Why Hymns?

Today we spent the day recording the next Hymns of the Church album. Two years ago we recorded the first volume. Today we began the recording for Volume 2. We plan to continue recording tomorrow and Friday morning.

You might wonder why we choose to do a recording of hymns. There are several reasons, but perhaps the largest reason is that there really isn’t as big a gap between hymns and the choral music we sing as some might think. We love singing hymns and try to sing in such a way that anyone else who loves to sing hymns can sing along with the recording. We sing out of the Hymns of the Church song book. This book contains both old familiar hymns and hymns that are not as well known. So we follow suit. In this way hopefully some of the less familiar hymns will become better known and more frequently sung in church services.

Recording can be a strenuous process, but working with the same recording engineer we have worked with in prior recordings made the day easier.

There are several spouses of singers traveling with the choir and a couple of cute little baby boys too. This adds much pleasure to the time spent together at breaks and in the evening. Judging by their sweet little crowing we may well be looking at future OC members!

Thank you for following us as we continue our summer tour!

Rehearsal Day Two

Today was a day of “second things”. We greeted each other with simple good-mornings this time (compared to the ebullient greetings of the first morning). We wore a proprietary air as we returned to the same chair as yesterday. Once again, Wendell utilized surprising warm-ups to waken the somnolent, stir the preoccupied, and stimulate the chilly until Oasis Chorale emerged, ready for another day of work.

We continued giving detailed attention to consonants. Today we found which parts of our anatomy vocalize consonants. Most particularly— the tongue, teeth, lips, hard (and soft) palate, and the alveolar ridge. (I know— I needed to run my tongue behind my top teeth to make sure I had one, too. It’s used to shaped L, D, T.) There are consonants that depend on jaw-movement— like M, B, P, /j/ (pronounced y), etc. Some consonants engage the Bernoulli effect on our vocal folds and others don’t. (Wendell illustrated by bringing two sheets of paper to his mouth and blowing gently between them. The papers vibrated beautifully.) Consonants in general shine when pronounced very quickly, which gave rise to some humor about those among us whose jaws are perpetually limber.

Wendell led a reflection on Psalm 1. Meditation and delight are central themes. Meditation has the idea of chewing, and through this action, receiving nourishment. While we rehearse, we repeat the same vowels, consonants, and tones trying to find cleaner, clearer ways to deliver the message of the piece. This meditation shapes our souls. As our souls are shaped, we find delights we wouldn’t have found without the disciplines of meditation. It is vital to cultivate our delights with great care since those things in which we take delight, we pursue.

Several pieces today led us into a discussion regarding reality versus sentimentality. It’s easy to wallow in the emotions of a piece that touches us deeply, yet while doing so, we lose sense of the passing of time, and we are left with a song that is about us in this moment. This does not open a window to the far larger world beyond our seen, emotion-touched earth. In the end, to bring a message of hope and future redemption to difficult situations in people’s lives, Rhythm is a Christian singer’s friend. So— the metronome would materialize for a time until our perceptions of a piece changed.

We still haven’t decided how many layers of metaphor are hidden within the hymn Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah. And what is “death of death” and “hell’s destruction”? And where does this metaphor (for Jesus?) fit into Israel’s actual journey from Egypt to Canaan?

All in all, we endeavored to strengthen both “legs” today— the skill set to deliver and the soul to carry our repertoire.

As I write, we’re finishing a picnic at Kendra’s house where the temperatures hover in the sixties, and gray skies drop water intermittently. We’ll go “home” soon to pack our passports into our cabin bags and separate our choir uniforms from the rest of our luggage. Tomorrow night, if God prospers our plans, we’ll be in Ontario delivering our first concert at Leamington United Mennonite Church: 78 East Oak Street. We’d be pleased to see you there.

-Fern Ebersole (Alto)

Photo Credit: Erin Martin