2 July 2023
11:09 pm, UK time
Dear good people,
As I write this, most of you are making your way through the hustle and bustle of security at EWR. By the time I hit send, you’ll likely be boarding the plane. This will either be a BON VOYAGE letter, or a WELCOME TO LONDON letter, depending on when you click through.
The staff and I have been bouncing from shore to rugged shore for the last four days and we think most everything is in place for the endeavors of the next two weeks. Even by my standards, this trip is pretty complicated, and while we’ve attempted check everything twice, there will be surprises each day – some undoubtedly panic inducing – that will become part of the collective memories that bind our singing community together. Not so ironically, it’s the bizarre mishaps that create the great cocktail party stories for decades to come.
The last time we took on an endeavor of this magnitude was the Israel Tour in 2017. To be incredibly blunt, it was after that trip that I decided that the DELAWARE CHORAL SCHOLARS would become the principal touring choir for the University of Delaware. It was the last time the UD CHORALE took a tour as a singular entity.
Why, you ask?
I love the fact that current students and alumni and singing side-by-side, each inspiring the other in really meaningful ways.
I’m so very grateful that there are lovely humans that did not go to Delaware who have found this to be such an inviting community that they are eager to travel and sing with us.
I’m excited to walk on the competition stage again, the first time since 2017, as the process of preparing for competition pushes our envelope, as individuals and as a group – which inevitably leads to exhilarating musical experiences we didn’t even know were possible. (Most of those, btw, happen in rehearsal! Not just on the competition stage.) And I wanted to make sure that every singer ON that stage was fully committed to that ideal!
I love sharing my love of traveling the globe in the search of those commonalities of so many extraordinary things that result in an inextricable link between humans of all backgrounds, ethnicities, genders, ideologies, sexuality, and faith. Every time I travel, I learn that people I thought were so very different than myself are actually very much the same.
We love. We hurt. We yearn. We suffer. We celebrate.
And in this case, we will encounter so many people who share our love for singing!
Would I love to have a plaque that says “Choir of the World” hanging on my office wall once we get home? I’d be lying if I said such a distinction would be meaningless to me. At the end of the day, I’m scarcely more sophisticated that Charley the dog when he’s waiting – impatiently – for his serving of scrambled eggs in the morning. We may be human, but our innate animalistic impulses remain very much a part of our DNA.
That said, what most excites me is that this extraordinary collection of singing humans has three very important things in common… The desire to achieve technical excellence, the commitment to seeking out the depths of artistic expression, and – I hope – the desire to reach that moment of spine-tingling exhilaration when you KNOW everyone on stage has fully committed to this thing that not a single one of us could have accomplished without the fervor of everyone else in the room.
A good number of you went to Croatia. This is NOT that trip! That was a wonderful trip, and exactly what we needed in that moment.
But in this case, the opportunity to push ourselves to the place of musical nirvana is first and foremost, and most of us will never have the opportunity to perform such great repertoire with such great humans for such appreciative audiences in such amazing places again – ever.
Pedantic rules about sleep and alcohol consumption – They’re not about you, but about being fully on point for everyone else in the community. We are all counting on one another.
Your mental acuity in each and every rehearsal, devoid of the distractions of our everyday lives – That’s not about you either, but OUR commitment to supporting one another on this quest for nirvana.
Keeping your cool when you’re a fervent meatatarian and the only food on the table consists of broccoli and cauliflower? – Your commitment to always having a B plan for nourishment, sustenance, and good health is YOUR way of saying, “I’m dealing with my personal needs with the intention of managing my own being in an effort not to become a burden to the rest of the ensemble or the volunteer staff that’s works so hard to keep all the plates spinning.”
Of course, if crisis arrives and you need help, we expect you to make that known, but only after asking yourself “Is there any other way I can solve this on my own?”
All that to say that you are participating in a remarkable experiment of the likes that has become increasingly rare in recent decades…
We will spend the next two weeks fully united in our desires to achieve musical ecstasy. To feel fully alive. To know that each person is as important as the next. To know that there ARE no pitches or rhythms that are less important than any others. To know that even if you don’t believe it in yourself, you are here – ON THIS TOUR – because somebody believed that you would empower everyone else around you, (That somebody is ME!) and hopefully in turn, you will place the same trust in those all around you, knowing that they have placed their trust in you.
This is not typical human behavior in 2023. Which is exactly why this particular endeavor is more important than any other I’ve attempted in the over the 38 years of my teaching career.
Will we come home as Choir of the World? Maybe. Even in the best of circumstances, that’s always a crap shoot. You certainly have a very good shot at it.
Are we capable as coming homes as Humans of the World? You have a 100% chance of wearing that badge for the rest of your life. All you have to do is give all of yourself to the greater cause – in the spirit of kindness, love, perseverance, commitment, and enthusiasm.
There is no greater prize than that.
I’m so glad you’re alive. Each one of you.