Music stories, Singing

Easter and choirs

Yesterday, I shared about my anniversary of the first time I played the organ for my first worship service. Today, I want to share a bit about my choral music experiences, specifically around Easter.

 

I honestly can’t remember a time in my life without singing. Strange as that sounds, it it so true. My dad sang in choirs growing up and when he was in the seminary, he sang in choir there. So he had recordings of many different groups that he would regularly play around the house. And I loved singing. In my church children’s choir, students couldn’t join until they were in 3rd grade. An exception was made for me when I was in 2nd grade. I sang through elementary school, middle school, high school and in college in many choirs, singing for many different events in many different styles.

 

But Easter is so different. There is a power and beauty when voices join together to sing and retell the story of Jesus’ resurrection. And when you’re singing with others, it is such a high and a joy when the hard work pays off. And in the church choirs I sang in through middle and high school, there were so many pieces that were so joyful and beautiful, not only for the congregation, but for those of us singing them.

 

After I graduated from college, I stopped singing in choirs for 20 years. Why? It wasn’t because I developed a dislike of singing. It was because I became a choir director and was on the other side of the choir. And I didn’t really make singing for myself a priority along with my directing. But then, in 2018, something changed. An opportunity opened up for my choir to audition for an opportunity to sing in a mass choral event at Carnegie Hall. You can read about that in this post. We made it, and because I couldn’t direct, I had to sing. That weekend showed me that there was something missing. I had missed singing in choir! For a few others along with that, I stepped out of my full-time position and have been focusing in on building my music lesson business, but I’ve also been singing in our church choir again! It’s been so wonderful! The opportunity to get back to something that I have loved so dearly for so long, and missed out on doing has been fantastic!

 

As you listen to the choirs singing tomorrow, be thankful for the talents given, as well as the work put in by the singers. But even more than that, know that there is joy coming from the singers making that music too!

Challenge, Music stories, Singing

Carnegie Hall

2 years ago yesterday, I got to sing at Carnegie Hall. That sentence seems very surreal to write. The experience itself was totally surreal. Growing up in the church, as a pastor’s kid, a performance venue like Carnegie Hall was never on my radar. Only churches. But it was a once in a lifetime, life-changing event.

The most amazing part was how it happened. I was a church music minister and at the end of 2018, I got an email from a representative of Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) who said, “We’ve seen that your choir has performed Joseph Martin cantatas. He’s premiering one next November at Carnegie Hall and we’d like to invite your choir to participate.”

The old saying: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice” is quite true, but it also works to be able to pay your way for an event like this. And it was unbelievable. I have sung in some beautiful sounding spaces, and Carnegie Hall is one to behold. It was amazing to be accompanied by a professional orchestra, standing on the stage that so many musical greats stood on.

It was definitely the highlight of my career as a musician. It changed my life and reminded me how much I had missed performing music. Since college, I had only directed music, not participated in making it, outside of playing the organ. Singing was always something I loved doing, and it awoke something deep inside of me.

The experience seems like it was just yesterday, and also far away. It is difficult to put into words, but those unexpected surprises are usually the best ones!

The smile pretty much sums it all up!
Singing

Why Do I Sing?

That’s an awesome question. It’s something I’ve always done since I can remember. I stopped to really think about that question. Because if I could choose one that that I do (play piano, organ, trumpet or sing) what would it be? I’d sing.

My dad played choral music regularly growing up. That was my first exposure. He was also a pastor. So I grew up literally next door to the church and music was a huge part of that. But why did I sing?

For me, singing has a powerful and emotional connection. I’m fascinated in looking at that connection. Why, earlier this summer, did I tear up in church when we sang a hymn that probably most people didn’t know? Because it was one of the first hymns where I sang a verse in German. My family sang it for my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary service. I was 7. That was a huge impact in my life.

All through childhood, I sang in choirs, and there were lots of songs that I connected with, but it was when I got to high school that my love and passion for singing kicked in big time. My freshman year of high school, I was in our madrigal choir (I ended up singing all 4 years in it) and was in my first musical (Guys and Dolls). But it was the spring concert, where we sang excerpts from Mozart’s Requiem that just took a hold of me.

The thought of the mystery and the story behind Mozart’s Requiem, along with the thought that Mozart was composing this (in his mind) for his own funeral was powerful! And the music is dramatic, powerful and beautiful!

But then, my sophomore year, we sang my most favorite piece. “Alleluia” by Randall Thompson. I’ll do a deeper dive into this piece in another post down the road, but it only has 2 words. Alleluia and Amen. That’s it. An almost 6 minute piece with 2 words? How can such a simple text be so beautiful? It’s all in the music. Now, back then I loved the piece because it featured a low D, and as a bass that could rumble that out with no problem, it was my favorite. Now, I understand the true depth and beauty of this piece.

There have been plenty of pieces throughout my years that I’ve loved singing and that’s furthered the depth and passion for me to sing. For about 19 years, I didn’t sing as much, and I became focused on helping others sing, whether that was as a teacher or choir director. I do love that opportunity and I use the experience and training that I’ve had as a singer to help others. I’ve gotten back into singing more, and have been reminded of why I love it so much.

So why do I sing? Singing is emotional. It’s powerful. It connects. It’s something that I believe God created me to do. And I get to use that to help and encourage others, whether that is through my own singing or through my teaching.