We had a great time at Judy’s high school reunion last month. It brought back wonderful memories of the reunion five years ago. Back then, several of Judy’s friends joined us for an extra curricular activity in downtown Fargo. A friend of hers played bodhrán in an Irish band, Poitin. As we listened to the band in Dempsey’s Pub, Judy got more and more excited. Watching her friend Bonnie play that drum sparked something visceral in Judy. I should have known what was about to happen.
A couple of months later Judy wanted to go to Hobgoblin Music in Red Wing. She came home with a bodhrán. That led to hours of practice, learning how to play. You know that YouTube has videos that can teach almost anyone almost anything, including Irish drum. One thing led to another, and Judy joined a session group in Rochester that played Irish folk tunes every month or so. We’ve watched Irish bands at the local Irish Fest for the last couple of years, too. Then this winter Larry and Melissa needed a new drummer. Judy was ready to drum, and ready to sing harmony. Now we are traveling all over Southeast Minnesota for festivals and celebrations. It’s been a joy to watch this develop from that evening at Dempsey’s Irish Pub in Fargo.
This isn’t a one-off deal. Within a week of our getting married over forty years ago, Judy joined the Sweet Adeline Fargo Chorus that her mother sang with. Singing with that show group satisfied Judy’s need for music, singing, and performance for several years, continuing in Rochester when she joined the local group after we got out of college. Sweet Adelines gave Judy the opportunity for large productions, quartet singing, competitions, and travel to regional events. I got to tag along, watch and listen, joining them for the late night “After Glow” sing until dawn sessions. After children arrived, Judy dropped out of the organization, continuing with church choirs and the occasional wedding, funeral and other celebrations.
The major accomplishment was auditioning for and singing with Rochester’s Choral Arts Ensemble the year they performed Bach’s Mass in B Minor. The chorus is incredible, but the piece is one of humanity’s finest products. We’ve heard it many times and it thrills us every time. I cannot imagine the thrill of performing it on stage with a full orchestra, vocal soloists, and a full chorus. Just listening to it is about all the emotion this old engineer can handle. This spring we got to enjoy the Mass from the audience at Assisi Heights. There was lots of talk among Ensemble alum during the intermission.
The church choir membership turned out to have at least one wonderful side gig. For a couple of years the choir director had a “hobby” that he wanted the choir to join him in. He loved singing the national anthem at baseball games. Major League Baseball games. This was a big deal. One weekend the choir drove to Chicago and sang for a Chicago White Sox vs Toronto Blue Jays game. That meant two national anthems. In front of a crowd of over fifty thousand people. Then they got to sit in the stands behind home plate, right next to the players wives. One weekend I got to join them for a Minnesota Twins game in Minneapolis. That may have been the best baseball game I’ve ever been to, and I don’t remember a thing about the game.
Before getting too far with the story, you need to hear about an event that happened while Judy drove to Chicago. The choir caravanned down the interstate from Rochester. Somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin a frightened rabbit tried to dart across the highway. It bounced off Judy’s car and spun around on the pavement behind her, right in front of the next car full of choir members. You know what they talked about that evening.
Lots of people sing with the church choir, some even join an élite chorus like the Rochester Choral Arts Ensemble, a couple even play in a garage band, and a very few get to sing the national anthem at a professional sports event. How many get to do all of those, and have a blast at every event? I get to watch this hobby develop, enjoying every step of the way, sometimes even helping by carrying equipment and becoming the official “roadie” for the group.
I love my hobbies, but taking part in Judy’s is even more fun. I hope you have a chance to join us some evening for music and fun. Watch the RavensFire Facebook page for the next event.