My experience with choral music is quite different from most of the singers in the Utah Chamber Artists.
I do not have any college degrees in music, nor have I taken instrument lessons since childhood. I was introduced to choral music and singing through attending mass with my family as a child. We were devout Catholics who belonged to the Cathedral of St. Matthew in South Bend, IN. My mother sang in the choir for years, and eventually my interest in choral singing began to develop. At the age of 12, I requested the opportunity to join the choir, despite the fact that children were not allowed membership in the ensemble. The conductor decided to take a chance on me, and the rest is history.
Even though I did not fully understand my feelings toward music during childhood and adolescence, I later discovered that I had a deep appreciation for the ritualistic nature of music within the mass. The chants, psalms, responses, hymns, and prayers set to music were all so comforting and beautiful. I began to focus more on the music and less on what was actually going on during mass. While spending 13 years in Catholic school, studying Hebrew and Christian scriptures, the text in the Bible seemed little more than just words on a page written 2 millennia ago. But when set to music, those words came to life and filled me with a sense of peace that I seldom felt elsewhere. As I grew up, my faith in the Catholic Church faded, but my desire to sing kept calling me back to choral music and solo
performance. Music was, and is, one method I use to tap into my spirituality.
I recall one experience in college that illustrates this perfectly. It was the final performance of my collegiate career with the Ball State University Chamber Choir (in Muncie, IN). As the flagship choral ensemble for the university, we had a great sense of pride in our sound as skilled musicians and in each other as friends. During the last piece of the concert, which was my final concert before graduating, we sang “If Music Be the Food of Love,” by David Dickau. As I stood in the fourth row, on-stage in a stunningly beautiful performance hall with perfect acoustics, looking out over the audience, singing a song with such a gorgeous melody and immensely powerful lyrics, I began to feel tears welling up in my eyes. Not only because it was the last concert of my collegiate career, but also because I felt a synergy of spirituality and a connection to every person in that room. I felt more alive during that 4-minute song than I had ever felt before. Every fiber of my being was involved in creating the most beautiful sound that had ever left my body. During the last couple of measures, I felt my heart would burst out of my chest because there was so much love emanating from my soul. Over the years, I have had a couple of similar experiences, but none quite equal to the level of intensity. Every time I sing, I long to feel that synergy of spirituality and connection to the people around me.
Ask 100 different people why they sing and they will give you 100 different answers. For me, singing is one level of connection between me and my higher power. Performing with dozens of other singers in a choral setting, breathing together, our hearts beating as one, reminds me of our human mortality and the precious nature of life. We must appreciate each moment and every opportunity to share our gifts, and our love, with others. The current moment will never exist again, but when I sing, a moment can feel like an eternity in and of itself where I am plugged in to the consciousness of the universe and the unconditional love of my higher power. And that, my dear friends, is why I sing.