Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Gearing Up to Tell the World: Reflections on the intense rehearsal process

On Monday, January 4th, members of Pacific Lutheran University’s “University Chorale” were called to awaken from their Christmas-Break-induced comas and gather in Room 306 of the Mary Baker Russell building. After two weeks of holiday celebrations – imbibing copious amounts of eggnog, munching on cookies and Christmas ham, watching Elf and It’s A Wonderful Life, simply taking a moment to breathe after a crazy December – it was time. The singers were reunited once again by no small task: in just eight (long) days of rehearsal, they were to learn the concert they would take to the Southeast on a week-long tour to represent PLU through positivity, heart, and song. “What’s your J-Term class?” fellow students asked us. “Choir,” we replied. “Easy!” the envious student would say. Oh, ye of little knowledge, we’d think to ourselves. You have no idea.
            Indeed, learning (and re-learning), in just two weeks, the sixty minutes of music we’re to take with us to Georgia, Alabama, and Florida for our J-Term tour is no small feat. I think all choir-members could agree that constant practice is more physically, vocally and mentally tiring than one would think. Day One had me personally thinking, We’re doomed. Galante is crazy. This just isn’t going to work. Because the truth is, this isn’t an easy repertoire of music. Dr. Galante did not select “Amazing Grace” and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” In other words, he didn’t sacrifice quality or complexity of music for convenience and ease. And I’ll be the first to admit: initially, I wished he had. Some of the music was daunting at first sight – and a glance at the calendar inspired sheer terror.
            But you’ll find that when a group of motivated individuals comes together over a common goal, much more can be accomplished than one could initially expect. This J-Term has been no exception. The amount and complexity of the music we had to learn meant work. But it also meant a lot of other things – like a beautiful end-goal that we could be proud to sign our names to, as well as marked growth as a choir. And as it turns out, when a group of motivated individuals comes together over a common goal…it’s also a lot of fun.
            Already, I feel we’ve become closer as a choir – and how could we not? We spend up to six hours in the same room sharing frustrations and laughter, making mistakes and making music. And then we all run into each other at breakfast, and lunch, and dinner, and at the gym, and on our midnight-snack runs, harmoniously synchronized in our choir-kid schedule. Our bonds can no doubt only grow stronger as we travel to the South (and spend about one bajillion hours in the close quarters of an airplane in the process) and make great memories – singing in concerts, looking at manatees, and visiting good ol’ Disneyworld, to name a few. (If any PLU faculty are reading this, let me make it clear that this trip is purely an educational, intensely studious experience. We are not having any fun.)
Okay, so we’re going to have a lot of fun. But the best part is that an undeniably valuable learning experience is taking place, as well. Incessant exposure to challenging music spurs us to hone our skills, and refine our performance abilities until they exceed our expectations. And even the bonding and memory-making is more than just fun – a choir composed of individuals that know each other well, sing together well. When singing, in fact, they aren’t so much separate individuals. Regardless of their differences, they become like the fibers of a rope, together creating something greater, and stronger than themselves. Something that can bring light, spread joy, and inspire positive change.
            This January, the PLU University Chorale is that “something.” Our tour is entitled “I Can Tell the World,” certainly fitting for a musical voyage that strives to bring whatever light it can to a dark and broken world. Not only does the set bring with it a great message, but there is such diversity in the songs we’ve prepared that I’m fully convinced there is something for every audience member – whether that be the simultaneous warmth and power of a Mendelssohn, the intense rhythmicity of Dello Joio’s “Song of the Open Road” (no slice of pie to learn, might I add), the heart of John Muehleisen’s “When All Is Done,” or simply the uplifting spirit that comes when one hears music sung by a group of passionate people who would rather be doing nothing else.

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