By Bobby ChangIt has been a wonderful twenty-nine days from first practice to final concert for participation in the University of South Carolina Summer Chorus II programme, which is open to students and members of the Midlands community. The Summer Chorus programme involves a student conductor who is in the process of fulfilling a requirement towards earning the Doctor of Music Arts in Choral Conducting, with her eyes and ears being the capable eyes of an experienced conductor. In this, a retired professor at a women's college is mentoring the student conductor.
I have so many people to thank on his wonderful journey of these days. Conductors Lillian Quackenbush and Jennifer Adam have been exciting people. I can remember watching "The Quack" in many events at her church, often in bigger works such as The Seven Last Words of Christ and "The Three Sopranos (2002)," along with her work in the Midlands with the Washington Street United Methodist Church's Messiah annual singalong. Mrs. Adam has a great career ahead of her after she was able to calm me down the second performance (I was jumping the gun on a few times when Mrs. Quackenbush had us open our books; I hadn't sung choir in three years), but I just wish the battery on her evaluation video camera didn't die so often (I had to inform her of that a few times in a break). I have a great appreciation of our three soloists. Our Simon, bass Michael LaRoche, the first time I've seen him, and I have a greater appreciation of basses, as these "heels" (basses sing "heel" characters in opera; tenors are "faces") they sing "higher" than what I thought of a bass' vocal range was before I took voice lessons (if you've heard Southern Gospel music, a bass sings extremely low) it's just one of those solid basses with a career ahead. For Lucas, David Quackenbush, Pharm, (he is a pharmacist in the area, and Lillian's husband), we have a solid tenor and always exciting to see both "Quacks" when I'm attending a choral event, as I've seen him sing tenor in many events, and he sings at his wife's church, naturally! As for Hanne, it's nolo contendere, I am speechless about Serena Hill as usual. But there should be a good reason -- she is the reason I love classical music, as she has taught me to sing for a majority of the seven years since I started singing, and when Miss Hill has been the eyes and ears in your voice, you can't say enough about being mesmerized by her voice and how it gracefully glides and how you want it like hers.
I thank Rosemarie Suniga for being our accompanist on the wonderful Steinway pianos that grace the recital hall and our practice rooms. There's something different about a Steinway that makes it different than a Gibson Zhongshan that I've seen in churches and even the older pianos (my alma mater is now a Steinway school). When someone of her level shows the prowess that I saw, she's on the list that I can appreciate, joining a list of five accompanists I have worked in the past -- Marion Sprott, Allison Hilbish, Laura Sturgeon, Beverly Bradley*, and Rebekka Cleland. Having Miss Suniga ensures me that a karaoke machine will remain banned, as I left the choir at church for three reasons years ago -- first the material being offered came from the major secular publishers, OCP, and GIA, which is devoid of doctrine and theology, second, karaoke replaced the accompanist, with one case of a karaoke DVD (which kids think is better than an organist), and third, teens dancing to secular song replaced the choir too many times. Have to thank Steinway for the grand piano also.
Finally, I must thank my teammates on this team. How can you turn a classically trained singer who feared for his choral life into one who can blend with teammates and learn to sing in the greatest setting in the greatest works ever? Without my teammates, I cannot imagine if I would have sung this or survived the eight practices and all of you I cannot name in this letter. Thank you so much to my fellow singers.
"God of Life! God of Love! Infinite God!"
"Forever gone, forever past, the days of pain of sorrow, the wintry storms of life. There Spring eternal reigns, unending bliss and happiness, reward the righteous man!"
Those lines just stick out and are stuck in my head!
* Gibson Zhongshan was Baldwin Pianos; In 2001, Gibson acquired Baldwin in bankruptcy court, and did a partnership with state-owned Zhonghan in China in 2006. Two years later, Gibson shut down all Baldwin plants Stateside (most notably Arkansas) in favour of the Dongbei and Zhongshan pianos, and many are not happy with the move. I drove past Gibson headquarters in Nashville for a friend's wedding in 2007. As a personal preference, I would prefer an Steinway Musical Instruments to a Gibson.
* Mrs. Bradley was prior to this performance my only accompanist whom I had the opportunity to work in a choral setting. I also have worked with two other accompanists, but the one at church back home was too often shed by the choral leader for a karaoke disc, and I grew tired of it as my singing continued, with incidents such as having the choir pulled in favour of teens dancing to pop tunes, and for Christmas, teen puppet and dancers replaced the choir. As I learned more classical singing, I decided to walk away from the choir, having sung in choirs just twice afterwards -- the 2006 Messiah in Charleston (conducted by Stephen Distad, organist Beverly Bradley), and this production in question.