By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Choir memories: Head held high, toes to the floor
Placeholder Image

I've been singing in somebody's choir for most of my life. It all began when I was four at Beecher Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta. We wore fluffy little choir robes with a little bow on the front.
For a child of 4, I looked rather angelic.

This is scary, but I can remember the words to most of the songs we sang. Of course, they weren't but a few lines, like "Jesus helped the sick, Jesus helped the blind, Every day he went about doing something kind."

Not too hard, but it remains etched in my mind nearly 50 years later. I also know the words to "You send me" and "Louie, Louie," except for the part that no one really knows what that guy was saying.

I digress.

I'm not a great choir singer, but in all this time, no one has asked me to leave. I'm not a soloist, but I blend in decently.

Like all early choir members, I didn't particularly like to stand still. If you haven't been to a children's choir performance lately, standing still is not a requirement (much to the chagrin of choir leaders.)

One year, our church recorded an album that featured all of the choirs from little folks to grown-ups. It must have had some patriotic theme because one lady stood in the baptistery dressed as the Statue of Liberty.

The album photo featured all of the choirs photographed from the balcony of the church.

"I need everyone to look up high," said the photographer. I politely obeyed. If you look on the album cover, I am staring at the ceiling. You can see my neck sticking up front and center.

The minister of music was a nice man named Lamar Willis. I don't know if he is still alive, but he later served a congregation in the Athens area. His wife, who played the organ, was named Twila.

Somewhere along the way, Twila Willis told our children's choir that we would sing better if we would press our toes to the floor.

For the past 40-plus years, every time I enter a choir loft, I hear the voice of Mrs. Willis reminding me to press my toes to the floor.

Two or three years ago, a light bulb came on and I realized that Twila Willis was probably using this technique to keep us from shifting around from foot to foot, as little singers were prone to do.

It was part habit and part tradition, but I've continued to press my toes down for all these years. It seemed to work, until recently.

My current choir is a talented bunch. We sing mostly on pitch and use good techniques. Dancing, however, is not our strong suit.

At the end of a recent Sunday service, we sang "Soon and Very Soon," an up-tempo number that could easily cause one to dance.

Our leader, Mark Green, insisted that we do a little side-to-side sway.

We did and no one was injured or embarrassed. The first lady of the state of Georgia even joined in from the pews.

I'll be back this week with my toes pressed downward.

I hope Twila Willis would be proud.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on

Regional events