Saturday, June 30, 2007

Tears in the key of A-flat

Erin sang in a youth choir for two years when the scheduling worked out during our weekly Nelson trip. Then it stopped working out. But soon thereafter, she decided to take the plunge and join the local community choir. Our immediate communities and surrounding region have only about 1000 residents, but the choir pulls in enthusiastic choristers from as far as 45 minutes away. Over the past 15 years or so, the group has grown into quite a strong musical ensemble -- far stronger than you'd expect in such a remote, sparsely populated area. They sing in tune, in four parts, acapella or accompanied, often with their entire program memorized. Erin took this on as her thing. She is extremely independent about it. I'm not even allowed in the door at rehearsals. I'm thrilled that she's found something musical that has nothing whatsoever to do with me -- and she loves it.

This year the director was travelling during the spring and the choir went on hiatus after a stunning holiday concert. But they got together earlier this month to put together three selections for a plaque-unveiling ceremony commemorating WWII soldiers from our area who were killed in battle. Erin was asked to play an unaccompanied violin prelude to a choral rendition of the "Ashokan Farewell" (used as the theme music for the PBS Civil War series, where it rightfully earned fame as a gorgeously haunting lament). The arrangement was in the very odd key (for a folk-type theme, certainly!) of A-flat major. The sheet music had no bowings in it, and no fingerings. I asked Erin if she needed any help working it out. She rolled her eyes and said "no."

So I left her to it. She practiced when I was out of earshot, as is her preference at the best of times. Choir members out and about in the community told me things like "I have trouble singing that piece at rehearsal, because Erin's violin playing gets me all choked up." So I stopped worrying. Today she performed and blew us all away. My mom sat in front of me and was in tears by the first bowstroke. It took me probably half a phrase longer. Her tone and phrasing were stunning. And then she sang too, with such joy and affection for the music and the experience of sharing it.

edited to add the second photo, courtesy of a friend


  1. Hey, no videos of Erin playing?

  2. LOL, no videos, I'm afraid! we don't have the tech capability to do digital video, but in any event I think it would have been a little out of place, sort of like standing up in the congregation to video-tape your child doing a bible reading at church. ;-)

  3. But you do have a digital camera, right? b/c you are putting up all these photos on your blog. Does your digicam have a videoclip mode?

    I take all the videos using my small digicam. And if it's school or church concerts, they usually do not disallow videotaping. They only do not allow flash photography. I do not move. I just sit wherever I am, and have the digicam on running, maybe even at my waist or chest level, so I don't obstruct the view of others behind. Sometimes the angles may not be the best, but well, I've got my memory. ;-)

  4. I shoot with a Nikon D50 Digital SLR, so no, I don't have a videoclip mode. I honestly rarely record my kids' performances. Part of it is that I am usually multi-tasking already -- looking after my preschooler, conducting or emcee-ing the concert, perhaps performing as well. Part of it is that I find the more I'm focused on memorializing and archiving the performance, the less I actually enjoy it in the moment. And finally, I guess I've internalized some of the Buddhist idea of living fully and mindfully in the moment and letting go of things, especially music, that have passed.

  5. But hey, I want to see! *haha*

    Powerful camera though!


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