Living in the Campbell household is kind of like living in a musical. People just randomly burst forth in song from time to time.
In all honesty, it's not people. It's usually just my daughter Anna and myself, although son Kyle joins in occasionally.
Anna is a music major at Snead State Community College and she hopes to be a music teacher one day. As part of her scholarship requirements, she is a member of the Snead State Community Choir. The Community Choir is a unique and beautiful thing. It includes both Snead students and members of the community at large, most of whom have gray hair.
We'd been singing at home one day and Anna said, 'You've got a nice voice, Dad. You should join Community Choir with me."
She was baiting me. She's a really good singer. My voice is nothing special. But one thing led to another and I agreed to join the Community Choir.
Sam Harvey, the late editor of The Advertiser-Gleam, used to say, "Ask me far enough in advance and I'll agree to anything."
Community Choir was like that. But the thought also occurred to me that Anna will be transferring to a 4-year college soon. If we were ever going to share the stage together, it had to be soon.
Me being in Community Choir is like a pauper hobnobbing with millionaires. There are a lot of great, really talented singers in the group. And then there's me. I've just been trying to sit next to someone who is really good and do what they do.
So far, that person is retired school teacher Matt York, a new friend. He was a Southerner at Jacksonville State and knows music.
The week before Community Choir rehearsals started, our family had lunch after church with friends Joey and Kendra Newton. We told them about the new choir adventure I was about to embark on. Much to my surprise, Joey showed up at Snead on the first night of Community Choir.
I didn't know it, but Joey is a really good singer too. So I've been sitting between Joey and Matt and soaking up as much knowledge as possible.
"Really, that's the best way to learn," Joey said, and he shared with me that's how he learned to sing when he was a lad growing up in a strong church choir in Franklin County.
Dr. Barbara Hudson of the Snead music department leads Community Choir. She's funny and opens each session with a few fun comments.
"It's hard work," Anna told me as we drove to our first practice. "It's not what you think it will be."
I thought she was just trying to scare me, but she was right.
Dr. Hudson essentially dissects each song and we will spend several minutes practicing part of a song rather than a full song.
I've attended 2 practices so far, but an odd thing is happening. I'm already reaching the point where I'm looking forward to it each week. It's brand new to me. I've never been part of an organized choir like this. We meet on Thursday nights from 7 p.m. until 8:40 p.m.
My voice was absolutely shot after an hour and 40 minutes of singing the other night. I sent a text to my wife Mary and told her I was going to eat some grass when I got home. She asked why and I told her because that's what our dog Patches does when he's got a tickle in his throat.
We are building towards the Community Choir's Christmas concert on Tuesday, Dec. 10, in the Bevill Center at 7 p.m. It's an Alabama Bicentennial event and is called "An Alabama Gospel Christmas."
Dr. Hudson is a pretty meticulous planner and I can't believe it really happened this way, but she told a funny story the first night of rehearsals about how she came up with the program.
"Sen. Clay Scofield was visiting the campus," she said. "The subject of the Alabama Bicentennial came up. Sen. Scofield asked me, 'Are you doing anything for the bicentennial?' And I said, 'We're doing an Alabama Gospel Christmas.'"
I believe there are 10 songs, many of them familiar Christmas tunes, but with a slightly different arrangement that makes them very unique. The Alabama state song is also part of the program. It's a wonderful program of music.
I'm not sure if I can make a long-term commitment to Community Choir. But I am committed to Thursday night rehearsals this fall and being in this Christmas show. It's hard work, but I'm learning a lot and enjoying myself and they haven't run me off yet.
A few friends in the class were genuinely surprised when I walked in the first night. But Deon Smith of Guntersville wasn't one of them.
"I knew you'd be back after that New York trip in the spring," he said. It was the Community Choir that traveled to New York City and sang at Carnegie Hall in May.
Community Choir is thriving this year. Dr. Hudson ordered 30 sets of music to start the rehearsal season.
"That would have been more than enough by at least 5 in the past," said Joe Daily of the choir.
But there are 44 voices in the choir this year, including one young man who is driving in all the way from Huntsville.
One of my great regrets in life is I never attended Snead College. All my friends who did talk about what a great experience it was and how some of the best schooling they got was at Snead.
I'm viewing Community Choir as my chance to be a midlife Snead student in a subject that's brand new to me.