I’m clinging to Steve Stephens, like driftwood on the ocean.

He’s the main reason I’ve had the courage to keep going back to the Payson Choral Society rehearsals these past four months.

He’s my baritone buddy — although I swear he can hit any note he sets his mind on.

See, he was a music teacher. Has loved singing and music all his life. At some point, he had to leave music to make some money and raise a family and be a boring adult. But after he retired to Payson, he discovered the Choral Society.

He’ll be singing one of the solos in the Choral Society’s spring concert this Saturday and Sunday.

Me, on the other hand, I’ve never had the nerve to sing in public.

Mind you. I love music. I just can’t carry a tune in a bucket, as they used to say.

Leastwise, that’s what I’ve told myself all my life.

But when I retired (sort of, can’t stop writing, as it turns out), I realized I didn’t have much time to test all my limits.

So what if I wanted to sing?

Blame Michele, my wife. She’s a wonderful singer. She said I should sing, and I tend to follow her around. So I followed her to the tryouts. Through some oversight, they didn’t kick me out of there for the greater good.

So now, I’m just thanking the good Lord for Daria Mason, who spent her whole career teaching kids to find their music. Now, she leads the Choral Society, with such joy and expertise and love that even I have the courage to sing. She cajoles and scolds and laughs and jokes. She can hear when the altos go wrong, even when the tenors are belting it out. She can harmonize the separate species of sopranos and basses — transforming the 60 voices of the choir into a single instrument.

She can work us for three hours without a break and send us into the night singing.

I am astonished at the people who have come together to create that soaring, complex, happy music. We’re mostly old folks, who have been journalists and electricians and teachers and marketing consultants and hairdressers and Lord knows what all. Everyone’s doing it for the love of the music, the chance to blend into a single, beautiful voice.

Most of the money people pay for the concert goes for music scholarships. This year the Choral Society bought a new piano for the high school music program.

A couple of this year’s scholarship winners will perform at the concert this weekend. They’ve got beautiful voices and the courage to stand up in front of everyone and risk the bad note, the forgotten lyric.

Me, I’m just trying to blend.

And move under the rich cover of Steve’s voice.

I gotta admit, most the time I feel like a dog tied to the trailer hitch of the Choral Society pickup truck — half running, half dragged.

I got no ear. But Steven keeps me on track with little movement of his hand — up, down, up, up, up, down. I hang onto his voice and watch his hand from the corner of my eye.

And somewhere along the way, I quit worrying.

Somewhere along the way, I let the music take me.

Somewhere in there I accepted the acceptance of the choir.

We’ve all led these complicated lives, but have come finally to the realization that life is short but love is long.

You must have the courage to seek the joy and live in it.

So now it’s time to stand up there and sing in public.

With any luck, you won’t hear me at all.

Contact the writer at paleshire@payson.com

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