As a 50-something Christian, I have a long personal history with hymns. Actually, I really like hymns, especially some of the older ones that were standbys before the advent of the “praise chorus”—well, I won’t go there. But the problem with many of the old hymns is that they are hard to sing. The melodies are not always catchy, and the phrasing demands better breath control than I have. Also, because hymns are written in four-part harmony, the melody lines can sit rather high. I must be honest: I do not enjoy singing hymns in church. I always sound anemic and out of breath, and I squeak on the higher notes, not because they are out of range but because I can’t keep up enough to breathe well.
But I want to sing. Not on television or the radio, not even in front of an audience. I want to just sing, to feel the words spin out of my mouth and the sound spin out of my throat and the melody swirl up from my existence. I want to feel the music happening in me. I need to feel the music happening in me. Humans are designed to make music. We’re meant to inhabit music and for music to inhabit us.
So I am on a mission now, to find my perfect song. Here’s what I imagine.
- It’s a song that feels right while it’s humming through my body.
- It’s a song with gutsy, true words. Because, frankly, I’m too impatient anymore to sing words I don’t believe in a LOT.
- It’s a song I can sing without changing voices—all head voice or all chest voice, but no constant shifting between them. I can just dwell in the tune and let it work in my heart and my mouth and do beautiful things—without my trying to navigate a range that’s too high or too low.
- It’s a song for healing the world. It will heal through joy or humor or lament or encouragement or hope, but anyone happening to overhear it will feel moved to be a better, fuller, truer person right now.
- It’s a song I can sing while walking or washing dishes or working in the garden or waiting for the bus. I can belt it out in the middle of nowhere or sing it softly in a crowd, depending on the mood. It works wherever I am.
- It’s a song that’s not so simple I can sing it mindlessly, but not so complicated that I forget it easily.
- It’s a song I might teach a grandbaby to sing.
- It’s a song that works with words but that hums well too.
- It’s a song that tunes my body to my spirit to my workplace to my home to my reality.
- It’s my perfect song, for now. When it accomplishes what it came to do, it will drift away, and then I’ll find a new song—another song perfect for me.
Can you name some “perfect” songs you have discovered?
What do you look for in a song that’s right for your life?
What are your favorite circumstances for singing?