I’d Enter your Garden

I was midway through the first verse, singing the alto section, which even in a madrigal – with the wonders of polyphony – is always dead boring. No. Really. Soprano’s always get the good lines. Alto’s, if they get words at all – and are not stuck humming some obscure combination of consonants and vowels, get really boring music lines. If you sing the alto line, you have time to think.

Singing came as a surprise to me, when I arrived at boarding school. Perhaps no more of a surprise than the 100km hike that started the year, or the care and feeding of 50 chickens, until they went to slaughter, right before Thanksgiving. (Exactly how chickens died was also a surprise) Singing was not optional, although the choir master probably wished it was, at least when it came to me.

I am told that there’s a period in the development of young children, when they learn to sing, when they learn about the difference between notes, when they learn to differentiate between tones. Coincidentally, at that same time, I was deaf, from peri-tonsillitis. It may not be my fault, but I am told that I sing an almost perfect fourth above or below the note I should be singing.

While I am particularly enthusiastic about singing, I’m not gifted. Sticking me in the alto section was very likely, at least in part, a way of burying my voice. I don’t think it matters all that much that your voice is way off, when you are humming.

So there I was, 17, with a boyfriend in the audience, with my blazer and my kilt, and my profoundly ugly school tie, singing about gardens at a Christmas(?) concert. More specifically, since I had a lot of time to consider, I realized I was signing about someone plucking blushing roses from a sweet maiden’s garden.


And at that moment – that exact moment – when I realized that perhaps, oh, just perhaps, this song was not so much about gardening.

In an overheated church, in my kilt, with my boyfriend, sitting next to my mother, in the second row, smiling at me. The Christmas concert. He’d realized the song wasn’t about gardens either.

I stopped singing. In the middle of a line, I stopped singing. I started thinking about the words. Then I tried to stop thinking about the words. Telling myself to “get hold”. Telling myself to keep singing. But I kept looking at the words, and then I started gasping for air. Readers, I tried so hard not to howl with laughter. My face turned as red as my hair, I waved my music folder in front of me, tugging desperately on the ugly school tie. The choir master, looking at me, first with confusion, then consternation, then condemnation.

Alas, I dropped to my knees, out of sight of the audience, my strangled laughter rising above the soprano’s, who busy carrying the tune.

And then the person next to me, well, she clued in. And before we could get to the second verse, the verse which includes the line “O grant me the pleasure for which I fondly sigh”, it suddenly seemed as if 60 young women clued in to what this song was about. Or, at least what it was not about.

And that my friends, is why I spent the first evening back, sitting in the headmaster’s office, Accused of fermenting a riot and trying to explain how I had managed to ruin the concert. Should you find yourself in this position, I would tell you that the best defense is not necessarily a good offence, and telling your head master it was a stupid and suggestive choice, and that if he would let you sing soprano, you would not have time to consider what the words meant.

O Come all Ye Faithful, anyone?

Johannes Brahms
German Madrigal
circa 1860 or so
Yes, I’d like to see the lyrics.

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20 Responses to I’d Enter your Garden

  1. Tash says:

    Thank you so much for this! I love these secret little messages in the music. Now making me rethink “O Christmas Tree,” among other shrubbery.

  2. Glo says:

    Lol…I also sang the three folk songs way back in high school. I didn’t realize the true meaning of the words…LOL. I find it hilarious my music teacher (who was a Christian) actually changed the word “walpurges” to “the feast day” in one of the other songs but let us sing about “entering the garden” and “plucking the roses.”

    I was also an alto that year! We also recorded a cd that year with the above songs! I’ll have to listen to it again and have a good laugh!

  3. Martha says:

    LOL, gee, is that what that hymn is about? Ha, ha, ha, can’t get anything past the alto section. I sang alto, tenor too if they needed it. It’s so much fun to have a deeper voice than most boys, ah. Great story, thanks for sharing. I can just see you in your school uniform dissolved in laughter on the choir platform, tee hee.

