(Subscribers: to see the video, please click on the link to the post)
Written by Jen Sanders
“Whatever you do, don’t look up. It will make you look like a tourist.” Perhaps the eight of us students felt slightly misplaced as we stepped into the posh atmosphere of the regal Hilton Hotel–the backdrop of our rehearsals for the WCDA 2013 All-State Collegiate Choir. Of course, when in a group like this one—Tommy Montgomery, Luke Backhaus, Aaron Smith, Lydia Wagner, Kerri Demlow, Joy Parker, Rebekah England, and myself—we were NOT short on laughs. From some tripping face first at the top of the grand staircase, to others getting stuck in the “fancy” revolving glass door, you could say many of us are not quite suited for this way of life. But as soon as we stepped into the rehearsal room and got started, a whole new atmosphere came over us. We were there to learn. Our conductor, Dr. Eric Johnson of Northern Illinois University, was very capturing as he brought us into the music by his descriptive definitions of each piece. His use of varied illustrations from “pulling tissues out of a tissue box” to “tiny champagne bubbles appearing then vanishing away” helped us envision the sound that he wanted us to produce. Each rehearsal started with different warm-up drills that were appropriately challenging for us. Many of the drills were not only pitch exercises, but were also exercises with different counting patterns in canon with other sections of the choir. The drills were challenging at first, but by the time we were heading back to campus, we were singing them over and over for the fun of it. After a day and a half of rehearsals at the hotel, we then went to the Basilica of St. Josaphat to do our last touch ups and then perform. The Wisconsin Collegiate All-State Choir was actually part of an even bigger performance as other choirs sang in the same concert. One of the choirs was the Westminster Choir—a truly awe-inspiring experience.
We were asked, what did we come away with that could be used in our own choirs? We learned a lot of useful vocal techniques and verbal colorings to make our music come alive. We were shown that each piece is beyond simply presenting music. Each presentation is a new piece of art. Music is art. It is a symphony of colors and feelings.
All throughout the two days that we were there, we were told to look within ourselves to find the hope and joy needed to live our lives. This thought was a new conversation point as we were driving on the way home from the performance. We discussed that while mankind has produced things of beauty that are meant to be seen, felt, and heard, nothing of that level can compare to the beauty of Christians expressing the joy of their salvation as they sing. The feeling of unity that is experienced when singing with fellow believers simply cannot be manufactured or fabricated. Can one ever hear a sound more joyous than a group of believers lifting up their voices in praise to God? So, even though we all thoroughly enjoyed our time singing at the Hilton and the Basilica, we came home feeling somewhat empty because God was not the focus of the performance. While this was an incredible learning experience for those of us Maranatha musicians able to attend, these two days only made us so much more grateful for the privilege of being in Maranatha’s choirs where we are able to make a joyful noise unto our God. Perhaps the most significant thing we will take from this experience is the reminder of the blessing of being able to musically express our love for God as we strive to be the musicians He has made us to be! “Harre auf Gott!” Our hope is in God!