Sunday, November 15, 2009

I. Hear. Rockin' in the La-and.

Those are the words with which we, the Clearwater Chorus, opened our Fall concert this afternoon at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Complete with string bass thumping and fingers snapping.

Rockin' in the land a-and ringin' dem bells. Rockin' Jerusalem, rock-in' Jeru-salem, in Jerusalem a-and ringin' dem bells.

André Thomas, director of choral activities at Florida State University, arranged the version we performed -- but if you search YouTube you'll find half a dozen or more videos of choirs and choruses performing a number of arrangements of this spiritual.

Even the performances of the same arrangement differ from our performance this afternoon.

Art amazes me.

The art teacher maintained the bulletin board outside my office at Sacred Heart School, where I worked for twelve years. She gave groups of students the same materials, the same instructions, the same length of time to work -- and yet the variations in each work posted on that bulletin board made each a unique creation. Some were bold, some were subtle. Some students scrunched the materials into a small space, others used the entire background. Some turned materials on end or used them in unexpected ways. Others were more traditional.

Today's performance was like that, too.

A unique combination of songs: Rockin' Jerusalem, Frostiana (a Randall Thompson arrangement of Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken), Bach's Sicut Locutus Est, Festival of Lights, Mary's Boy Child, Carol of the Bells, I'll Be Home for Christmas, I Get Along Without You, I'll Know, Hernando's Hideaway, and The Most Wonderful Time of the Year -- and that's just what the full chorus sang. An ensemble group performed almost as many songs and soloists sang an additional half dozen or so.

Sung by not quite 100 vocal musicians from north Pinellas County and directed by Bob Drick, those songs will never be sung the exact same way by the same people with the same accompaniment ever again.

You had to be there. In the moment. Experiencing aural art.