Posted on November 30, 2010 by Michael
One of the great joys of my musical life is that I had the opportunity to sing for many years under the baton of Robert Shaw. In my own conducting career, I have been influenced in many ways by this amazing individual. His level of commitment, to both his art and his craft, has been a source of inspiration to me for nearly forty years. Commitment was also something Mr. Shaw expected from his singers. In one of his weekly letters to his choristers he had this to say:
The ratio of commitment to ability generally is higher among amateurs than among professionals. This can be due to two factors: first, that the amateur’s talent is, by comparison to his professional counterpart, generally limited; and second, that his is a recreational endeavor, undertaken to provide any of of a number of personal, non-material satisfactions, originally, at least, with high enthusiasm.
The point is that while the professional may lose some his enjoyment and personal commitment to his work without necessarily imparing his craft to a dangerous degree, the amateur, if he loses his commitment and moment-to-moment enthusiam and concentration is in danger of diminishing his abilities by fifty to seventy-five percent.
This is the nature of a “society” such as ours. Unless it is unremittingly committed to success it only adds failure to failure. It is commitment which discovers, enlarges and refines our capabilities – not vice versa. Since it is most of what we have, it has to be practiced at every rehearsal.
As we enter the Advent/Christmas season, the busiest time of year for most choral musicians, may we we all be reminded of the wisdom expressed so eloquently by Robert Shaw.
Filed under: Choral experiences, Choral rehearsal | Tagged: amateur singers, Choral musicians, commitment, professional singers, robert shaw | 2 Comments »
Posted on November 20, 2010 by Michael
This is a “reprint” of a blog I printed last year about this time. It resulted in some absolutely great responses and I wanted to run it again to see what interesting things my readers would have to offer this year. Here it is (from November 19, 2009):
You may have heard of the “six word story” idea that has been floating around the internet and college writing classes for some time. The goal is to come up with a phrase that describes in exactly six words a person’s thoughts on a particular subject. The concept is believed to have started with the famous author, Ernest Hemingway, who accepted a challenge to write a short story in six words. His response was this – For sale: baby shoes, never worn. Of course, few persons would be able to come up with such a thought provoking six word story as the one produced by Hemingway. Still, it is a fascinating exercise and a good way to refine and distill our ideas on a specific theme.
The Thanksgiving Holiday seems to me to be a good subject for a “six word story.” I encourage the readers of this blog to come up with some examples that express what Thanksgiving means to them. I’ll get you started with two of my own. I love eating at any time (big surprise), but especially at Thanksgiving, so I came up with Favorite meal – turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie. Another one hints at the busy rehearsal and performance schedule that awaits musicians after the Thanksgiving holiday. Last rest before rush of December.
This should get you started. I look forward to hearing your “six word stories.”
Filed under: Choral experiences | Tagged: hemingway, Michael O'Neal, six word story, Thanksgiving | 2 Comments »
Posted on November 15, 2010 by Michael
An unexpected death recently took a valued member of MOS. John Moss had sung in our Bass II section since 2005, and his warm personality, gentle spirit and fine voice will be sorely missed by all of us. Still, I am thankful for the years he was a part of our collective song. I am reminded that each singer adds his or her personal contribution to a chorus, and we are somehow diminished when that voice is absent. In John’s memory, I would like to share a poem I wrote several years ago about how we each can let our own light shine.
Let It Shine
“This little light of mine -
I’m gonna let it shine.”
These simple words learned years ago
live in my heart today.
May they be seen in what I do
and heard in what I say.
The beauty and humility
expressed in that brief phrase
remind me even one lone soul
can brighten life’s dark haze.
And though there may be some who doubt
and question what I say,
I know that even my small flame
may light another’s way.
So each day I will let it shine -
this little, steady, light of mine -
and pray someone may catch its ray
to pass it on another day.
Filed under: Choral experiences, Choral rehearsal, Poetry | Tagged: John Moss, MOS, Poetry | 2 Comments »
Posted on November 4, 2010 by Michael
Taking our “art” out into the community instead of expecting the community to always come to the concert hall, theatre, or museum – what a concept! Well, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has made it easier to do just that. The Foundation has funded a program called “Random Acts of Culture” which is currently being experienced in eight cities. The most recent occurrence was in Philadelphia, where the Opera Company of Philadelphia staged an “impromptu” performance of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. Over 650 singers, drawn from 28 area choruses, congregated (disguised as shoppers) in the downtown Macy’s store. This is the old Wanamaker’s Department Store which still has the large pipe organ that made it famous. At an appointed time, the organist cut loose with the introduction to Hallelujah and the 650 singers, spread throughout the store, began to sing. It’s available to view and hear on youtube and I’ve also included the link on my Facebook page. Take a look and a listen, and experience an amazing “shared” event between performers and listeners. It made me wonder what other sorts of random acts of culture we might try in our own communities (funded by a foundation, or not). Any ideas?
Filed under: Choral experiences | Tagged: flashmob, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Macy's, Random acts of culture, Wanamaker's | 2 Comments »