Yesterday afternoon was the presentation of “How Sweet the Sound: A Celebration of Music in Story and Song” but for the purposes of this blog entry, let’s call it Songs, Stories and Sweat. First of all, don’t misunderstand the heading as a complaint about yesterday’s weather. Southeastern WI was blessed both with sunshine and relatively mild temperatures and even a lovely breeze – a lovelier day for a summertime concert in a church without A/C could not have been wished for.
No, the sweat I’m referring to was first of all the nervous kind- I’d been waiting for this performance for a long, long time… and although in my head it was a perfectly seamless and cohesive whole, I really sweated bullets wondering if it would all come together as I hoped and prayed it would.
There was also some literal sweat- especially right after church that morning when I was running around like crazy, trying to find microphones, mic stands, cords, etc. – rounding up extra copies of music just in case – etc. But the greatest sweat was expended by my wife in finishing up preparations for the post-performance party at our house. . . and especially when she arrived home after the concert to find that Bobbi had left several calling cards (if you know what I mean) all over the house. Now she had that to deal with in addition of prepping for the imminent arrival of more than thirty guests to our home. Those are a few minutes of stress/frustration that she does not need nor desire nor deserve to experience again for as long as she lives.
Fortunately, the day was about far more than sweat. It was about wonderful stories told so well by my dad. . . stories of the Mozart Requiem sung throughout the world on the one year anniversary of 9-11. . . of my Grandpa Berg, a pastor, arriving for many Sunday morning services a good 10 minutes late, carrying that morning’s bulletins in his arms (having just run them off at the parsonage), , , of the memorable night when my dad accompanied my grandpa on a hospital call and actually witnessed someone die. . . of the remarkable moment when my brother Steve and his partner Scott went to Cambodia to pick up their new adopted son, Henry. . . and the life story of John Newton, the writer of “Amazing Grace.”
It was also about beautiful songs, sung beautifully. . . Caritas sang two – Twyla Paris’ “How Beautiful” = and my song “Cherish Every Child” – and people seemed so happy to hear us again after quite a long absence. . . and of course the exquisite singing of 18 Carthage alumni who sang under me in the Chamber Singers. They sang the Lacrymosa from the Mozart Requiem, the Vaughan Williams Serenade to Music, John Rutter’s “Loving Shepherd of Thy Sheep” and more. I knew that it would be great fun to make music with these folks- but I really never dreamt that the music making would be of such a consistently high level. Remember that we were all together, all 18 singers, for the first time 1:30 Sunday afternoon. Before Sunday, I the rehearsal for this concert were rather piecemeal and even a touch chaotic. So to have it all come together so magnificently felt like a true miracle.
Have I neglected to mention the sweat amongst audience members, who nearly filled the church? Not bad for a clear summer afternoon when there is no shortage of stuff to be doing instead. Regrettably, the program went well over two hours – too long at any rate. But I hardly saw a single soul leave, and at the end we were afforded a standing ovation…. and not the kind where people are standing because they’re ready to get out of there. People stood and applauded so warmly and enthusiastically. And plenty of people came up to say that it was one of the neatest programs they had ever seen.
Among my favorite moments. . . early on, the alums sang an arrangement I made of All Creatures of our God and King – all seven verses – and it sounded at times like a bunch of angels singing at the right hand of God. . . another favorite moment was singing ‘”Behold a Host” with the men, and daring to do it a cappella (without piano accompaniment) and it turning out beautifully. . . yet another favorite moment was the tremendously warm and appreciative applause which came at the conclusion of the Vaughan Williams Serenade to Music, a sign that the audience had appreciated this long and sophisticated work and the exquisite performance of it which had just been delivered. . . while another was singing “Loving Shepherd of Thy Sheep” and being able to hear a pin drop, unlike the last time I conducted it, in my last Chamber Singers performance, when it was accompanied by the lovely sound of a Crying Baby. . . and perhaps most thrilling of all, a performance of Amazing Grace to finish the concert which was well nigh perfect.
So to all who contributed to this joyous performance, I give my heartfelt thanks. . . and I also say Soli Deo Gloria . . .to God alone be the Glory.
By the way, I should say something here that I wanted to say at the concert but forgot about. The night before the concert, Holy Communion lost one of its members- a woman named Frieda Anderson who had been very involved in music there for many years, and one of the key people in raising the funds to purchase our pipe organ thirty years ago. She died Saturday night at the age of 104. . . and I thought of her so often Sunday afternoon and actually intended to dedicate our performance of Amazing Grace to her memory. I trust that she was looking down and smiling on the proceedings.
pictured: back at the house- leading the assembled guests, both inside the house and outside on the patio, in the doxology. . . hence, my need to stand in the doorway. That’s alum Paul Marchese, ’99, just behind me – and actually everyone else in the shot belongs to him as well.
I will post a few more pix on the page of my website called June 24th – but in the mad dash I neglected to give my camera to someone to take pictures during the performance. My hope is to take some stills off of the video and share them here. And it is very likely that a CD and/or video of the program will be made available.