Sunday, March 25, 2012

Rhodes (Chamber) Singers Tour, Day 4

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have come to the end of our tour, and what a tour it was. The Rhodes Singers and Chamber Singers offered some a cappella anthems for Broadway Baptist's 10:50 AM service, and you could tell that the congregation thoroughly enjoyed our music. The pastor gave an excellent sermon based on John's account of Jesus turning over the tables of the Temple and thereby chastising the swindling merchants for turning His Father's House into a common marketplace. The crux of his sermon was this: we should not read this passage with the intent of joining Jesus to clean house. Rather, we should allow Jesus to turn over the injustices and evils of our heart, and perhaps it is our own spirits that need cleansing more than anything else around us. Fresh take on a familiar passage.

Entrance for the gardens.

Aerated pool

Feet in Water
Active Pool

Mom and I went to lunch at Taco Cabana (mmmmm), and then I spent the afternoon wandering around the Ft. Worth Water Gardens. Dear reader, if you ever find yourself in this fantastic city, be sure to stop by the Water Gardens. Designed in the 1970s, this park features three large pools each with a different nature. The Quiet Pool was a still body of water with gently cascading water falls along the boundary of the pool. The Active Pool was quite the opposite, with loud waterfalls and swirling rapids. In this pool, you could descend down the side of the falls into the gathering area of the water; the roar of the water was quite deafening by the time I reached the bottom of the trail. Finally there was the Aerated Pool with plenty of jets to create the illusion of a tiled water path. This was a great place to center; water, whether still or active, is a powerful image for me. It reminds me that most of my body is made of water, that water is a symbol of cleaning and sanctification in the Bible, and that water is a vital element of life.

Final rehearsal before showtime
After a relaxing afternoon, it was showtime. We went back to the church at 5:00 for dinner, rehearsal at 5:30 PM, and concert at 7:00. We had a pretty full house, and my entire family was there: sister, two nieces, mom (yes, this constitutes roughly 85% of my family), so I was glad that they came. I think that this was my younger niece's first choral concert, so I'm glad that I could provide that for her. The choirs were excellent. The Fauré Requiem was exquisite. Chamber Singers were impeccable in that beautiful sanctuary, and their Locus Iste was magnificent. Rhodes Singers were in top form; I haven't heard them that musical in a very, very long time. I'm very proud of my choir, and I can't wait to share them with a Memphis crowd on April 15!

So tomorrow we perform at Oak Ridge High School, and then we make our long trek back to Memphis. Tomorrow's blog post will be less of a summary of the day's events and more of a  meditation on why tour is important for choral ensembles. For now, we sleep heartily (and I'm sure the students party hard). We'll see you back in Memphis!
Rhodes Chamber Singers 2012
Until next time,

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Rhodes (Chamber) Singers Tour, Day 3

Hey everybody! We're now in Ft. Worth, and we've had a full day of rehearsals with the Broadway Baptist Chancel Choir as we make final preparations for tomorrow's huge concert. We are joining forces with them to perform Faure's Requiem with members of the Ft. Worth and Dallas Symphony Orchestras, so if you're in the area tomorrow night at 7:00 PM, please come hear this free concert!

It was a gorgeous spring day in Ft. Worth, and we had the entire evening to spend as we pleased. My mother came over from Dallas, and we went to the famous Joe T. Garcia's for dinner. Afterwards, we walked around the Ft. Worth Stock Yards and drove around downtown. Tomorrow morning, Rhodes Singers and Chamber Singers will offer some a cappella music in service at Broadway Baptist, and then we'll spend the afternoon resting before the big show.

I'll keep the text of this post short, and I'll let today's pictures speak for themselves. 

The choir loft and organ at Broadway Baptist
Beautiful Caravants organ, one of the largest in the state.

Amen. Seek the Shalom of your city.

Broadway Baptist, exterior

Downtown Ft. Worth

Joe. T. Garcia's! 

Cowboys, boots, wranglers, and rodeos. Excellent.

Ride 'em cowboy!
Until next time,

Friday, March 23, 2012

Rhodes (Chamber) Singers Tour, Day 2

I believe you mean
"Welcome Home to Texas!"
Howdy from Texas!  Day 2 began with the rude awakening of my alarm clock at the unsightly hour of 5:30 AM. My colleagues - fellow director Bill Skoog and accompanist Debbie Smith - stayed at a hotel while our students stayed with families from St. Paul's UMC, so we had to return to the church to pick them up at 6:45 AM. Thank you for the graciousness of our host families who were willing and abel to rise early with our students. We hit the road for Texas promptly at 7:00 AM, and by 11:30 AM, we were entering the the DFW Metroplex. After a brief lunch stop in Rockwall, we made our way through downtown Dallas to Fort Worth Country Day, a private school in Ft. Worth that has a long tradition of sending their graduates to Rhodes College.

