I would like to invite you to remember when you were first awakened to choral music and its ability to resonate with your soul. Along the pathway we have encounters with pieces that capture the whole of us and we are changed. It is impossible to articulate exactly what it is about the music that has swept us up to a most certain place; we know our experience has been significant, a stepping stone, or perhaps even a corner stone along the pathway of life and the structure of our innermost being.
The repertoire I sang in the Roseau High School Concert Choir in northern Minnesota under the direction of an intelligent, gifted musician and conductor, Stan Kindzerski, a Concordia College Moorhead graduate, is still today a guiding light in my life and in my work.
Chesnokov’s Salvation is Created (above video) comes to mind as a piece that captured me, or the stunning phrases in
Cantique de Jean Recine by Faure, or singing the rich sonorous male section of “midnight’s solemn hour is tolling” in F. Melius Christiansen’s setting of Wake Awake (video below).
I am convinced that repertoire selection is critical in inspiring and supporting choral music from one generation to the next. My gratitude also includes those who guided and shaped Mr. K.’s musical heritage, as well as for the opportunity I had to sing great art as a country farm boy in a small community of northern Minnesota with Stan Kindzerski as a mentor.
When our singers reflect on their experiences in making music with our guidance, repertoire is one aspect of their experience. I wonder how many singers would articulate that the depth of their experience is directly tied to the repertoire. What pieces live in them with great affection and have served as foundational and formational in their lives? As choral directors, the core of our work is the repertoire that we program. Possibly the most important consideration in our practices is the artistic merit of the music as well as the ensemble and conductor’s ability to bring it to life. As you consider your repertoire and balance out all of the many facets and needs of singers and listeners, remember that your selection of literature holds the possibility of enchantment. All who partake in the experience of great literature will find it vital and transforming. Selecting profound repertoire that has the capacity to greet the shy, quiet soul may be remarkably simple or tremendously complex. Its profundity may be one perfect phrase, harmonic structure, or sonority. The important piece to the puzzle is that students must be exposed to art that is powerful beyond measure.
The task of repertoire selection can be energizing, overwhelming, time consuming, and rewarding. We have a great responsibility to provide our singers with encounters that may speak to them for years to come and ensure that choral music continues to be alive and well in our world. Music has the power to reveal a hidden wholeness in the fragments of each individual and our world. This revelation is necessary and essential to the understanding of our world and of ourselves. It was the literature I sang in the Roseau Concert Choir that called me to this vocation and important work.