Singing has never been one of my strong points. Don't get me wrong. I love singing ever since I was a kid, but ever since I joined my first musical theater class, I started thinking if it was really for me. I guessed it wasn't. Come every summer, I always push to enroll in a musical theater workshop class, but when my classmates start singing, I clam up. I quietly accepted the fact that I will never be able to sing as well as they can, and I just got contented in cavorting with the rest of the chorus for every musical showcase that we did.
Even when my college friends and I went out for videoke nights, I just sat there watching, never volunteering for a song.
When I started taking summer theater workshops again, I took the basic acting classes, no musicals involved, and kept saying that musicals weren't really my forte despite that one summer of Acting in Musical Theater class.
I just kept all my singing to myself. I closed the door of my bedroom and shyly sang to Broadway karaoke tunes on my computer.
This year changed it all. Like my uncertainty before about dancing, I took a leap and tried out for the Feast Bay Area Music Ministry. I found myself enjoying it, singing in the morning mass sessions every other Sunday.
Our Lovelife batch also formed our own group of musicians and singers upon discovering we had a whole bunch of talented people in the batch. Most of us were mostly composed of fellow batchmates from the music ministry. It felt like a welcome change that no one judged my voice despite its different sound quality compared to theirs. I felt more comfortable singing around them, be it for rehearsals for events (such as our batch's 2-month reunion), or even just random videoke sessions.
Ever since I started admiring those amazing people who led worship during the Feast, I kept wondering what it would feel like to be like them, even just for a small event.
And then suddenly, that opportunity came when I least expected it. Our Lovelife batch, along with Batch 6, had been tasked to organize the monthly GIG for June. We were tasked to get speakers for the assigned topic, market and advertise the event, and all that jazz. And of course, as the event had an opening and closing worship, we needed a worship team. So our batch heads rounded up those of us who served in the music ministry plus a couple more who are musically inclined to from the worship team.
Despite some hurdles along the way, like a speaker having a last minute change of plans, the GIG being moved to a later date, to the new date resulting in the unavailability of certain people, to resorting to an acoustic setup instead of the expected full band setup, somehow things still fell into place, and we still merrily rolled along.
Now, the thing is, even with my active service in the music ministry, I'm still not all that confident with my voice. And there I was, rehearsing to sing in front of a possibly large crowd. I was struggling with certain notes, to the point that when I couldn't reach a certain harmony, I would immediately revert to the simple melody. I was very conscious of myself (and possibly afraid) every time I couldn't get it right.
As we kept rehearsing, my confidence grew, thanks to the encouragement of my friends in the group. But I felt that I was only confident just singing with them.
So many thoughts kept running in my mind before the day of the GIG. What if I went out of tune? What if I did it too loudly on the mic that people would notice how bad it was? What would people say when they hear that? Then so many people will then think of me as the girl who was tone-deaf and was singing all over the place.
Then I stopped. I pushed these thoughts far back in my mind. Don't mind it, I told myself. I am not singing for the audience, no matter how big or small a crowd there will be. I am singing to the Audience of One. Isn't that what this is all about? I reminded myself yet again of Jaya's words during this year's Grand Easter Feast:
"We don't sing because we want applause. We sing because we want Him to be applauded."
On the actual day of the GIG, with that in mind, I felt more relaxed. We met up with Tony, who was to be our worship leader, about an hour earlier than the agreed-upon call time so we could rehearse the songs with him for the first time. I was actually glad that it was Tony who would be leading the worship. I knew that his energy would be so high and contagious.
The sound check got me a little anxious, but I brushed it aside. I mean, nerves are natural, right? And hey, I'm not really used to holding a microphone. So I just hyped myself up instead.
When the event finally kicked off and we were called onstage, it felt different. The nerves were all gone. When I first saw the huge crowd from where I was standing onstage, that did it. The energy from our worship leader, our musicians, my fellow singers, combined with the energy of all the attendees in the room gave me such a rush. I immediately stopped feeling self-conscious about how I sounded and let myself go.
So that was how it felt like. It felt different from all my other onstage performances. Usually, in those performances, I would always consciously think about what the people would think and say about what I was doing. Was I doing it right? Do they like me and what I was doing? Did they know I made a mistake? Will they like me enough to applaud? But during the GIG's worship, none of these thoughts crossed my mind when I was already out there. All I felt was the delight of so many people singing and praising God, and that indescribable feeling of just being out there and doing all that for Him.
The experience gave me the biggest rush I had never felt before. When I first wanted this, it felt like petty vanity. I just wanted to be seen. Then when I was actually out up there onstage, that didn't matter anymore. All I cared about before was forgotten. I was lost in the music, and got swept in His mercy and love. It felt more amazing than any applause I had ever received, because all those shouts and cheers of praise were for that Audience of One.
In hindsight, I realized that I felt more comfortable singing for Him than singing for my desire to be recognized and applauded. I guess this is one of the lessons He wanted to teach me. It was a truly humbling experience for someone who used to feel so invisible and had a crazy desire to be seen, only to learn that you don't really have to perform and be recognized.
"The fear of man strangles us, because we can never please everybody; but the fear of the Lord frees us, because it challenges us to live and serve for an audience of One." - Paul Chappell
Photos courtesy of Cris Legaspi.