On Friday, I went to church with Hector and set in motion some plans to perform live in front of the entire congregation. Hector goes to an evangelical church called Nuevo Vino on the edge of town. We went early because he’s a greeter, which makes sense for Hector, because more and more I see how he knows everyone in this town of 13,000. It’s simply a joy to ride around in his truck. At every turn he will yell out the window to someone he knows and they will smile and respond with some Spanish slang.
While Hector is greeting people, I sit down in the 2nd row. I figure that the front is equivalent to the back of the church because I’m not really going to avoid people coming up to me and introducing themselves no matter where I sit. There just aren’t 6’3″ white people who hang out in Guatemalan churches on Friday nights.
A young man came up and introduced himself. He knew a bit of English, but he mostly spoke in Spanish. He said that Saturday night was a service for “jovenes” or “young people. He asked me if I played any instrument. I said that I played guitar and sang a bit. He was impressed. He said that I should come at 5:00. Someone else told me that the service was at 7:00. I was trying to figure out why there were two different times for the service, but like most things here, I just give up and go with the flow.
Saturday rolls around and Hector and I head to the church. There aren’t really that many people there at all. Only the young men that I met last night. One guy in particular, Andres, is very friendly, and as it turns out, he’s the piano player at the church. We walked up to the stage and I picked up a guitar and tried to tune it. It was old and wasn’t very good quality, so I had a lot of trouble with it, so he gave me a bass instead. I don’t really play bass.
We started jamming to some songs that I kind of knew and then he comes over to me and starts talking about the order of songs. He proceeds to explain what chords I need for the verse and then for the chorus. I’m having trouble with the songs because when Guatemalans write and read music they use the Solfeggio
(Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do) and not the notes (C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C).
A few girls pick up microphones and start singing the songs. They sound like they know what they are doing. Another young man sits down and starts playing the drums. It’s at this point where I get a bit leery about the situation:
- We’re singing Spanish songs that I’m not familiar with.
- I’m playing a bass and I really can’t hear what notes I’m playing because it’s so loud.
- I can’t transcribe his solfeggio annotations or my own handwriting.
- It’s getting closer and closer to 7:00.
- People are coming into the church.
I started praying one of those prayers for the Lord to have mercy on me. I’m not sure which transgressions merit the recompense of having to play 12 Spanish songs on a bass where I can’t even hear the notes. Yes, I am starting to freak out.
Just then, one of the girls lays down the microphone and says goodbye. The drummer looks at his watch and sticks the drumsticks in his pocket. I’m beginning to think my prayer has paid off.
Andres turns off the keyboard and I ask him if he’s in the group tonight.
“Tonight? No, tonight we sing with the CD.”
Whew . . . I almost joined a worship band. Thank goodness. Turns out, you can come at 5:00 if you want to practice music, otherwise, show up at 7:00 with the rest of the jovenes.