On July 8th of this year we plan to begin a choir tour that will go northeast all the way up to Canada. We’ll even spend one day in Toronto. Niagara Falls will be another stop along the way. The sight of the sheer power in that water is amazing in and of itself. It mesmerized me when I first saw it around age four or five. I could be wrong but all this stuff sounds pretty radical to me.
If I may state the painfully obvious, one thing that goes along with choir tour is preparation for singing the music. In the midst of all this preparation and trying to make sure pitch, diction, rhythm, and blend are all done well, it’s pretty easy to forget about what these songs mean. It’s like you understand what it’s trying to say, but don’t really grasp it’s significance. That’s how it is for me anyway.
Active listening in music is a big deal to me. People sometimes miss how the music conveys the message because of not paying proper attention. I realize this is sometimes just a difference in people. But it is also due to the sheer abundance of music and the fact that this abundance has turned public places into an atmosphere where music is a constant wall of background noise and nothing more. It’s something you learn to shut out (if your lucky), rather than listen to. How’s that for ironic? You almost can’t get away from it.
This really cheapens music. Imagine how precious music would have been in the days when the only time you heard it, was when you sang in church or attended a concert. I think you would savor it a lot more. Okay: enough on that little side trip.
All this to say, it’s pretty easy to do that with choral music as well. You work so hard to make it beautiful, to come as close to perfection as you can. It’s very easy to totally zone out about what the text means. Since you’ve sung it so many times the newness wears off and the music starts to feel lifeless– that is, until you dig into the richness of the text, and you discover it has a life all it’s own.
I like to describe this as synergy. I was recently introduced to the meanings behind this word and I just love it! It basically means that two things combined are more than the sum of their parts. Powerful text set to amazing music is not just powerful text plus amazing music. It combines to form something greater than T + M. In my mind, synergy doesn’t necessarily come out to a very tangible answer. We do know, however, is that, when combined properly they form this powerful force, filled with meaning and emotion.
In an effort to do this for myself. I have decided to dig into the meaning of the text in each one of the songs in our repertoire this year by blogging about them. Since I process things best by writing about them it only makes sense that I would do that with these pieces.
As a little heads up, I’m going to try to do at least one per day. This should be good for me and hopefully it’s enjoyable for you.