Singing with the Lutherans

by Garrison Keillor

I have made fun of Lutherans for years --
who wouldn't if you lived in Minnesota?
But I have also sung with Lutherans
and that is one of the main joys of life,
along with hot baths and sweet corn,

We make fun of Lutherans for their blandness,
their excessive calm, their fear of giving offense,
their constant guilt that burns like a pilot light,
their lack of speed and also their secret
fondness for macaroni and cheese.

But nobody sings like them.
If you ask an audience in New York City,
a relatively "Lutheranless" place,
to sing along on the chorus of
Michael Row the Boat Ashore,
they will look daggers at you as if you
had asked them to strip to their underwear.

But if you do this among Lutherans they'll
smile and row that boat ashore and up
on the beach and down the road!

Lutherans are bred from childhood to sing in
four-part harmony. It's a talent that comes
from sitting on the lap of someone singing
alto or tenor or bass and hearing the harmonic
intervals by putting your little head
against that person's rib cage.

It's natural for Lutherans to sing in harmony.
We're too modest to be soloists,
too worldly to sing in unison.
When you're singing in the key of C
and you slide into A7th and D7th chords,
all two hundred of you,
it's an emotionally fulfilling moment.

I once sang the bass line of
Children of the Heavenly Father
in a room with about three thousand Lutherans
in it; and when we finished we all had tears
in our eyes, partly from the promise that God
will not forsake us, partly from the proximity
of all those lovely voices.

By our joining in harmony, we somehow promise
that we will not forsake each other.

I do believe this: people, these Lutherans, who love
to sing in four-part harmony are the sort of people
you could call up when you're in deep distress.
If you're dying, they'll comfort you.
If you're lonely, they'll talk to you.
And if you're hungry, they'll give you tuna salad!!