Saturday, August 22, 2009

Old Dog, New Trick

A few years ago the choir director at our church retired after a service of 41 years. I decided to volunteer for the job. Having played in orchestras most of my life, I figured I was on pretty safe footing. I mean, I know musicality, ensemble, and the general music stuff like rhythm and pitch. What I was lacking was specific knowledge of the human voice.

So I asked my daughter, who trained with an excellent (and expensive) teacher for about 5 years to help me out. She did. Not always willingly, but once I managed to drag her to a rehearsal, she was able to miraculously transform that group of mousy, lifeless singers into a beautiful sounding choir. It was magical to watch her work.

At first, I was pretty insecure in this new position. I had never, ever done any conducting. But as the weeks and years passed, I came to love it. These people were all my friends so that was fun. And after the right kind of training and molding, they created the most beautiful sounds. And with the right motivation, they could produce some pretty good volume as well. There were only 10 so they had their work cut out for them.

A couple years ago I found a cantata, "Let Heaven and Nature Sing Gloria!" by Mark Hayes in my box at church. Usually I just toss these things in the recycling with the thought that we can barely learn the Sunday morning worship and had no time for such a grand undertaking as a cantata. But something moved me to open this one up and have a glance. The music was so grand, light, modern and almost attainable that I gave the accompanying CD a listen. It was glorious and I wanted to do it. This was September and it was a Christmas cantata. It wasn't going to happen that year so we planned to present it the following year.

So I asked our praise team at church if they'd join us for this. That gave me a whole bunch of instrumental musicians which were crucial to the performance. It also provided me with 4 more singers. Then I put out a special plea to the congregation for anyone who'd like to sing with us only for this giant undertaking. I acquired a tenor, three basses, an alto and 2 great sopranos. All in all, our ranks swelled to about 20 + singers and 5 instrumentalists.

We began practicing early in spring and worked throughout the summer learning one song at a time. The devotion of this whole group was touching and amazing. Most of us were learning from "the ground up". I had little experience conducting. Most of the singers had no idea how musical they could sound. Some of the instrumentalists surprised themselves. Later on we added two narrators, had some final all-inclusive rehearsals and it was time for performance.

Now would we get an audience? I had sent out notices/flyers to all the congregations in our area to let them know what we were doing and to suggest this might be a great way to kick off their holiday celebrations. In the end, we were very blessed to perform to a full house! Of all the concerts I've done, that was the most satisfying. So MUCH work culminated in a wonderful payoff. A truly great experience for all.

We made a CD, but it's not available online. However, I do have a link which shows our choir joining our praise team at one of their early concerts.

I learned so much from this experience--about my own ability and about human nature. And about singleness of purpose. Everyone dedicated to one goal. It was unforgettable. Praise be to God!

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