A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Cantata

Actually, it wasn’t on the way to the Easter Cantata, it was at the Easter Cantata.

Okay, to be fair, it was the Easter Cantata, and the year was 1990.

So, imagine, if you will, a bunch of puffy-haired freshmen coeds sitting in the middle of a very long row which is located in the middlish section of a large, college concert hall.  The acoustics of the room are impeccable, rendering the microphone on stage somewhat pointless.  These details are important, so remember them!  Well, the hair part isn’t so important, but, you know, it was the early 90s, so just to help you paint the picture and all . . . but the lights did go down very soon after we were seated, so zzzwwwiiiiiiish, now you can’t really see our hair much anyway.

So, there we were, feeling a bit excited as we were nearing the end of our first year of college, feeling a bit wistful as we were missing Easter at home for the first time, and feeling all reverent and worshipful as we settled in for what was sure to be a spiritual hour or two of music and the spoken word.

The choir, which was made up of uber talented BYU students, was phenomenal, powerful, and quite moving. The director, who was also a student, was . . . umm . . . well . . .   In addition to his directng duties, he had taken it upon himself to deliver all the recitative portions of the performance.

I wonder if he was a theater major?

His delivery was something.  He would be up there energetically waving his little baton around, putting the choir through its paces and then, as the song sequence would end, he would turn to the microphone and deliver the spoken part in a way that words can’t adequately describe.  The tone, the inflection, the dynamics going from boldness to whispering — it was if he was trying to channel the Father, Son and Holy Ghost all at the same time.  His obvious goal was to tug at the heart strings and force you to just. feel. insanely. moved already!

My neighbor (she was both my dorm neighbor and the person in the seat next to me) and I found it all insanely funny.  Nobody else seemed to be feeling that, however.  As the choir director’s inflections and dynamics continued to go up and down, as he continued the plaintive whispering with hands outstretched, beckoning those assembled to just feel his spiritual giantness, as he continued in a manner that seemed to add the entire Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to those he was attempting to channel, we began to get the giggles.

As you can imagine, the giggles are never a good thing to get when you are sitting in the middle of a middlish row in an auditorium with world class acoustics and an audience otherwise enraptured into complete silence.  So we had to giggle in complete silence.  We covered our faces a bit with our hands and hung our heads.  Our roommates thought we were crying — you know, moved spiritually to tears and all that.  Then the music commenced again and we were able to compose ourselves with no one being any the wiser as to our true predicament.

The choir, however, could only sing for so long before its director had to insert himself once again with his spoken words.  I think he wrote the script, too.  Anywhoo . . .

The emotive whispering!  I have never heard anything like it.  Well, okay, I have, but not to that degree.  It was commanding.  It was (attempting to be) compelling.  It was prolific.  I suddenly remembered where I had heard that tone before, and I leaned over to my neighbor and whispered ever so softly into her ear:

Luke!  Use the force!

And we lost it.  With Herculean effort we managed to remain completely, one hundred percent silent; but we lost it.  Our bodies were wracked with great, heaving, inaudible guffaws.  Our heads were practically between our knees.  Our 1990s hair was bobbing up and down, distracting the men sitting behind us.  We both kept glancing up and down the row, gauging our chances of a discreet, silent escape, but it was impossible.  Our roommates initially thought we, like the choir director, must be spiritual giants.  We were just so moved.  They were patting our hands, patting our backs, being very solicitous.  That is, until they finally figured out that we weren’t moved to tears but rather to insane, mute laughter.

The cantata continued on for what felt like an eternity, and we were never able to recompose ourselves.  It was torture.  The tears (of laughter) were streaming down my face, and I could hardly breathe.  My abs hurt.  My ribs hurt.  My whole body hurt.  The theater choir director kept channeling Obi-Wan Kenobi. 

By the time all was said and done the men behind us had figured out what was going on, and they patted our shoulders with a sense of camaraderie on the way out of the auditorium because they also found Mr. Choir Director beyond ridiculous.  Our roommates were a different story.

As we walked back through the dark to our dorm, undoubtedly looking and sounding like drunks since we still could not. stop. laughing (which at this point really did require the holding and squeezing of our sides lest we burst open), the rest of our group would hardly speak to us.  Their disdain was palatable.

Obviously they weren’t Star Wars fans.

And George, if you’re out there, Tewt the Newt says hello.

9 thoughts on “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Cantata

  1. How funny! I’ve had several similar situations, when laughter is so totally inappropriate and I just couldn’t help it. Only I’m not as good at keeping it quiet and usually embarrass myself. I would have loved hearing Obi-Wan’s Easter Wisdom. Great story!


  2. First the story about how you are such a criminal in the world of Radiator Springs with the speeding and all, and now this – I just had no idea you were such a rebel! What a great story – not sure if there’s any way you could have made that laughter breakdown any more inappropriate. I do know there’s no way I could have come as close as you did to getting away with it though. Too bad your roommates didn’t have a smidge of a sense of humor though!


  3. Love (hate) those moments! Mine was when I was babysitting a friend’s kids for a weekend and took them to my singles ward with me. During sacrament meeting the 4 month-old girl let rip a burp that frat boys would respect. All heads turned, of course, because hers was the only sound to be heard. For some reason it just struck me as absolutely hilarious. I sat there shaking quietly in the pew, tears streaming down my face… Ah the trials of inappropriate laughter! 😀


  4. Okay, as long as we’re sharing. It was highschool, 1979. My friend Donna and I, who had been friends for ages, were sitting in class doing whatever. Over the intercom, an announcement is made that the vice principal of our old junior high school had, sadly, passed away. Well, I can’t tell you how many times Donna and I had been to this guy’s office on one charge or another. But it was lots! Oh my, did the memories of that come back and we both lost it. Couldn’t stop ourselves from busting the proverbial gut during the “moment of silence.” People thought we were terribly broken up about it, and to be honest, I was sad that they guy died, but that was not what was happening. One girl figured it out and told us with much distaste that we were mean. Prolly so. May he rest in peace.


  5. Dianna

    Hmmm… inappropriate laughter in church. Sorta like the Mother’s Day Sunday, when our pastor was going on and on about mothers’ best qualities, like baking pies and decorating cakes and all those other motherly kitchen-y things. My sister and I had tears rolling down our cheeks, we were laughing so hard. And… unfortunately… not silently. The paster stopped his sermon to ask if we were okay. My mother was mortified. But it was at least justified – this is the same woman who forgot to put cheese in the grilled cheese sandwiches.

    BTW – Twilight shout out on my blog… when you have a moment. 🙂


  6. I’m impressed that you remained silent…I get the giggles inappropriately too, but 1) I can’t keep them silent, and 2) I can’t keep them restrained to the time when the funny thing is actually happening…for me, they rear up insanely for about the next 24 hours when I think of it. I bet that physically hurt, keeping it in.


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