Tag Archives: choir

program notes

I spent part of Saturday at the Three Rivers Choir Festival. Choirs from three high schools, the Youth Chorale of the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir, and the University Singers from IPFW spent the day together learning from a choir clinician. At the middle of the day, the University choir gave a concert. At the end of the day, the other four choirs gave a concert which had each group singing three pieces and then the combined choirs singing two. .

I used to be able to just watch. Now I think, too. Here are some notes from my program.

  • If you are a singer, sing wherever you are. Several kids sang in two of the choirs. Hope sang in three of them. It means that some kids sing at school and with the Youth Chorale. Singing is what they do. It is a special identity and it is part of their daily life.  I think of how compartmentalized some of us get. At church we do church. At work we do work. At home we do home. At bowling we do bowling. For these kids, at least some of them, they sing. Wherever they are.
  • For singers, it doesn’t matter what you look like. Person A opens her mouth at an angle. Person B bobs her head way too much when she sings. Person C can’t move in rhythm at all. Person D can’t move at all. Person E’s face is alive when she sings. Person F looks asleep when he sings. And it doesn’t matter. Because it’s the sound: two hundred or thirty or eight voices blending and harmonizing and inflecting and attacking and sliding and whispering together. The point is the music. That’s all that matters.
  • A choir is fine without soloists. Many of these kids would never make it as a soloist. And that’s great. Their voices work together to create the corporate sound. For some of them, singing together is the only way they ever would be on stage. The only way they get the spotlight is as part of a group. And that is wonderful. Because 30 soloists sounds annoying.
  • Choirs are disciples. They work with a conductor who trains them, tests them, teaches them, moves them around, focuses on getting the choir, the group, the team, together to be better than any one could be alone, and than any one was before being part of the choir.
  • A choir is rehearsal and performance. Both are necessary. Both have stress. Both have delight. Both build community. Both are community.

Clearly, there are lessons far beyond choirs. Feel free to spend part of your Sunday thinking about them.


one hundred feet

This screen hangs on the wall in the lobby. It is a nice screen. It is a nice lobby.

One hundred feet from this screen you can watch the concert live.

  • One hundred feet from this screen you can hear the singing in three dimensions rather than flat, from speakers.
  • One hundred feet from this screen you can be in the experience rather than watching the experience.
  • One hundred feet from this screen you can clap and people will hear.
  • One hundred feet from this screen you can see faces clearly.
  • One hundred feet from this screen you can see others watching and listening with you.
  • One hundred feet from this screen the people on the stage could see you watching them.
  • One hundred feet from this screen they would know that you are involved and could respond to your response.
  • One hundred feet from this screen you have to silence your phone and your voice and maybe your heart.
  • One hundred feet from this screen you have to choose to be present.
  • One hundred feet from this screen you are part of a community.

One hundred feet from this screen you can watch the concert live … and live.

always in the picture

This picture is a lousy picture. A good picture would show the choirs singing, up close. An acceptable picture might include part of the choir loft railing, maybe as part of the framing.

But this picture. This is lousy.

It shows the ugly bracket on the back of the railing. It shows the rows of seats in the loft. It shows my knee.

And you can barely see the choirs, the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir and the American Boychoir.

But this is the kind of blogpost I like to read, posts that are written like this picture is composed.

I like to see the writer, to get a glimpse of who they are. The idea of an anonymous writer has an arrogance at a time when it is acceptable to acknowledge your existence. If there is any perspective at all in the piece, any proclamation of that this post is factual and true and must be followed, I need to know how you are sitting. I need to see your knee.

I like to see the context, the rough edges, the microphones and the flag holders. I spend enough time backstage at events that I like to know what the backstage of your life looks like. The conversations that happen off-stage, the side of the service that the choir sees, the view from the balcony–that’s what intrigues me. I need to see where you are sitting.

Of course, I do like to see the choir itself, the object of your attention. And getting that in focus is important. But that is the polished part, that is the part made to look good. And I know now that it is actually pretty easy to make things look good.

So I’m saying that I like to see the writer, to see the context, and maybe to see the subject. And maybe what makes a good post is different that what makes a good photograph. Maybe the standards are different.

But what is really compelling about both a photograph and a post is what is missing from both.

This is a picture of and a post about a choir. And neither of them come anywhere close to what a choir is about:

The singing.

The voices of sixty children from two choirs and multiple states and multiple nationalities and multiple religions singing these words by Moses Hogan: “I may not be all that you are, I may not be a shining star, but what I am I thank the Lord for making me his child.” And those voices rising higher than the arches in the picture and blending and layering.

It’s the singing that makes a choir. And a picture. And a post.

And it’s the singing that you can’t see.

But when I listen to you, when I read what you write, when I look at what you see…

I want to hear the singing.

Because then I won’t care about perfect composition.

8 Ways to disrupt an acoustic concert.

After sitting through a high school band and choir concert, I have fresh, effective, guaranteed ways to make such events miserable.

1. “I listened to your child; why do you leave before mine performs?”

2. “Your cell phone? It’s out of tune (with the band that is currently playing softly).

3. “They are singing. Right now. Why are you walking in and out?”

4. “I’m enjoying listening to your conversation, but I’d really rather hear the concert right this moment.”

5. “I know you liked that vocal solo, but if you wait until the end of the piece to clap, we can actually hear the choir sing.”

6. “If you were to wait an eighth of a second, the start of the music will distract us from your departure from the front row.”

7. “The first time that round candy rolled from the back row to the front, it was a mistake. The second time? The third time?”

8. “We should make a list of…..wait. nevermind.”


Others in the 8 ways series:

To lose your faith
To make yourself angry
To make yourself jealous
To make yourself depressed
To ruin your marriage

Subscribe to this blog for free by clicking here.