  4. JuliaS says:


    We have a song we sing in church now and again that always sets me to giggles, but mostly because I tend to think in images and while not randy by any means, is just really dorky to visualize. (Hmmmm, spellcheck says dorky is a word, but spellcheck isn;t – ok, anyway . . . where was I?) It’s a song about sowing seeds. There is one verse in the song where we sing about being the seeds “lying lifeless on the teeming mold” and I don’t know why – but I just canNOT sing that with a straight face you know? Of course, the song is a total wash from there on out – alto, soprano or tenor! (I only condescend to bass on the rare occasion they don’t go below a low D – and then only if the choir director is really desperate)

    When I was 20, our church choir was very pathetic. I was one of two tenors – me and my best friend’s older brother who got a little handsy now and then. That is what happens I suppose when you stick a young, nubile female in a section with one single 24 year old guy and 2 grizzled male senior citizens singing bass. (and can I just tell you how much I relished using the word nubile to describe myself, even if it was a past self?!)

    Thanks for a fabulous laugh this morning!

  5. The Rebound Girl says:

    LMAO! This is one of the best reads all week.

    Thanks I really needed a good laugh…*singing* Oh come all ye faithfulllll…

  6. Carbon says:

    Thank you for the amusing insight. 🙂 I hope all of the laughs made up for whatever punishment was doled out.

  7. Two Hands says:

    I never laughed in choir, but at church, sometimes we had solos. This woman used to come out and sing and when we saw her my brother and I would clamp our hands over our mouths and bow our heads as if in deep, deep prayer. She did her vibrato with her mouth (ever seen that? looks like mouth spasms or something only hers was exaggerated), into the giant (gargantuan) foam ball that covered the microphone and oh, when she started, it was all we could do not to roll under the pews and cry with laughter.

  8. Banana says:

    LOL….rolling on floor. You made my day.

  9. ScientistMother says:

    that is funny.

  10. alicia says:

    haha!! ok so this didn’t really happen to you, it was someone else who wrote this right?? a little blonde over here?

    so funny though!

  11. loribeth says:

    OMG, you totally made my day too!! Thanks so much for the laugh!!

  12. Brown Owl says:

    Loved it Loved it Loved it!!!
    As a first suprano, I have often considered the lot of alto’s one and two, and at times been jealous of their obvious ability to multi-task through-out a very busy concert. I could not quite resolve the conflict, or the inside jokes they seemed to share for, I never quite had the time – at the time – to think it through!

    Delightful! Merry Christmas – you rose!!!!!

  13. Geohde says:

    Heh. heh. he. 🙂



  14. Amy says:


  15. JamieD says:

    That is awesome!! I am laughing so hard at the picture, my cheeks are burning.

    That is a good way to describe my own singing – enthusiastic but not gifted. I’m quite bad, actually but it doesn’t stop me!!

  16. Julia says:

    Holy crap, this is hilarious. And really, what WERE they thinking?
    Have you seen SNL skits on subjects very near this? Recently there was one with Christopher Walken. I couldn’t find a video, but I found the transcript: http://snltranscripts.jt.org/07/07igrease.phtml

  17. Kate C says:

    Yeah. We sang six Brahms folk songs in my (co-ed) Madrigal group in high school. The first day we read through the music the whole group was snickering so much we couldn’t see straight. The (very) Catholic director just loved us. Not. I did like some of the other songs in the set – my favorite was “How Sad Flow the Streams.”

    I was a 2nd Soprano – talk about some fun lines!

  18. Heidi says:

    My best church friend and I once got in trouble for laughing through God Be With You Til We Meet Again…but when you add in bed to the end of it, and your 15, it becomes the funniest thing in the world.

    It didn’t help that my father was the minister and yelled at us from the pulpit.

    Merry Christmas Spit family.
    love and hugs

  19. Melody says:


    For Heidi … If you would like more silly times with the words ‘in bed’, my brother contaminated me with the idea of adding that to the end of every fortune cookie note you read. Have fun!

  20. Bryan says:

    HA ha ha
    That’s Fabulous!
    Say the madrigal years ago and cottoned-on immediately.
    That your Headmaster was “Affronted” is classic..!

    You MUST publish this as a Short Story.


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