It was my good fortune to recently have the opportunity to visit the beautiful country of New Zealand. My wife and I checked off another item on our “bucket list” as we experienced the amazing sites of this remarkable land on a 13 day sea cruise. One of my most enjoyable experiences in New Zealand turned out to be completely unplanned and the serendipity of that event helped create what will be a lasting memory. One of the ports of call was Auckland, a breathtaking city of over one million residents. Many Pacific Islanders have moved to Auckland seeking employment and education opportunities, and together with the large number of indigenous Maoris, have made it the largest Polynesian city in the world. Judy and I have always enjoyed visiting museums in our travels and the Auckland Museum was of special interest to us because of its concentration on natural history and the Pacific people. Upon entering the Museum we were greeted with that serendipitous experience I mentioned at the beginning of this blog.
A choir was singing – completely unexpected and unadvertised – something like the “flash mobs” that have become so popular in public spaces in recent years – but different at the same time. The adult community choir was standing in the Grand Foyer of the Museum and singing unaccompanied songs which were unfamiliar to me, but apparently part of the Maori tradition. After several minutes of singing the conductor announced that the choir would be moving to the second level of the building to sing next, and then on to the third and final level. I walked up to their director and introduced myself as a fellow conductor. I told him what a pleasure it was to enter the museum and hear their beautiful singing. He thanked me and said they were there that day to “sing to the building.”
Since hearing that phrase, and recognizing that the concept probably has its origin in the early native religions where “spaces” could have spiritual connotations, I have thought how fortunate we choral singers are to often have the opportunities to sing in beautiful spaces, both churches and concert halls. Perhaps, in addition to singing to our audiences of living, breathing persons, we should consider offering our music to the places in which we sing. It’s just a thought to ponder.