“In the quiet misty morning, when the moon has gone to bed,
When the sparrows stop their singing and the sky is clear and red,
When the summer’s ceased its gleaming, when the corn is past its prime,
When adventure’s lost its meaning, I’ll be homeward bound in time.
Bind me not to the pasture. Chain me not to the plow.
Set me free to find my calling and I’ll return to you somehow…”
– From “Homeward Bound” by Marta Keen
As a choral conductor, it’s my husband’s job to get a group of texting, chatting, 21st-century college students to find personal connection with music that is centuries, continents, and cultures away from their immediate life experience. And he does it by showing them that there is, in fact, an immediacy to it. That a song about journey and longing for freedom while gazing wistfully back home is also about their journey to college, or studying abroad, or anything new and difficult.
Last night I was recruited last-minute as a page-turner for the pianist, so I sat quietly on a chair in the center of the stage, with my eyes steadfastly watching the black notes flying by. I couldn’t turn around to look at the choir while they sang, but they were right behind me, and I knew they were singing about their own journeys. I thought of all the choral concerts I’ve sung in – songs about love or solace or triumph. The concerts I remember are the ones where I found a kernel of my own life within the pages of the music. (If you’ve ever been in a successful choir, you know what I mean.)
My husband tells his choir at the beginning of each semester that he firmly believes choral music can change the world. Some of them probably roll their eyes, but now that I’m a few years removed from my own choral experience, I close my eyes and know he’s right. Because choral music does change individual lives if you search for your own meaning with the music. You can find peace or wisdom sent to you through something someone put on paper hundreds of years ago. When something helps you work through problems and pain with more strength and grace – what else changes the world more than that?
A couple of frames from the dress rehearsal before the concert – shots taken from the catwalk above the stage.