Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ain't Got Time to Die

This past weekend I went back to Kenyon College (which I love!) and got to be a part of the Chamber Singers reunion. It's acapella. Going back was a unique experience I loved. I was captured and didn't want to let go. I could feel the music become a part of me, my voice blending with those of about 90 others (including my daughter's!), a feeling of music at the very core of who I am. I have always loved music - it has always been at the core of who I am. But I haven't felt these feelings for so long. Music taken in, joined with others, and then shared with an audience of other alumni from Kenyon College, and people from the local community - it was incredible. In a moment, in so many moments...

Simple warm-ups from college - the favorite of hip-o (1), hip-o (2), hipohhhhhhh (1)... and variations... Ming-ee-ah ... ming a ming a ming a ming a ming... love those.

The concert - when it all came together for me. The most simple brilliance of using a music stand to hold music allowed me to concentrate on the music.

And the concert... (some of it)

Palestrina's Circut Cervus ... (so my soul longs for you oh God)

Erb's Shenandoah ... "Oh Shenandoah, I long to see you ... away, I'm bound away..."
(imagine women's parts)
so beautiful and gripping.

Farmer's Fair Phyllis
The (short) song is about a man searching for his lover. But I'll never forget during rehearsal, the 2 toddlers released, one boy and one girl - the boy chasing the girl. They never "fell a kissing" as in the song, but I laughed s hard I couldn't sing this during rehearsal. During the concert, I somehow pulled it together.

Ralph Vaughan Williams - Loch Lomond
2 soldiers are captured in battle. The enemy decides to let one go but the other will die. The high road is to heaven. The music sways; I am taken as if in the middle of a conversation...
Oh, ye'll tak' the high road, and I'll tak' the low road,
And I'll be in Scotland afore ye;
But me and my true love will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond.

After I graduated, "Doc Locke" started teaching some songs from South Africa. I never understood the intrigue until I returned this time and learned them.
Together, as a choir, we sway...
Khumalo's "Bawo, Thixo Somandla" and "Umgwagwa"
Berteau's "Shilohini"
I get it now - you don't learn these pieces - you feel them - you bond with others and move together.

Spirituals are always near the end of each concert...
Deep River...
I want to cross over into campground.
where campground is heaven. And to begin this piece on the word "Deep," is done with the note F (ok, perfect pitch must be part of this for me) which has a certain swell to it that only that note can do... and I am gripped... closing in peace, crossing "over into campground."

But then we transition to "Ain't Got Time to Die." This is upbeat. A slave is doing all these things - ain't no time to die. "Workin for my Master" could have a double-meaning of working for a slave owner, but really it's working for God. "NOW GET OUTTA MY WAY! I'm praising my Jesus. Outta my way! I'm praising my Lord... Ain't got time to die." In a different setting, I would have waved my hands in the air. I'm engaged in this piece with incredible joy and intent - more than when I was a student - the song pulls my faith into me while simultaneously letting me sing it out.

And then we come back to Kenyon, where in Locke's "Height of This Hill" (poem by an alum) we learn, we keep learning, we find answers, answers, answers, as we go through life, but we find them from the hill upon which sits Kenyon. Later, "remember Beth, it's them, not you, is one of those answers I find."

And we end with tradition, and the Kokosing Farewell, where we sway like a river and recall that we will never forget Kenyon. Kokosing is the river running next to the hill where Kenyon sits. Watch the video (from 1:40). That's Doc Locke. He has everyone's attention. You can't see it, but he's making eye contact with everyone, individually. He may be smiling at them. It's unique - you just don't get this every day; in fact, I've only had it at Kenyon. And the song - always brings tears to my eyes.

Old Kenyon we are like Kokosing
Obedient to some strange spell
Which urges us from all reposing
Farewell old Kenyon, fare thee well.

And yet we are not like Kokosing
Which bareth not upon its swell
But foam of motion's own composing
Farewell old Kenyon, fare thee well.

But when we are far from Kokosing
we still shall hear a calling bell.
When round us evening shades are closing
Farewell old Kenyon, fare thee well.

And see a river like Kokosing
in meadows sweet with asphodell
where memories dwell dear past supposing
Farewell old Kenyon, fare thee well.

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