Rhodes Singers preparing for
We gave a quick concert at the school for two purposes: more concert experience for us and a recruitment opportunity for the College. We know the school is already sending two of their graduating seniors to us in the fall, and we hope to attract several of next year's seniors for the class of 2017 (realization: that would be my 10-year anniversary of graduating from Rhodes. Oh my.). We didn't do our entire set since this was only a 45 minute concert. Chamber did 3 out of 4 songs - we cut "Angelus ad Pastores Ait" - and Singers did roughly 66% of their rep. It was a challenge to get off the bus after a 7 hour drive from Little Rock and perform a concert with minimal warm-up, but my Chamber Singers were up to the task! Despite those kind of conditions, they performed admirably.

After our performance at FWCD, we boarded the coach and traveled south to First Baptist Church in Crowley, TX. As you see in the picture, they have a wonderful sanctuary with excellent acoustics, so Chamber was able to quickly warm-up to the space. After a hearty meal, we made our preparations for the evening's concert. Clearly the meal and some downtime did my singers well; they were in higher spirits tonight!

Sanctuary at First Baptist Church in Crowley
Tonight's concert at the church was a special one for me. One of our pieces, "Locus Iste," is a short prayer: "This is a place made by God. It is a priceless mystery; it is without reproof." I always tell my audiences to think of their locus iste, their sacred place. It does not have to be an intrinsically religious location, such as a church or temple, but that it could be a natural place, a special time or event, or a group of people. Tonight, I shared my locus iste with the group: dear brother Billy Collins was at the concert. It really meant a lot to me that he came up from Waco to hear our ensembles, and I could tell that he really enjoyed the show. After show, Billy and I were able to connect for about 45 minutes. He's an important person to my life, and I'm thankful for him.

So that was today! Tomorrow will be a little less hectic; we won't have any performances. What we do have, however, are two two-hour rehearsals with the good folks at Broadway Baptist Church in downtown Ft. Worth to prepare for Sunday night's concert. My mother is coming in from McKinney to support our work, and we're going to eat at the famous Joe T. Garcia's for dinner. Should be a fun night.

But for tonight? A much needed night of deep, 7-hour slumber.

Until next time,

Brother Billy and me.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Rhodes Singers Tour, Day 1

Hey everybody! Greetings from Little Rock, Arkansas. I'm on the road with my Chamber Singers for Rhodes Singers Tour 2012. We're traveling with the Rhodes Singers - OK, to be honest, they are the headline choir - from Memphis to Ft. Worth via Little Rock, and the next few days will be full of performances and rehearsals. A little summary of today's events:

-We left Rhodes College at 2:00 PM for Little Rock, and we made it to St. Paul UMC just in time for dinner. We changed into concert attire, warmed-up, and sang an excellent first concert.

St. Paul UMC, our first stop
Well...actually, that's it. That was our first day. I must say that I was very proud of my Chamber Singers for having an excellent first concert; first stop is always the roughest. Tonight, though, my Chamber Singers gave their best performances yet of their repertoire, which can only mean that tomorrow's (Friday's) performances will be better. Furthermore, all of our students had classes to attend today, so last night they were busying packing their suitcases and working on homework and last minute practicing on their music. Chamber Singers are offering hard rep:

"Angelus ad Pastores Ait," Mauro Zuccante
"Salve Regina a 4," Josquin Desprez
"Locus Iste," Anton Bruckner
"Witness," Arr. Jack Halloran

Ladies of Rhodes Singers rehearsing before concert
If you know choral music, you'll see a trend. This is sacred, a cappella music of the last 500 years, with "Angelus..." being the most recent (2010) and "Salve Regina" the oldest (late 1400s). I wanted to teach my students the sounds and styles of our western choral tradition, and I want my audiences to hear music written from a bygone era, to see how expressions of faith are at once similar and foreign to Christians of the 21st century.

Tomorrow begins early; we load the bus at 6:30 AM so we can get to Ft. Worth for a 2:30 concert at Ft. Worth Country Day School. Then at 7:00 PM that night, a full-length concert at First Baptist Church of Crowley, TX. Excited to return to the great Republic, and my dear friend and brother Billy will be in the audience! If you're in the Ft. Worth area, please come hear our concert at the church!

Until next time,

PS, if you use Twitter, follow me at @jcorn819 to receive up-to-the minute updates on concerts, performances, and fun facts from tour. #RSTour2012