March 17, 2013
We had our final ACDA performance yesterday, this time in the Meyerson Symphony Center. We awoke early after a social evening of reacquainting and catching up with choral friends from around the country. After a brief warm-up and sound check in the space, we dressed and prepared for the concert. Because we were leaving the convention hotel later that day, all of our belongings needed to be stored in two dressing rooms in the Meyerson. Since we had to arrive at the space fully prepared for performance, we had to drag our suitcases from the hotel to the venue in full concert dress. I imagine it was quite a sight to see a train of tuxedoed men and women in long black gowns traipsing through downtown Dallas with a train of luggage in tow.
Maybe the labor served as a reminder of our good fortune, but whatever the case our performance was among the best we have ever given. The audience of our peers roared its approval and appreciation, and I have replayed every note of the performance over and over again in my mind. I find it impossible not to smile, remembering our last moments on the ACDA stage, standing immediately behind my fantastic friend Kyle (who just laid out an astonishing tenor solo), and imagining the influence of this moment on the music I make for the rest of my life.
After the concert, I joined some current Westminster students and some alums at a restaurant around the corner from the Meyerson. We spent the next little while merry-making, trading stories of slips of the tongue in rehearsal (‘Its like the F in Mahler 2’ and ‘Give us the man parts’) and discussing our opinions on the state of the choral art, our worries for the decline of music available in the public schools, and our personal responsibilities in bringing the communal art we love to all of the people who seek it.
We had another call time after lunch, so it was back to the Winspear Opera House to once again don our concert attire. We had been invited to work with Eric Whitacre during a presentation for Virtual Choir IV, and during an afternoon session to a packed house, we demonstrated his music while he conducted and led the audience singing for a read-through of an introduction to Bliss (the composition that will be the centerpiece for Virtual Choir IV). It was pretty funny to see the fan base in the first couple rows of the hall – let’s suffice to say they were excited to be such close proximity. Whitacre himself was collegial – we had some time before the hall opened to ask questions, and it was interesting to hear that he is inspired by architecture and other large forms when crafting a composition.
In the evening, we attended some more performances, including one given by the Tallis Scholars. I have felt both blessed and cursed by the ears I have developed at Westminster – my skill as a conductor has blossomed by having a deep relationship with the sounds that reach me, but it can be challenging to remove the critical listening. Every time I hear an ensemble, I want more than anything to be taken by the music. Technical glitches can easily prevent a journey because my mind instantly files through various tools I might employ to fix or change what I perceived. I am happy to be building this skill, as it serves well in a rehearsal situation, but it makes truly transcendent performances unique and rare. That said, once the Tallis Scholars began singing, I closed my eyes and left the hall. My imagination swam through the rich and poignant imitation of Palestrina, and the light and colors my brain conjured, eyes still closed during two movement of Arvo Pärt’s Berlinermesse I have no vocabulary to accurately describe. I left the performance feeling like I was walking on clouds, thankful for this to be the endcap and the last lingering sounds from this convention experience.
EARLY the next morning, my fellow graduate assistant John Hudson and I, along with Jim Moore from performance management and 5 other members of the Westminster Choir hopped on plane, landed in Philadelphia, and stepped directly onto a tour bus. It is time now for the Westminster Schola Cantorum tour with Dr. James Jordan. This is the sophomore curricular choir at Westminster, and we will be travelling throughout Pennsylvania and Ohio for the next four days. Our first concert is tonight, and all evidence indicates that it will be a wonderful performance.