Happiness is sitting at a computer screen trying to find the words to write about our last week of rehearsals and performances. This past week was concert week for the Westminster Choir. Amid a myriad of memory goals, staging directions, and a personal quest to understand the emotional through-line of our program, the choir marched onward toward two very successful performances. On the eve of our dress rehearsal, a grinning Dr. Miller was ecstatically reminding us why what we do is so powerful. It’s fascinating how, among the stressors found in a music school, we can easily forget the blessed ground upon which we walk. So many rehearsals have passed, with the gleaming performance along the horizon, that it’s no wonder that performances bear such rich fruit for all parties involved. Becoming immersed in the programmatic ideas set forth by the choir and our conductor has been nothing short of extraordinary.
After a week’s worth of beautiful rehearsals, our choir family gathered at 1p.m. on Saturday on Westminster’s campus to hop onto a bus to Doylestown, Pa. This invitational concert was scheduled for a year ago, but Hurricane Sandy prevented our performance from happening. A one-year wait seems to prolong an exciting anxiety that comes with first performances. Upon boarding the bus, our usual driver Rich (husband to Kathy Shaw, director of the Westminster Concert Bell Choir) joked with us and brought us safely to our destination. While on the bus, groups huddled around each other to pass the time, some reviewing texts and notes for the upcoming performance, others talking about how tour will be, while a few slept. Once we arrived at the church, a two-hour logistics and musical rehearsal ensued to make sure everyone understood the program order. After our rehearsal, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church cooked a delicious meal of lemon chicken and chianti beef tips served with vegetables and noodles (along with three different types of pies: apple, pecan, and pumpkin!). It was a much-needed home-cooked meal for many of us. After eating our fill, we “robed” up and met in the choral room for our concert preparation with Dr. Miller. He read several poems and explained that the concert would not be perfect, but our humanistic music-making would make all the difference. It’s incredibly touching to know that perfection doesn’t fuel organic music-making, it’s the communal, human qualities of each and every one of us that perpetuate love, life, and music.
After a successful performance, we all boarded the bus back to Westminster to retire for the evening before engaging in similar activities on Sunday afternoon. We met in Bristol Chapel for the usual rehearsal before our Sunday performance and proceeded to wait for a sold-out audience to fill Bristol. Sitting with Westminster Choir tenor Evan Rieger and alto Lauren Kelly (who also happen to be sophomore students in Westminster Schola Cantorum, the ensemble I am a graduate assistant of along with Vivian Suen, a Westminster Choir soprano), we shared first concert experiences and relayed an innate joy of performing on home our turf. Our pre-concert talk was a polling of the choir, with several members sharing what was on their hearts before our second performance. Such happy faces and bright spirits burst forth toward our home audience, where we were greeted with open arms and warm hearts.
Another successful performance ended, and I am writing from such an elated mood. I can’t quite describe the feeling, but if I had to come close, it would be unbridled ecstasy with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. Even though we’ve been meeting for weeks now, I truly believe the soul of the 2013-2014 Westminster Choir has only recently been revealed. These two successful concerts have given us new perspective on our music-making. It’s only a matter of time before the choir’s purpose unfolds.