In the past month, my musical experiences have been so rich it is almost impossible to find words that express all the emotions I have experienced. The picture above is a collage from an event in mid-October at my alma mater, Carson-Newman University. Alums from A Cappella Choir gathered on a Friday afternoon to do a recording for an “A Cappella Alumni Christmas” recording. Dr. Eric Thorson, director of A Cappella (pictured above holding his beautiful grandson) is also celebrating 30 years as director of this auditioned choir. “Doc”, as he is affectionately known by his students, was director during my tenure in Choir. He is also Artistic Director of the Knoxville Choral Society, which I sing with now.
There were about 170 former Choir members that gathered for the recording session, dinner and fellowship at First Baptist Church, Jefferson City. From the moment the first notes of music were sung, I knew this was going to be a day to remember. Couple that with the emotion and joy of reuniting with college friends, some whom I had not seen in over 20 years, and you have the makings of a great experience. As I reflect back on that day now, I continually pause to think of not just the friends who were there singing, but the many who I sang with during my college days who were not able to be there. I think of the friends I have re-connected with via Facebook and am thankful that I can follow their lives today and catch up with their families. I also think of those friends who I have not had a chance to re-connect with since graduation. As we sang together on that Friday, memories of college days, choir tours and “Sundays out” came flooding back to me. It was a realization that as much as the music shaped me, the people I met, the friendships I made and the traditions I shared with hundreds who had come before me shaped me, too.
On the heels of that wonderful reunion, the annual Fall Concert of the Knoxville Choral Society was another opportunity to gather with friends and sing. This year, KCS presented Bach’s “Magnificat” and Part 1 of Handel’s “Messiah” for our Fall Concert in the Bijou Theatre and a second performance at Tellico Village Community Church. This was my first experience singing “Magnificat”, but not my first experience singing “Messiah.” I first sang the “Christmas” portion of “Messiah” my freshman year at CN, and yes, it was under the direction of Eric Thorson. I have lost count how many times I have sung this work, but I never fail to be moved by the music and text.
As we were in final rehearsals and performances for “Messiah”, my mind continually traveled to thoughts of those I have sung with before. Thoughts of friends from CN, soloists I have heard sing the familiar Airs, church choirs I have sung and directed and KCS all invaded my thoughts. I realized each of these performances through the years were unique, not just because of the choirs performing them, but because of the friends and relationships I had formed while rehearsing and performing with these groups.
My faith tells me that God placed these people in my path for a reason. Some of these people were not in my path for very long, but the memories and lessons I learned from them are still with me. Some of these folks have been almost lifelong friends, others have only been in my life for a short while, but I cherish each of them. I cherish the music I make with them. I cherish the memories I have with them, including long car rides and bus trips to performance venues. I cherish each time I sing the Lutkin “Benediction” with A Cappella Choir. I cherish the meals I have shared with them, the times we have sung “Doxology” as a blessing. I cherish the laughter, the jokes, the stories, and yes, even the tears. In times to come, as I sing these familiar works and as I sing new songs, they will sing with me, perhaps beside me in the same choir, but always in my heart.