Mark Erikson of the Pathfinder Chorus from Fremont, Nebraska, shared this great reminder of the way we touch lives every day.
Ringing like never before, the final chord of Auld Lang Syne soared to the rehearsal hall’s rafters. Then silence. No one moved except the frail old gentleman in a folding chair with his walker close beside him. He lowered his head into his cupped hands.
As one of the few surviving charter members of the Fremont Chapter, he is no stranger to this group or this hall. Days earlier, at his request, the chorus sang at the memorial service and celebration of life for his recently departed wife. Visiting us during a Monday night rehearsal for the first time in a while to simply say - thanks.
During the break, well-wishers shook his once powerful hands. His booming bass voice not so much any more. However, the gleam in his eye and the smile on his face spoke volumes as he listened with great pride to the now perennial top 10 chorus he helped form four decades ago. He came to say thanks to his heroes.
But there were no heroes on the risers that night, or during that song. We sang as one. Just as countless coaches and our own directors had said we should and could. And we did.
Virgil Post made but one request of our director Pete Stibor that night, “Ask the boys to sing Auld Lang Syne.”
Oh my! We had sung that classic, but vocally challenging ballad in competition for two straight years; rolled it off our current repertoire list at least two years ago. But there was only one right answer, so we sang - without sheet music for all but the visitors and our newest members.
In a moment we knew something was different. We did more than just sing the song. More than sing TO someone. We sang FOR someone – our own dear Virgil.
I’m sure the director stood in front of us the entire time; but he became transparent. To a man, we focused on Virgil. The once well-practiced dynamics, nuances, pickups and cutoffs all came flooding back to us without effort or conscious thought.
Connie Kiel you can be proud. We achieved unconscious competence.
By the first key change, we could sense something special was happening. One stray thought came to mind ever so briefly. Relax. This is no time to tense up. Just enjoy the moment.
So we did and so did Virgil. The final chord like so many before it rang forever.
Emotions too overpowering for words. Virgil’s head tipped forward into his tremoring hands to hide the tears now streaming down his face. What just happened?
Seconds seemed like hours. Still, not one of the six dozen men on the choral risers moved or breathed. The ones on the fourth and fifth steps were too far away to earlier notice the glisten in the old man’s eyes. But now everyone knew.
We created one of those Jim Henry Gold Medal Moments. Goosebumps running wild up and down arms and legs. Still, not a single muscle even so much as twitched. No talking, not even a whisper. A moment frozen in time to be replayed in our minds the rest of our lives…and Virgil’s too. We can change people’s lives through music.
Finally, Pete walked over to sit alongside and console one of our founding fathers, now crying openly. Virgil’s once trembling hands now steadied on Pete’s arms, like two brothers. Tears welled up in our eyes too, but still no else moved.
Just savoring that Gold Medal Moment and envision creating more. . .
In a conversation afterward, Virgil (now age 87) said “I’ve loved music all my life, and to me barbershop is a complete fulfillment of the most beautiful harmony you can get. Talk about raising the hair on your arms when you hit that chord just right. Barbershop harmony can’t be found in any other form of music.” He has loved singing barbershop since the original Pathfinder Chorus formed in the late 1940s and he was a charter member. “That group only lasted three years, but we loved singing.” For the next 20 years, Virgil sang in church choirs and with his children. Late in 1971, four or five guys met at Chuck McKenzie’s house with Chet Fox, a SPEBSQSA representative, to re-charter the Pathfinder Chorus, becoming "official" again in the spring of 1972. For more than 35 years Virgil sang with the 'new' Pathfinder Chorus, “loving every minute of it” until he developed Parkinson's Disease and lost his rich, melodious bass voice. He still visits on occasion, and is always welcome.