Guest Blogger: 2 Weeks ‘Til Carnegie & Visit from the Children’s Choir

From time to time, we invite a guest blogger to share their insights. In this installment, Janet – a member of the Symphonic Choir alto section – sheds light on preparations for the Choir's return to Carnegie Hall on October 16, 2016.

As tonight’s choir practice ended, I switched on the radio in my car for the drive home.  A lovely jazz version of “Shenandoah” was playing. I smiled, remembering magical moments in rehearsal tonight. We (the Choir and Eric Stark, its conductor) were focused on our Zabur music, when Ruth Dwyer, associate director of the Indianapolis Children’s Choir (ICC) marched in merrily, and asked if her preteen choir could listen to us rehearse.  The rehearsal rooms for the Symphonic Choir and Children's Choir are just across the hallway.  The children, who had been in their own rehearsal, wanted to hear what we would sing at Carnegie Hall in just 2 weeks.

In the children came, to the front of the rehearsal room, looking curiously at us. A quick check by Ms. Dwyer to make sure we adults were providing a good example of singers. “Are they sitting on the edge of the chairs? Are their feet flat on the floor? Do they have their books open, and their eyes of the conductor?” Instantly the kids became professionals checking us out, as quiet furtive movements and sounds around the room betrayed minor adjustments by the adults!

Eric had been paging through the music deciding on what to sing. For the first song, he chose a passage where the people in the bomb shelter are frightened, possibly wounded and facing death.  The music is a striking 4-part harmony of note sequences that glide quickly down into a groan over 3 beats. A useful image is a skier who starts down a steep incline with speed and grace to fly around the moguls, loses the pattern of the sequence, and inelegantly decelerates into one of the icy hillocks with a heart-felt grunt. That’s us! The kids giggled, thinking this is an odd way to sing. Next, Eric asked us to sing a passage from Psalm 102, with beautiful lines and harmonies as a melody with Arabic text. The children grew a little round-eyed at the strange language.  During their time with ICC, they learn to sing many languages, but these sounds were new to them.

Our demonstration over, Ms. Dywer directed the children to close their eyes, hold hands, and bow their heads before they sang. In the light flexible voices of children in harmony, they began to sing “Shenandoah” to us.  My eye was caught by one young boy with an expression of pure joy in his singing. The moment spun out into minutes of quiet, reflection and gratitude, and the smiles of the adults spread among the children. We stood and applauded, and then they were gone.  Inspired, we returned to the hard work of refining and polishing our performance of Zabur for Carnegie Hall in two weeks.

The Indianapolis Symphonic Choir returns to Carnegie Hall in performance on Sunday, October 16, 2016, 2:00 p.m., its first performance at the storied venue since 1978. Joining the Symphonic Choir is the Indianapolis Children's Choir and New York-based orchestra Mimesis Ensemble. For more information click here.