Sunday, December 14, 2014

Dad and the Salt Lake Men's Choir

It came completely unanticipated, and I was surprised by the depth of emotion I felt.

I was singing last night with the Salt Lake Men's Choir at our annual Christmas concert. We were performing Charles Black's arrangement of Some Children See Him. The song is already beautiful and touching and easily evokes emotion. But about two-thirds of the way through the piece, I was overcome by a wave of emotion that came out of nowhere and pushed me over the edge.

Suddenly, hearing my voice singing, I heard my Dad's voice singing. For a split second, my voice sounded what I remember his voice sounding like when I was a child and he was the director of our church choir at St. Theresa's Catholic Church in Salem, Illinois.

St. Theresa's Church

Christmas Season 1965 - My dad, my brother Danny, my sister Karen, me and my cousin Veronica

But I didn't just hear his voice, I felt - in a sense - his presence. But it wasn't the presence of the father I knew later in life. It was Dad, but a father who was different: the man he was never allowed to be for various reasons. It was a man who had a passion for singing, a flame that unfortunately flickered out later in his life. It was a man whom I could tell was in touch with himself. And I shared that with him for a few measures of the beautiful hymn we were singing:
"The children in each different place will see the baby Jesus' face like theirs, so bright with heavenly grace and filled with holy light."
Dad passed away before I came out. He never knew the real me. But neither of us were in a position when he was alive to come out to each other. I regret that, but such was our lot in life. That's why those few moments were so incredibly precious to me. I was "surprised by joy," for I felt that we were communicating as our authentic selves ... and it became difficult to sing.
"O lay aside each earthly thing and with your heart as offering, come worship now the infant king. 'Tis love that's born tonight."
The interior of St. Theresa's at midnight mass in the mid-50's

Christmas seems to be ineffably connected to one's childhood. During those moments of connecting with my dad, I pictured myself in a pew in St. Theresa's at midnight mass. I know exactly where our family always sat. I knew my mother would scold me and tell me to turn around, but I looked back over my shoulder to the choir loft (from where the above picture was taken) as the choir sang in Latin. And there was my dad, conducting the choir. He was radiant. 

Merry Christmas, Dad.

Me, Christmas 1965


  1. That's a beautiful arrangement of "Some Children See Him". Do you know how I could get in touch with Charles Black? I'd love for our choir here in Birmingham to sing it.

  2. Hi Rob. You can message him if you're on FaceBook: