I grew up playing music and singing. My “début” was singing “We‘re Going to a Hukilau”, accompanying myself on the ukulele at a ward dinner when I was four years old. I wasn’t very happy about it. I was so terrified my Mom had to sit by me while I did it. I was traumatized for a long time. In fact, ukuleles still scare me. By the time I rediscovered singing, I was in high school, and several friends talked me into trying out for the A‘Capella Choir and Madrigals. Those experiences set the stage for what has become my preferred pastime. It is far more than a distraction; it is an obsession, perhaps even a calling.
J. Reuben Clark once said,” We get nearer to the Lord through music than perhaps through any other thing except prayer.” I genuinely believe that to be true. I have felt things while singing beautiful music that I have felt under no other circumstances. I have found choral music to be a great source of hope and healing. Singing has been a sanctuary for me many times over the years. In the darkest hours of my life, I’ve found refuge in music, particularly in singing. There have even been particularly bad times when I couldn‘t sing. The notes have gotten stuck in my throat; my heart wouldn’t let them escape.
By singing together, by breathing and articulating and harmonizing together, I believe we subconsciously make an unwritten promise that we‘ll support each other, lift each other up, that we won’t forsake each other. We become integral parts of the whole, and we can‘t exist without each other.
English musician, composer, record producer, singer and visual artist Brian Eno, said,“I believe in singing. I believe in singing together. I believe that singing is the key to long life, a good figure, a stable temperament, increased intelligence, new friends, super self-confidence, heightened sexual attractiveness and a better sense of humor.”
It’s obvious, isn‘t it? All these things have happened to me as a result of singing in choirs. Okay, not all of them. In fact, I think only one of them has actually occurred. I have, gratefully, gained some new friends. Perhaps the other outcomes he mentions are yet to come.
Robert Shaw, one of the most renowned and wise choral conductors to ever stand on a podium, once said,” As soon as we find each other, we invite the miracle to begin.” (He also said,” Music is like sex; it’s too important to be left up to the professionals.” You gotta love him.) The Utah Chamber Artists have “found” each other. We have “found” an extraordinary musical director, executive director, choral coach and board of trustees. We have “found” beautiful music to sing, written by contemporary and classical composers and arrangers. We have “found” friends who share our love of, and commitment to, superb choral singing.
A favorite song, written in the 1860s, conveys how I feel about singing:
My life flows on in endless song
Above earth‘s lamentation,
I catch the sweet, tho’ far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul–
How can I keep from singing?
With wonderful friends, beautiful music, inspiring leadership, how, indeed, can I keep from singing?