Guest Blog Post: The Dream We Saw

It was a grim, grey November afternoon of rain as I walked into Avon High School, past 2 rooms with orchestra rehearsals in progress. Another room had a band rehearsal. Two more rooms with choirs, and then into the room I was looking for – the rehearsal room for the High School’s Chamber Choir. I was immediately welcomed and surrounded by a cluster of eager students – Did I want water? Would I like a copy of their music? Would I like to sing with them? What did I want to know about their choir?

I was the first to arrive for their session with Artistic Director Eric Stark to rehearse the songs they would sing with the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir at the Festival of Carols concerts in December. They were quick to tell me their choir had come 8th in state competitions, and they were hoping to do even better the next time around. There were few members from last year, so this was a new, relatively untried choir. The more experienced singers were very conscious of their leadership roles. Their conductor, Rick Gamble called them to order, and they warmed up on one of the songs they would sing alone at the concerts. Then Eric, Symphonic Choir Conducting Fellow Dr. James Plenty and our Executive Director Michael Pettry arrived… and we started. This was to be a very vibrant session of the Symphonic Choir educational program for schools in and around Indianapolis called the “Spotlight Choir” initiative.

I was fascinated to watch how quickly a relationship developed between Eric and the choir. As he stood in front of them, smiled and raised his arms to direct, they started to rehearse “The Dream Isaiah Saw.” A few stragglers on the notes and rhythm, and isolated voices could be heard. Eric stopped them after a few bars and asked them to note a breath mark. A couple of students got their pencils out and dutifully noted. Then, back to sing the phrase again with Eric’s encouragement and smile. He stopped them again to ask them to make a notation. The atmosphere in the room noticeably changed. Singers reached for their pencils and industriously marked their scores as requested. A complete focus came over the group.

They leaned in towards Eric, and became a single voice in harmony. After awhile, Eric paused to tell them the back-story of “The Dream,” how the composer struggled to end the song. Then 9/11 happened in the United States, and gave him the inspiration to complete the song. Eric explained why it was such a powerful song for peace. He said the raucous percussion serves as a reminder of war and chaos. At the beginning, it fights to dominate voices of the choir. Gradually, the choir prevails over the orchestra, until by the end, the choir is singing a cappella (in harmony) with their message of peace. The students were completely absorbed, thoughtful and receptive.

Their singing reached a new level of accomplishment after they had heard how and why the song was written. I sat among the altos, and their concentration was complete as they blended with each other and sang their hearts out, with beaming smiles on their faces and sparkling eyes as they followed Eric’s musical gesture and instructions.

Onto the “Hallelujah” chorus with focus, joy and enthusiasm. Then, they sang one of their concert songs for us, with charm and energy. “We are still working on it they told us. It’s going to be even better.”  We smiled, impressed by their love of their music, their focus and responsiveness, and their enthusiastic anticipation for Festival of Carols concerts. I am looking forward to singing with them.

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 – shares a perspective from the chorus in the weeks leading up to the 2017 Festival of Carols concerts. Our Educational partnerships are close to the heart of the Symphonic Choir, and we welcome you to hear Avon High School at the Sunday, December 3, 7:00 p.m. performance of Festival of Carols at The Schrott Center on the Butler University Campus. (Center Grove High School joins the
Symphonic Choir at the 4 Festival of Carols performances on Dec 15-17 at The Palladium in Carmel.)

Tickets and more info available by clicking here.