I actually can’t remember the first time I joined my local Catholic parish’s choir. An aunt first gave me my debut to sing at the 5:00 p.m. Saturday mass sometime in the early 2000s1 and eventually I went on in to joining the 10:00 a.m. Sunday choir. Ever since then, I’ve had a blast even though most of the time I still feel left out. I’ll explain about this portion some other time.
From the past choirs I’ve been a part of2, one thing I learned is the seating/standing arrangement of the singers. All choirs are always arranged by their harmony parts. For example, the front row would be filled with soprano singers. The second row would be alto singers and so on and so forth. Depending on the choir director, the placements of the singers can vary. For example, my usual choir director would divide the seating arrangements by portions. At the front, soprano singers on the left side, alto singers on the right side, while at the back would be the baritones on the left side behind the sopranos and the basses on the right side behind the altos.3 No matter what arrangement your choir ends up, you’re always going to be grouped together with your fellow singers. For instance, I’m an alto singer, therefore I sit/stand where all the other alto singers sit/stand.
Or so I thought anyway.
Depending on the choir director4, I would sit wherever the rest of the alto singers would sit. That’s always been the standard. However lately on my “original” choir, I have been, shall we say, “demoted” to sit at the back. For almost 10 years, I have always been sitting at the front right side because that’s where the altos sit. However, the person next to me5 has been… how do I say this… an ingrate (?). Throughout the later years our choir has increased with new members (which is definitely a good thing!), which means our seats have been filling up quickly on Sunday mornings before mass. My mantra for choirs is to look for an empty seat next to your fellow alto singer and you’ll be fine. In this case, since late May, this isn’t happening.
The person next to me now requires an empty seat to put her stuff on (ie. her jacket, her bag, her binder/book, etc.). When there’s only one empty seat left at the front row and it just so happened to be the one next to her, the only logical thing I would do is take that seat. After all, she’s an alto and I’m an alto, so altos should sit together. It never occurred to me that she’s the new doña of the front row and that the seat next to her is now her personal property. Being such a somewhat of a staunch Pinay I am, I still follow by the whole “respect your elders” bit and decided to find another empty seat. Maybe she was just having a bad day or something (which obviously makes no sense if that was the excuse). I thought that something like this shouldn’t be of a big deal so maybe next Sunday or so, I can have my seat back.
The whole “I need this empty seat for my stuff so go sit somewhere else” had become constant. I tried to keep mum about it, however the rest of the singers in the choir were also beginning to notice it too. Some of the guys have been wondering why I have been sitting at the second to the last row where the guys sit. There’s another alto singer who sat behind me and offered me to sit next to her instead, however the person sitting next to her by the piano (who isn’t even an alto singer by the way) refused to give up her seat to me because her reason was “I have been sitting here for the last so and so years” like her name was already written all over that seat. The older soprano singers and even the alto singer who offered me to sit next to her even tried to talk to this ingrate about hanging her jacket on her own seat and put her bags and her binders underneath her seat, but to no avail. Something this small has now become something serious. It’s gotten personal.
I attend most of the practices on the weekends and I also sing on all (required) Sundays and the front row near the piano has always been my spot. I’ve never signed my name on it or even kicked people out except for “sopranos sit over there, altos sit here” reason. I don’t understand why the older Pinay women (I’m referring to the alto singer with a greedy empty seat and the soprano singer sitting next to the alto singer) are being such ingrates to the younger women as if they own the damn seats. I always saw myself as being patient and calm and someone who doesn’t take the smallest of things in to a huge big deal, but if this keeps up, I may have to report this problem to the choir director or worse— find another choir to join. If this type of atrocity continues on, they might as well just kick me out of the choir with the LORD God as our witness.
And to end this rather uncomfortable rant (seriously I have never ranted about church before, let alone in the service that I offer to my parish community), I shall leave it with a fitting verse.
The group of believers was one in mind and heart. No one said that any of his belongings was his own, but they all shared with one another everything they had.
— Acts 4:32
- 2003? 2004? If so, then I must have been a member of the choir for 10-ish years now! [↩]
- This stretches back at my Montessori school days in the Philippines like back in the 80s… [↩]
- Viewing from the choir director/parishioner seats. [↩]
- and this is a standard with the combined choirs during Easter season or Christmas season even… [↩]
- will not mention any names for the sake of privacy. [↩]