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The Price of Doing What You Love

I love to sing.

Other people like it. Other people enjoy it. I love it. Passionately, wholeheartedly. I'm committed, baby. You may not have gazed across the 75 voices of the 2001-2002 St. Olaf Choir and picked me out to be one of the few who are still avidly plying their craft four years later. After all, I wasn't a section leader, or a soloist, or even a music major. Just another bass, three in from the left. Or maybe you did. Maybe you saw how I moved when I sang, or heard my voice on the low notes, or just saw the look in my eyes.

But I love it. I'm not quite sure when I realized this, or even when it happened. Despite playing and singing the titular role in Peter Pan in sixth grade, my mom had to drag me into choir once I got to high school by making me take health and gym over the summer so I had room to be in both band and choir. What's with this choir thing, I must have thought. The trombone is so much cooler.

But sing I did, for three years, with Dr. Erik Christiansen, whose name may ring a bell for some of you more enlightened choral nerds. And it changed my life. At the time, I didn't realize it of course. But it did. I sang the kind of music that no high school choir has any right to sing. Gretchaninoff's Otche Nash (Our Father). Slogedal's Antiphona De Morte. Crazy stuff. And it changed me.

I'm sure my high school choir experience had a lot to do with my choice to attend St. Olaf College. But even then, I didn't really think that I loved to sing. It was something to do -- something I enjoyed. But whatever. I wouldn't care if I didn't make Viking Chorus. But I was more concerned about not making a band. Of course, you can guess what happened.

Trombone quickly became a sideshow to the main event of choral singing at St. Olaf. I was hit by more transformative events singing at St. Olaf my first year. Singing next to Tim Takach the first time I ever sang a note there. Hearing the St. Olaf Choir bust it out on Ferguson's Festival setting of the Holy Communion liturgy. Thriving under the direction of Robert "Dr. Bob" Scholz. Being part of my first Christmas Festival. Drooling over the voluptous tones of the Manitou Chorus. Listening to the precision of Cantorei and the lush warmth of Chapel Choir.

I may point to my eventual membership in the St. Olaf choir two years later as the defining moment in my choral singing career. But it was as a bright-eyed freshman, standing in powder blue Viking robes, surrounded by the amazing musicality of my peers -- music majors and non music majors, amazing soloists and hardworking section leaders -- that I was hooked. There was no turning back.

I could go on about the music, but that's not the point of this post. The people were just as much a part of this addiction as the music. I had a lot of friends due to other social circles, but the close friends -- the ones who remain friends once the choir disbanded -- they were the close ones. They were funny, talented, friendly, loving -- they were my fellow singers. There's something about singers.

I can safely say that the saddest thing about leaving St. Olaf was leaving the choirs -- and the choristers -- there. But my love for the art of choral singing was now in full bloom. I knew then -- even if I hadn't so much as stated it -- that I would be singing in choirs for the rest of my life.

Axel Theimer's Kantorei kept my addiction alive after leaving St. Olaf. Surprise, I met more friends there. The music was different, but still very lovely.

Suddenly I found myself in Bloomington, Indiana, far away from the choral mother land. And I found myself a valuable commodity. What, a non-music major who can sing? Not only sing, but read music, blend with a section, hold a section together and always show up to rehearsal? Apparently these people are in short supply here.

So here, again, I made a small home for myself in choral music. I attended opera and concerts. And again I met people.

Fast forward to about two weeks ago. Tragedy strikes the IU Music School.

Due to a confluence of factors, I didn't hear about this until almost 36 hours after the event. When I did hear, I couldn't think straight for the rest of the day. Five people -- all of whom I had seen in concerts and operas, one of whom I had spoken with on several occasions, and one of whom I stood next to in Contemporary Vocal Ensemble for much of 2004-2005 -- five incredible, talented young musicians -- were gone. Needless to say, it was a hard weekend.

I write this in an attempt to come to terms with how strongly I feel about this loss. These people, except Garth, were not really my friends. But I knew them. I knew them because of what I love -- because of singing. And singing is something special, somehow. I can't quite put it into words, but it connected me to them, in some way that didn't need friendship.

I feel this way about a lot of people I know through music, be it from St. Olaf, the Twin Cities choral scene, or around here. It's like my love for the art somehow infuses my acquaintenceships with other people who participate in this art. I don't know. It's strange... but it's there, and it hurts.

I'm still not recovered. I listen to the morning news on the local public radio station, and Robert should be reading it. I think about the Bloomington Chamber Singers -- Zack was there less than a month ago. And Garth. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to hear a motorcycle rumble by without thinking of him now.

Why do I love these people I hardly knew? Because I love to sing. If I didn't love to sing, I probably wouldn't even know them. But I do. And I did. And it sucks.

This is the price of doing what you love. I love singing. I love music. I love singers. And it hurts to lose what you love.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 3, 2006 7:57 PM.

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