The final weeks of the fall semester are marked by intensive practices for the yearly Christmas concert. The familiar rhythm of our concerts brings to my mind snapshots from our the concerts of the past.
The enthusiastic freshman; in awe of the sounds created by one hundred and fifty voices in four to eight parts. That concert came at the end of my very first semester-marked by optimism and excitement that I had arrived in this new place-school. I had a biology teacher who told me she noticed I was always very happy when I walked in to class in the morning. And why not? I was a homeschooler surrounded by powerful microscopes and chemical apparatus, not yet worn down by the unending cycle of long class days and longer assignments. Furthermore, until I received a scholarship in the early summer, I had not believed I would be attending a traditional four year liberal arts school.
Fast forward to the sophomore year in choir, when I was beginning to be able to read music and understand the basics of singing, and with the help of some lessons was chosen to sing a duet at Christmas Vespers, a verse of I Wonder as I Wander. This same year, sorrow came to one of the choir directors, and each member of the close-knit music community grieved with him. His wife, who we lost to breast cancer the following January, had been known to my family since their move to our neighborhood from out of state. She had also been a key source of support to me as I adapted to the difficulties of being a faithful Christian in a relativistic educational environment. The choir department remains the only foothold of traditional Christian values at the once Christian college.
The next year, I was a self conscious junior, thrilled to have made the ranks of the upper choir, but now surrounded by very talented music majors. I was also trying to make the switch to a higher voice part. I had sung alto parts for the last two years, now had moved into a low Soprano 2 classification. I was feeling the upheaval of my normal school routine as well, trying to get on my feet in the hospital. I put on a confident face as I spent days giving injections and medications, but the formality of hospital guidelines was a bit intimidating. I also spent many evenings filling out miles of reports on medical pathology, medication actions, and treatment side effects.
Finally, the senior, voice beginning to settle at last, no longer straining to sing along with the other sopranos. Familiar with which notes are in the comfort zone, and much more at ease among the other singers. Over the last few years, I have become more confident interacting with adults and professionals. I’m also at ease in the hospital environment, and hooking up an IV medication only takes me a minute now, instead of ten.
Next Christmas I will not be among the singers. Our last performance this year was canceled by eight inches of snow falling around our guest performance location in the city of Minneapolis, so this year’s seniors did not know that the fourth of our five concerts would be the last. choir seniors usually have to look to their mascara after at the last performance of our college’s hallmark concert). Over the years, I’ve had exposure many beautiful pieces, and I recognize a piece on the classical station that we have performed. Many pieces have been recorded, and this arrangement of the “First Noel” from 2014 remains one of my favorites.