Southern Man

Friday, January 03, 2014

Memories Of Choral Society

Southern Man has been a lover of classical music since childhood. He still remembers every work on the classical LP that Southern Father would put on the living-room stereo at night, turned up just enough that Southern Lad could hear them from his bed. And he would pursue music for the rest of his childhood as well, becoming at least somewhat proficient on piano (and less so on violin) by his high-school years. In college there was no question of majoring in music - there is no way that he'd ever be good enough to support himself with such - and Southern Man embraced the STEM fields for his education but his love of music would not diminish.

Fast forward a decade: Dr. Southern Man, now teaching physics and computer science at his alma mater, has an opportunity to actually earn that music degree, two classes at a time, and thus embarks on the standard instrumental-music major under the tutalage of a beloved friend and mentor. But there is a dark lining to this silver cloud; instrumental majors were required to take four hours of voice and all music majors were required to participate in Choral Society. For eight semesters. And it was graded; you had to not only appear, but participate.

Southern Man should mention at this point that his singing voice is...well, somewhat lacking.

Southern Man fussed and whined and finally bowed to the inevitable: he would be singing in a choir for two hours a week for the next four years. And it would be one of the greatest experiences of his musical life.

It was in Choral Society that Southern Man was introduced to the lovely liturgical music of John Rutter, who is little played and appreciated today. It was in Choral Society that he sang the magnificent requiems of Brahms (in German) and Fauré (in Latin) as well as Haydn's masterwork Creation. And every season we perfomed Handel's breathtaking oratorio Messiah, which we presented as part of a larger community choir with which Southern Man sang for many years after the requirements of Choral Society ended. And he learned these works under the baton of accomplished directors who were adept at pulling terrific sound from a mixed non-audition choir. Southern Man remembers many of the vocal tips and tricks he learned from them then and uses them to this day.

Yeah, Southern Man was a piano major and that was his focus; his junior recital went well and he is particularly proud of his senior recital during which he played beyond his ability for the single best performance of his life and which included the world-premier performance of a prelude by his teacher and mentor. And he is pleased that Southern Parents were there to hear it. And he owes much to his other teachers as well; the vocal professor who tried in vain to create a silk purse from a sow's ear, the adjunct professor of orchestration that introduced him to the symphonies of Shostakovich (and gave Southern Man his only B, so it's probably the most honest accessment of his musical abilities) and the Dean of the School of Music who loaned Southern Man his Anna Russell LPs, and many others. But it is Choral Society that he remembers today; perhaps reminded by the many hours spent this season at home with his foot up listening to classical FM radio.

Active music is long gone from Southern Man's life; it's been more than a decade since he sang Messiah or played second fiddle in the community orchestra. If Southern Man makes a new New Year's Resolution (as opposed to all of the old ones (2012, 2011, 2009, 2007...) that he is still working on) it will be to bring music back into his life.


At Monday, January 06, 2014, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been blessed here to be able to take part in a community band, though my clarinet skills are degraded and cannot return due to the "essential tremor" in my left hand. But I can usually manage the 3rd part. I have no such excuse for my singing voice, but the choir director puts up with my so-so alto. I have loved fine music from childhood, also. GP


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