NEW! Please see the calendar page for information regarding the upcoming October 6, 2016, Kemp Church Music Symposium: A Lifetime of Singing!
Sometimes I am asked why church choirs should attempt to learn major choral works when so many great recordings and live performances are readily available. My response is that the process of participating in recreating a choral masterpiece has proven to be spiritually transformative , and that I have experienced this as a chorister and witnessed it as a director. Last March, my church was privileged to join forces with two other church choirs in Princeton in a performance of the German Requiem. The process of learning a very challenging work (in German) and joining with other choirs was one of the most uplifting and rewarding experiences for me and for my choir members. What follows is a story I shared with my congregation at our annual meeting – one snapshot among many of what it means to participate in the recreation, the embodiment of a great work of art.
We were in the midst of learning the German Requiem by Brahms when hurricane Sandy hit, tearing the state apart and leaving us scrambling for power and for connection with each other. The disorientation and loss was particularly hard on one of our church families when Bill was killed during the severest part of the storm. His sister, Molly, joined the choir for the remainder of the fall, and began rehearsing the sixth movement with us: “Hell, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting? Where is your victory? Where, where, where?” As we shouted down death together, acknowledging our mortality but refusing to live under the dominion of death, Molly shared with me that she was lifted out of her despair. Her grief and anger was given voice in Brahms vigorous musical gestures and in the sound of the choir surrounding her. Who could have predicted that our rehearsal that November evening could have been such a source of healing? We took the time to bring Brahms’ masterwork to life not only because we admire his composition, but also because we have a hope that is worth singing about.