sing you pray twice”. Today I was part of a combined choir that sang one of Gary’s favorite anthems. There is no more beautiful instrument than the combination of human voices. Something happens when they are joined together and life and love fills the space.
Thanks Gary, for your patience and making me a much better baritone. Onward and Upward,