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Friday, December 9, 2011

My Debut

Tonight I got to make my grand conducting debut on the DeJong concert hall stage.  As director of the University Chorale day section I couldn't be prouder of the concert we had tonight, and the efforts that they all put into their concert.

I must confess that I was so nervous.  I didn't fall asleep last night until around 5 because I was so nervous and shaking.   I was convinced I would forget everything.  After waking up again at 7 I decided to just get myself ready for the day.  I did my normal routine for the day, and then came home, got in my tux, and headed to the concert hall.  As I arrived and saw the choir slowly making their way to the stage, I could help but think how wonderful everyone looked (black is one of my favorite colors for on stage) and how committed they all were for this concert.

After completing everything that we needed to take care of on stage we split up to do sectional warm ups.  This, of course, did not go according to plan.  All of the rooms that I signed up for were taken by other classes and tests and so forth.  Typical.  We ended up squeezing the sopranos into a small room and the basses into another, then sent all the tenors and altos down to the greenroom (a dressing room under the concert hall).

After a nice warm up we gathered together in the orchestra room and sang a couple of songs together.  We went over the program order, talked about procedures on stage, and then had a bit of a spiritual thought.  I was up in front trying to give this thought but it was basically a disaster.  Surprise, surprise.  I was using the text from one of our songs "Sweet Little Jesus Boy."  This is a song I have had memorized for some time. This is a song that I absolutely adore.  This is a song that I find intensely spiritual.  And yet, I couldn't seem to get the words out when I was trying to make my point.  I felt like a total fool...hahaha.  That's ok though.  I think they got the idea.  Then, we knelt in prayer together and pleaded with the Lord that His spirit would be present and that we could, through our music, change the life of one of his cherished children for the better that night.  Then we silently went backstage to prepare for our entrance

Set 1 - From the Classical Canon
We did a Handel piece from Alexander's Feast called "The Many Rend the Skies."  It is a glorious little piece.  I have enjoyed hearing the choir's progress on it.  With the exception of a small area where there was some entrance confusion, I thought it went really well thanks to Mariah.  Next we did a wonderful motet by Michael Haydn called "Tenebrae factae sunt" (There Was Darkness).  The choir sang it beautifully.  It was filled with emotion, there was a great connection to the breathe and real feeling.  I think that anyone would have been proud of that performance.

Set 2 - French Christmas Carols.
This set started off with me conducting "Sing We Now Of Christmas" (Noel Nouvelet).  I was so happy that I got all the breathes right because for the life of me, I couldn't get them right in rehearsals... even today.  But, Hallelujah I got them all right.  It was a pretty good performance of it.  It wasn't perfect, nor as good as it has been, but it was still a pretty dang good showing.  Next was "Angels We Have Heard On High" (Les Anges dans nos Compagne).  Mariah did a lovely job.  She is always such an expressive conductor.  Truly she is one of the greatest musicians that I have ever met.  What a pleasure and blessing to be able to glean even a small amount of wisdom from her.  Oh, the swooshes of beauty ;)  Finally Matt closed the set with "Bring A Torch Jeanette, Isabella" (Un Flambeau, Jeanette, Isabelle).  Matt is also just a wonderful musician.  It has been nice to have him helping with Choral and being a guide for us newbies.  Thank you for all of your help Matt!

Set 3 - Irish Folk
This set started out with "Shivna."  Now, I sang this song my senior year in High School with the dear Nancy Anderson.  After starting the song in rehearsals I was concerned that we were never gonna get it.  But, sounded absolutely wonderful.  It was percussive, it was intense, it was filled with consonants, and most importantly it was fun.  Our bohran player was absolutely fan-jolly-tastic.  Kudos again to Mariah for that one.  Next we did "Sally Gardens" by John Rutter/Mariah Wilson.  Aurelia played it so beautifully and so expressively.  She is such a wonderful accompanist.  Thanks so much to her for putting up with us all semester.  This song was honestly a real challenge for me.  Trying to get emotion out of the choir was a big step for me, and it meant I had to get the emotion out of me first.  Expressive conducting wasn't needs sincere emotion.  Being vulnerable on stage has always been a struggle for me, but I truly think that I made some huge steps forward.  I hope we succeeded in some measure of conveying the message of that beautiful number.  Finally we did "Mairi's Wedding" which is one of my absolute favorite songs.  Complete with drums, recorder, clapping and a great Irish gig.  The choir got so into it and just enjoyed singing.  That is what I love seeing.

Set 4 - Christmas Spirituals
Finally we ended the program with 2 christmas spirituals.  This unfortunately was the moment when I actually had to talk to the audience.  I was even more nervous now.  My mouth went completely dry.  I couldn't produce an "s" sound with any real efficiency of language....ugh.  But, I got through it. We started with "Go Tell It On The Mountain" and thanks to Mr. Isaac Calvert it was just a hoot.  There was so much energy, so much excitement, so much passion, clapping, movement, and flow that I just had myself a grand old time.  I was so pleased with the way that whole song came together even though it was so last minute.  What a wonderful chorale we had...truly.  Then finally we ended with Mariah on the podium once more.  She conduced "Sweet Little Jesus Boy" which is one of the most intensely emotional and spirituals songs I have ever heard.  The Choral had so much spirit when they sang.  I felt like I could listen to it for an hour.  It just ended too soon...oh wait... it really DID end too soon.  We totally forgot the last verse...hahaha.  Love you Willie ;)  But, it still all worked out well.  It was a great spiritual way to end the program.

I was just so proud of our performance all around.  Sure, there were some little errors and flubs here and there, but that's all part of the joy of the stage.  I'm happy to say that I am going to sleep well tonight.  So well, that I should probably head there now as it is rather late.  Very soon I will include recordings of each song on this post so you can give it a listen.  Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight!


  1. Leland, You did a fantastic job conducting the Chorale. I had no idea it was your debut. Being in the Chorale was a wonderful experience for me. You are very talented and your love for the music shows. Thanks for all the hard work you did.
    See you next semester.