Music has always been an important part of my life.
I grew up in a home filled with beautiful music. My mother, a classically trained singer and single-mother of two with a career based in England, brought home the bacon by performing and recording opera on the international stage. Her music life was bound to influence me and, most certainly, it has.
My own musical expression first found an outlet through choral singing, and culminated in a 12-season stint (and we had to re-audition every year) as a soprano in Canada’s oldest and most prestigious symphonic choral organization, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. With 180 voices it was, and still is, the country’s largest choir. Singing among its many accomplished amateur and professional singers, I revelled in being part of something so larger-than-life. Part of the mystique for me was the notion that we were all of such diverse backgrounds and yet could put our differences aside and come together to create incredibly embracing and beautiful sound. The glory of music joined us as one for an experience that was large and soul-restoring, not just for us but the audience who came to listen.
In fact, I’ll never forget the first down beat at the first rehearsal I attended. Elmer Iseler, an iconic character in Canadian choral music for decades and the choir’s resident conductor, led us in for the national anthem. The ensuing wall of sound overwhelmed me such that for a moment I couldn’t bring myself to sing. It was as if in that moment I was cleansed of my worldly cares and the shock of my new spiritual nakedness had left me breathless. Then reality set in as we set sail on the horrendously difficult Bach Magnificat. I had never seen, or sung, so many notes in my life!
During my years with the choir I had the privilege of singing Handel’s Messiah (more than 50 times,) Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the Brahm’s Requiem, Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, Verdi’s Requiem, to name only a few.
We also performed myriad a cappella pieces. The purity of the human voice on its own in harmonic line and dissonance is, perhaps, the most sublime musical experience of all. Everything from Canadian R. Murray Schafer’s avant garde “Sun” to Henry Purcell’s reverent “Hear My Prayer, O Lord” to Morten Lauridsen’s mysterious “O Magnum Mysterium” launched my spirit to heights that can only be felt through experiencing the happy confluence of inspired composition, haunting vocal intonation and glorious sound. It is healing, perhaps, in a way nothing else can be.
All of which led me to write this poem.
Echo thou soft angelic song
Through hallowed halls
And wend thy wistful way
O’er hearts deep bruised
This mortal day.
Veil fresh-fallen tears
Of the world-sick soul
With heaven’s healing balm.
Salve the spirit, elixir of calm.
Though I left the choir in 2001 to pursue other musical interests, my love for choral music remains and finds release through attending Mendelssohn Choir concerts and listening to favoured choral recordings.
One of my favourite modern choral composers is American, Eric Whitacre.
In 2010, Whitacre undertook a unique project to form a 185-voice international virtual choir. The resultant recording of his luscious and moving “Lux Aurumque” was posted to YouTube and went viral. As I listen and watch this musical cyber miracle it reminds me of all the magical hours I spent singing in one of the world’s great choirs and the unifying and healing force of great music.
In case you haven’t experienced Whitacre’s incredible virtual choir masterpiece I’ve added a link — click ” here.”
Yours in music …
Be well …
Copyright Aimwell Enterprises 2012