January 10, 2013

Tour Day 2 

It is the end of day two of our tour, and day two in Milwaukee.  Today we presented two workshops at local high schools – Waukesha West HS and Muskego-Norway HS.  We boarded the bus at 7:30 after descending upon the continental breakfast supplied by the hotel.  At Waukesha West HS we were greeted by students and their director, Tom Ajack, who has been conducting choirs there since 1997.  We sang a portion of our program for his eager, conscientious students and spent time answering questions about our choir, our school, and about the experience of singing in this particular ensemble.   The students then sang for us selections from their holiday program, and treated us by singing their ‘Friday song’ – a piece they sing together at the end of class every Friday to remind them of the beauty and joy music brings to the person making it and to the listener, and the real possibility of changing a heart or a life each time you decide to create the art.  They sang The Road Home by Stephen Paulus, and it was evident from their commitment to the text and they way they held each others’ hands that they were a family.  It is rare that we will sing The Lord Bless You and Keep You at a high school workshop, but after these students opened their hearts to us, it seemed only right to do the same unto them.

The numerous music education majors in Westminster Choir were enlivened by this experience and longed even more enthusiastically for their own classrooms in which to create these singing families.  There was a young man who stayed after the workshop to express his gratitude to the choir saying that he always felt like singing with his school choir was home for him, and never before had he felt at home with a choir just from listening until he heard us.  His words were heartfelt and appreciated.

At Muskego-Norway HS another choral delight awaited us.  After we shared some of our music with the students and their director, Matt Wanner, they sang a piece for us that is programmed for their upcoming concert.  It was Ballade to the Moon by Daniel Elder, a young composer who graduated from Westminster last year and was a member of this ensemble.  We also have some pieces by Daniel on our program (and will be recording an album of his compositions in late February), so of course we had to return the favor by singing Elder’s Lullaby.  After the workshop, we stuck around for a rehearsal and did some detail work in preparation for our concert tomorrow night.

The evening was a perfect time for some sectional bonding. The altos headed to a restaurant downtown for a dinner together, the sopranos to another, and most of the men headed to a bistro.  We all converged later at a club that was on the same block as our hotel and danced into the night.  Jeff Cutts, a tenor, said, “this was just what the choir needed.  It was our final step into really bonding with each other and becoming a complete family. “

We work hard together every time we are together, but it is rare and precious that we would all be able to cut loose and just enjoy each other’s company in a social situation.  The fact that almost the entire choir was dancing like a group of 42 best friends will probably reflect an increased communal awareness in our next rehearsal.  I am looking forward to what tomorrow will bring.

About Westminster Choir

Westminster Choir is composed of students at Westminster Choir College of Rider University, a center for music study in Princeton, N.J.
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