Let me tell you a story—one of my favorite musical memories.
As I’ve mentioned many times, I sing with the Minnesota Chorale (and proudly serve as the President of the Board of Directors). A few years ago, we were lined up to perform Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana… again. It’s a work that we frequently end up singing once a year (or more).
This time was unusual, however.
For this particular run, we brought in a number apprentice singers—specifically, a select number of talented high schoolers—as of one of our many educational and community engagement programs. These apprentices were able to take part in the project as full participants, ultimately singing with us onstage at Orchestra Hall with the Minnesota Orchestra.
I was asked to take a young man under wing and show him the ropes… and I tell you he could not have been more excited. And I fully understood why—what a great opportunity! For the students, it was a chance to experience what it was like to sing in a top-flight chorus, and perform on stage with one of the country’s top orchestras. For the rest of his singing days, he’ll have that incredible sound in his ear, giving him a sonic benchmark… a standard of excellence of what great music can and should sound like.
But as anyone involved in mentoring can tell you, I got just as much out of it as my sidekick did. Working with an enthusiastic first-timer allowed me to hear the work anew, and remember the excitement of the first time I performed it. Plus, I got to point out my favorite moments, laugh about what text really meant, and truly share this great piece of music. And I had a blast as we swapped war stories, and altogether had a fantastic time.
And the real payoff came when we had our first run through with the Minnesota Orchestra.
We blasted out the “Were diu werlt alle min” movement, which ends with the brass blasting out a riveting, rapid-fire cadence, before we close things out with a joyful stinger of a shout, “Hei!” It’s a huge moment. When we were done, the more jaded of us knew there would be a pause for feedback, directions, repositioning, and general chatter, and casually sat down.
Not my mentee.
No… he just stood there with an expression that could only be given by a young person who had just had his mind well and truly blown. He finally crashed back into his chair, and turned to look at me with a wonderfully loopy grin, and after a second said, “Whoa. [pause] Is it always like this?”
I broke into a grin and said simply, and proudly, “Yep.”
And he turned back, with the look of someone who has just been given an extravagant, completely unexpected Christmas gift, and hissed, “Yesssssssss…!”
I went home knowing I’d personally introduced a guy to a brave new world… and this experience was going to stick with him for life.
* * *
This story gets to the heart of why I love being a singer… but more specifically gets to the heart of why I sing with the Minnesota Chorale. We get to do amazing works of music, performed at the highest level with other ensembles of the highest level. Those moments that make people pause and say, “Whoa,” are our stock and trade.
But more than that, this story is a great example of our commitment to our community. We reach out to our friends, neighbors, and supporters through a wide variety of programs to engage them personally in our music. Through our many programs, we are committed to nurturing new composers, conductors, and of course, singers.
In short, we are committed to building the musical ecosystem of our community.
But you don’t have to take my word about this—I’d like to invite you to an event where you can see for yourself how this mission works, and to support the Chorale, too. And, to have a great time doing so!
I’d like to invite you to the Minnesota Chorale’s 2015 Gala. It’s on Saturday, March 7 from 6:30 – 10:00 pm at the James J. Hill Center on Rice Park in St. Paul. It is a wonderful night of good food, good company, and fantastic music performed by singers from our whole family of choirs.
All the proceeds from the gala go to support our educational and community-building programs. I hope you can join me at this event.
Early bird pricing of $75 until February 12, and $100 thereafter. Go to mnchorale.org/gala to book now. You can also sponsor a table of twelve for $1000 by calling 612-455-2100. You’ll get the best seats in the house! And if you are unable to attend in person, I invite you to consider a gift to the Minnesota Chorale—you can make a donation at our website, mnchorale.org.
Here’s a video to learn more:
Thank you again for your support—and I hope to see you on March 7!