First Performance

November 5, 2017

Happy Guy Fawkes night UK! Back home, there’ll be bonfires and fireworks tonight. Meanwhile in the US, tonight is the night of Westminster choir’s first performance, taking place at the Trinity Lutheran church in Pennsylvania.

For all of us, this last month has been a tough month. From midterm exams to the Westminster plague (I’ve recently gone down with a fun cold myself…), we’ve all had a lot on our plates. As a choir, we have spent the last month bringing our program together, learning it as deeply as we can and exploring what we have to say with it. There have been times where it hasn’t been easy, but we can always help each other out when we’re having difficulty with something.

Personally, this last month has been a hectic one. A couple of weeks ago was my final conducting recital with master singers, the choir for student conductors here to work with. I sing with this choir every day at Westminster, but on three occasions, I’ve been fortunate enough to prepare my own recitals with them. I’ve learnt so much through this process and coming to the end of it, I was met with mixed feelings of relief that the hard work paid off and sadness that it was over. It feels like yesterday that I stood in front of that choir for the first time a year ago, trembling like a leaf. While conducting in that rehearsal, Dr Miller, who teaches this class, stopped me, put his arm around me and said “Everyone, this is how you build a mediocre choir.” Needless to say, that hurt. BUT it gave me the determination to learn and to improve. I don’t think I’ll be forgetting that first rehearsal anytime soon…

Another October highlight was a visit from Simon Halsey and the London Symphony Chorus, who sang with Westminster Symphonic Choir for a day. I’ve known Simon for a few years now, as he was director of choral activities in Birmingham where I studied for my undergrad. He was one of my main inspirations in choral music and later in learning about conducting. I would not be where I am today without his wisdom, passion for what he does, and encouragement. What was truly bizarre was to see him and Dr Miller side by side, two men from two different continents who have taught me so much in what it means to be a conductor and a musician. It was definitely one of those ‘ok this is surreal my life is crazy’ moments…


Our final rehearsal last night was pretty successful – to bring out our expression and story- telling abilities, Dr Miller instructed us to sing to Marge. Let me introduce you to Marge:

Isn’t she great!

The altos wore their ‘altoast’ T-shirts from our retreat Olympics for solidarity. I was initially devastated to discover that all of the color had drained from my t-shirt in the wash. I asked my fellow altos if any of them had a marker pen, so I could at least write ‘altoast’ on mine and be part of the team! Later, I realized that the color hadn’t drained out at all: the t-shirt was just inside out… Competent adult in grad school right here… Glad I shared that journey with the entire alto section.

So yes, we all have intensely busy schedules right now and yes, I may have a cold and a lack of common sense, but today I will let all of that go and enjoy our first performance of the season with Westminster Choir: I cannot wait.

Today I will appreciate the people around me as well as myself – Emily Sebastian (Westminster Choir soprano)

— Claire


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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One Response to First Performance

  1. Thank you for posting your current story. It was a welcomed bright spot in what otherwise is lining up on the dark grey side. “Sing to Marge” I like that. There are so many Marge’s out here- it will take a lot of soul filling singing but sing we all will. Sing On!

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