Friday, March 1, 2013

How Can I Keep From Singing?

Goosebumps on top of goosebumps: That's what happens when you combine 234 hand-picked singers, an array of challenging music and a visionary director. Throw in a cello, clarinet, violins and drums. Mix well. And you will definitely be "stirred."

I went to the Kansas Music Educators' Association All-State Choir concert last Saturday at Century II in Wichita. My niece, Madison, was singing in her third and final concert with the high school KMEA honor choir. (She was one of 19 singers who had qualified for the choir during all three years of eligibility.)

On Saturday, I'd helped with set up, serving and clean up for a funeral dinner at church, and I sang at the 11 o'clock funeral. I sang at a 2 PM funeral at another church. There were 14 inches of snow on the ground, and we were expecting more. It would have been easy to just stay home. I'm so glad I didn't. 
I wish every middle school music student could have seen that concert. (For that matter, I wish every high school student could hear it, too. Middle school is just on my mind because that's the age group I work with as an accompanist, something I've been doing for the past 18 years.)

Yes, "my" students could hear it through a recording, though no recordings of the concert are allowed during the event itself. (And people must have adhered to the rules. There weren't postings to youtube.) I'm sure the professional recording will be wonderful. But there was just something about being there that I don't think can be duplicated. You could see the singers were engaged. They were watching the director. They had their mouths open. They were making music.
Stained glass at the Youthville Chapel, Newton, KS
The clinician was Edith Copley, professor of music and director of choral studies at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. Among the seven selections she chose for the honor choir was "How Can I Keep From Singing?"

Copley directs many honor choirs and often uses that song because of its message for young musicians, and really, for all of us:
One of my messages to the students this week is this: Sing for life. After you graduate from high school, sing at college. After college, sing in your church choir or a community choir - no matter your profession. Singing is good for you physically, and it's good for your soul.
Edith A. Copley, Conductor/Clinician, Kansas Music Educators' Association All-State Choir 

Music is good for even more. A program note stated:
The College Entrance Examination Board found that students in music appreciation scored 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on math than students with no arts participation among college-bound seniors.
Profile of SAT program test takers, Princeton, N.J.:
The College Entrance Examination Board
Dwayne Dunn, chair of the KMEA All-State Choir, added that ACT scores are also impacted by music participation:

The national average ACT score is 21.
Kansas' average ACT score is 22.
The average ACT for the 234 students who participated in the all-state choir this year was 27.26.

The 8-part harmonies in one of the songs were spectacular. But the unison when all 234 voices were on the same note? After 18 hours of rehearsals (plus lots of nose-to-the-grindstone time at home before the singers ever arrived in Wichita), it literally brought tears to my eyes. (My kids are rolling their eyes right now. And that's OK.)
Marc Chagall stained glass windows at the Art Institute of Chicago
How Can I Keep From Singing? (From a Quaker hymn) ... How indeed?

My life goes on in endless song
Above earth's lamentations,
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear its music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?
Stained glass at Trinity United Methodist Church, Hutchinson, KS


  1. Kim, you have poetically and beautifully stated what we as musicians all know in our hearts: Music is a part of our souls, and must not be denied. Thanks so very much for sharing this! -- Jean Ney, KMEA Past-President

    1. Thanks so much for visiting Kim's County Line. I truly was blessed by the concert.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Mrs. E! Good luck with everything this week!