The following is the result when I asked myself and my students how we might change the school culture through music:
This Pep Band of the 2014-15 school year became the highlight of the Varsity football and basketball seasons. Our culminating performance was the halftime of the Bruce-Mahoney basketball game in January. The band got to have 3 minutes of playing time, center court, directly in front of about 300 cheering students.
What started out as a conversation with several of the Athletic department’s administrators turned into a group of guys that would ultimately rehearse and direct themselves for the entire school community. They practice on their own, order their own dinner and are some of the school’s most accomplished musicians. They simply have become bigger than anything I could have imagined.
It was only an idea with a heavy dose of encouragement, being there for everything at the beginning, communicating with the adults in the building, buying pizza, and setting an example about how to pour energy into a performance. I honestly feel like this maybe the first time I have truly felt successful as a teacher for a group of music students. It is the ever so delicate balance between teachers doing and allowing, particularly in the field of music education.
Give them a fish and you feed them for a day; teach them to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.
And again, it is the result of these key ingredients: change, creating, and Eddie Van Halen.
In the spirit of “Dear People” the book by Joseph A. Mussulman that compiled letters Robert Shaw wrote to his choirs, I wanted to share some thoughts I had about this particular piece with the 2014-15 Chamber Singers in November 2014. At the end, there is a video of us performing the piece at St. Ignatius Church in San Francisco, CA on Friday, December 19, 2014.
I sat in a soprano and alto sectional a few weeks back and was struck at the very simple question Ms Hollow, one of our vocal coaches, asked the gals, “what does Resmiranda mean?”. I came in towards the end of the sectional and it was obvious that they learned what the phrase meant (wonderful circumstance and/or happening).
I have been personally drawn to this piece and text for quite some time now. This recording we have is by a high school group my wife sang in when she was a senior in high school (Vintage High School Chamber Singers ’94). Her teacher eventually became my graduate school mentor – this is a great story in itself, but back to the story at hand.
There is No Rose is an English carol that dates back to the Middle Ages c.1420. The text is written in two languages: Middle English and Latin. Most fascinating to me are the marriage of musical elements with the rich allegories infused in the text. This idea of “little space” which is Mary’s womb, where heaven and earth meet, and how it interweaves the Latin of the Church with the English of the common people — as if interweaving spiritual and secular themes, symbolically, through the use of two languages. And finally, the phrase Transeamus or let us cross over is set to just about one of the most amazing clips of choral music around. Let us cross over. Where is it that we begin and where do we move to? Is the choral ensemble a bridge for all that is human and all that is divine?
Honestly, I truly believe this is music. It is a vehicle, a bridge, for all that is divine and all that is human in the hopes that in the center we catch a glimpse in either direction. There are pieces of music out there that are simply transcendent for me. Occasionally, an ensemble emerges through days of interviews, hours of auditions and of course time spent with one another that are capable of not only re-producing what’s on the page – musically and vocally) – but are open enough to peek into all that is possible from the page: You are this ensemble.
You all have the potential to unlock the mystery of this piece and share with your audience. Having said that, it does require note/rhythm accuracy, attention to phrasing and all the musicality that is required by any piece of music, but it also requires a vulnerability, a clear picture of how this piece sounds and feels when it is right in you. There is No Rose is one of those pieces that helped me confirm that this guitarist wanted to stand in front of choirs and make music with one another. Those stories my wife shared with me my first years teaching, and this particular recording helped me conceive what is possible by a group of people who are drawn to a) the collective effort b) those in the world that think and feel.
After a short demo on Garage Band, I let my Music Appreciation students play and experiment for the remainder of class. This is what I came up with:
I was director of the Motet Choir at St. Ignatius Church in San Francisco, California during Holy Week in 2013. I had the opportunity to collaborate as music director in a Tre Ore Service on Good Friday that, in addition to a series of reflections on the Seven Last Words of Christ, projected famous works of art which were paired with a musical response.
Here are the images and musical pairings from this poignant and powerful service I had the privilege to be a part of several years ago. The titles of the musical reflections and images are links:
- Click the musical selection first (which will open in a separate tab),
- Go back and click the image while listening to the track,
- or browse in a way that suites you the best.