(Yes, this is a bit of a commercial.) Auditions are underway for one of my very favorite things: the First Choristers are a growing group of auditioned singers, from grade 4 through grade 8, who commit to a weekly rehearsal, and then sing alongside adults in concert. The music they sing is not “children’s choir” music, but full-blown choral music – providing the soprano part for the great works of music we prepare for the December Lessons and Carols Festival at church and, next year, a new Spring concert event. The benefits of this rehearsal and performance time are huge: Along with the music itself, kids get the opportunity to learn how to work together as a team, basics of choral singing and music reading, and how music is such a critical part of our spiritual self. I’m excited that we already have a number of new children auditioning for this fall season.
In addition to the children’s aspect of our programs, we have offered adults an opportunity to sing with the choir for these special events. Over the past two years, we have built a core of singers from outside the church membership that have joined with us for Lessons and Carols. Once again, our upcoming events are open to anyone Grade 9 through adults, by audition. Teamwork, commitment, and glorious music sung in praise are all hallmarks of singing for these concerts, and any choir member can tell you that the fun and community we share in our rehearsal time is something you’ll find you can’t live without! Detailed info can be found at www.musicatfirst.org.
Yesterday we celebrated the end of a truly great choir season at church with a party at the home of two beloved choir members. The choir is “family” in so many different ways. In fact, in some cases we see each other more than our “real” extended family, and share in more of life’s ups and downs than even the closest in our lives. We get to make music together, which requires great trust in each other. Music is not just a technical thing, but emotional as well, so we also need to feel safe in sharing that in a group setting. When it works (and in this choir it does!), the result is an amazing group of people, first, and the secondary benefit of awesome music-making.
So, it is with some sadness that we take a break for the summer. It’s like we’re taking an extended vacation: Yes, it’s fun and necessary, but I’ll sure be glad to be back “home” in the fall!
Yesterday, I took advantage of the beautiful day and drove up to Worcester to meet two friends who are part of my relatively new journey of music creation. I had lunch with my concert manager, who, aside from gently pushing me for quite awhile to write this blog, offers great help and advice about promoting music that is close to my soul.
Then, I spent the afternoon practicing and composing at another friend’s house: his Steinway piano is featured on my current recordings, and will be heard on the collection of my music that will be produced this summer. Aside from the all-important quiet space that visiting there provides, we are able to talk and share knowledge about the technical aspects of recording, performing, and composing. (Things like: how can I release the dampers without there being a “hiccup” noise in the recording?, or why does this particular piano’s design make reaching some intervals more difficult?) Then, I can play again with new perspective.
The challenge becomes to take all that is heard and shared and “file it away” — trusting that the mind pulls out that info subconsciously when needed. I’ve found that the best recorded music happens when the musician can be free to express what’s in the soul without worry.
There is an ever-growing circle of “musical advisors” that constantly help me: these friends, my talented wife, the folks who make music with me regularly (both by singing and listening). The source of music itself is in equal parts confusing and beautiful, and I am grateful that is not up to me alone to figure it out!
First Church Choir - Palm Sunday 2010
Last night, my wonderful church choir rehearsed for the final time this season. Despite a slow start (I know for me it was tough finding the energy to sit in a room for an hour and a half when it was so gorgeous outside!), some hard work was done, some beautiful and exciting music was made, and we even attained some new heights in our general ability to find more meaning in the music.
To me, the weekly rehearsal is a more powerful community experience even than what we do on Sunday morning: the voices raise together as one, and even though we are preparing to sing “in public”, we are singing just for each other – a safe circle of friends. Summertime is a necessary and welcome break from the planning and scheduling, but I will miss that time together each week.
It has been said that singing is the single best thing you can do to take care of yourself and improve your life (see this study conducted last year by Chorus America). I have seen that in action and have been part of it; it is truly humbling to lead such an important yet intangible part of life!