I currently have a cold. Not a terribly nasty one — it’s more of the annoying type. I stayed in this weekend and took it easy. But being sick is really, really annoying when you’re an organist, because it does affect the way you play. Here’s how:
1. You can’t hear the same. My ears are plugged up, even with all this cold
medicine. So I cannot legitimately judge how loudly I’m playing. In my last Mass this weekend at my other parish, whose church building will not be opening until next month, I kept fiddling with the volume controls on the electric keyboard because I couldn’t hear myself. Afterwards, the cantor told me, “No, it was fine. Sounded just right.” But that sound system gives me trouble anyway, and I could barely hear what I was playing. The same thing had happened on Saturday, when I couldn’t figure out whether the organ was sounding right, because the sound was distorted somewhere in my ears.
2. It’s tough to sing. I got through half of my first Mass, then had to stop, then I didn’t sing at all in my other two. I just couldn’t. The singing started to irritate my throat, and then I couldn’t push enough volume through to make enough noise.
3. Everyone wants to shake your hand, but… Aside from the sign of peace and, at some parishes, greeting each other before Mass, there are always people who want to say hi to the musicians after Mass. But I wasn’t shaking anyone’s hand this weekend.
4. You lose focus. When you’re not feeling 100% and need more sleep than you’ve gotten, it’s incredibly easy to miss a cue. I had to really force myself to pay attention to the priest and to my music. Of course, I should be anyway, but we’re human. It’s much harder than advertised.
5. The after-cold cough. When I had a cold over the holidays last year, it was really annoying. I came down with it during Christmas Eve and Christmas, and though it was basically gone by New Year’s, an annoying cough remained. But I had a solo for New Year’s (a Marian chant) that I needed to gut through. I sang it quietly, with my mouth practically eating the microphone, sang the rest of the prelude music, then didn’t sing at all the rest of the Mass because I was coughing too much. This happens often when I get a cold, so I won’t be surprised if it happens again next weekend.
But there are a few good things about having a cold: I’m on a strict diet of chicken soup and spicy tacos, both of which help unstuff a stuffy nose. I get more time to read and sleep and relax, because I can’t work out or do extra practicing or other things I’d normally do when well.
And, of course, it’s just a cold. It will be gone soon enough.