“Oh, great, look who’s here.”
“Yeah, Sam Wilson, I saw him when he walked in. Doesn’t he ever give up? He’s been at every choir tryout for the last, what, four years?”
“Yeah, I mean, the stutter isn’t the worst part. Most people who stutter lose it when they sing, but he can’t carry a tune to save his life.”
“Well I feel sorry for him just the same. He sure does want to sing in the choir.”
“Maybe he could help run the sound board. At least he would be doing something. Hey, who is that?”
“I don’t know but it looks like he’s about to tell us, and he’s carrying Brother Carter’s music folder.”
The newcomer approached the platform and began to speak. “Good evening everyone.”
“Good evening.” All present returned his greeting.
“I am Brother Ben. Your director, Brother Carter, has been called out of town.”
“I heard that his sister is dying in the hospital in St. Louis.” Someone interjected.
“Well, I don’t know where you heard that, but it is far from the truth. His sister is in St. Louis and she is getting married this weekend.” Allowing for a few murmurs the stranger continued.
“I have been asked to stand in his place for the tryouts tonight. I want to thank Sister Marshall for volunteering to sit in for Sister Carter on the piano this evening.” Ben acknowledged the silver haired woman who returned his smile.
“Now, I suppose we should go in alphabetical order.” He pulled a sheet of paper from a folder. “I have a list here of everyone that has signed up and it looks like we have about twenty seven, so let’s get started. I believe tonight we will use a standard everyone should know by heart. Mrs. Abbott?”
“Over here.” She waved.
“Ok, let’s start out with the first verse of Amazing Grace. I will signal you when to stop.”
Sam sat patiently, although fidgeting nervously, as Ben went through the list one by one. Eventually Ben called his name.
“And last, but certainly not least, Sam Wilson.”
Sam stood and said, “Heh heh heh hello, buh buh brother Ben.”
“Begin whenever you are ready, Sam.” Ben said calmingly and smiled.
There was a long hushed pause then Sam nodded to Mrs. Marshall who began the intro.
“Uh. Uh mazing… graeeace, how suhweeet the…”
Ben held up his hand to signal stop. Sam was now staring at the floor, as was most everyone else. Beads of sweat dotted Sam's forehead.
“Sam, I want you to look at me.” Ben said and placed his hands on Sam’s shoulders. “Now I want you to close your eyes and envision Jesus sitting on His throne at the right of the Father. Do you see them?”
Sam nodded, eyes shut and face lifted upward. He began to smile.
“Now take a deep breath and allow the Holy Spirit to fill your lungs and your soul. Now Sing to Jesus, just to Him, from your heart.” Ben signaled for the piano.
This time the music from Sam’s lips was beautifully flawless and soul rousing. Before he realized it he had sung the entire hymn, beginning to end.
When he opened his eyes they were wet with tears as was his cheeks, as was every face in the room- including Ben.
“Excellent, excellent.” Ben said. “Tryouts are over. I will leave my notes and the video of tonight on Brother Carter’s desk to go over when he returns on Monday. Thank you all for coming.”
After a few handshakes and a bear hug from Sam Brother Ben headed down the hall toward the choir director’s office.
Someone’s cell phone chirped.
It was Sister Marshall that addressed those who remained.
“That was Brother Carter. He wanted to make sure we all got his message about postponing the tryouts until next week. And he has never heard of Brother Ben.”
A couple of the men started down the hallway after the substitute director, but they knew in their hearts he would not be found.
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