Words make you think. Music makes you feel. A song makes you feel a thought.
― E.Y. Harburg
We had been rehearsing for a few weeks for our place in the Henry Flanagan Memorial Concert in the Dominican College in Newbridge. It’s an annual concert and more recently has been part of the JuneFest stable of events in the town.
We had two pieces to perform at the concert and were one of six choirs in total. We were also going to be joined by Dr. Gerard Gillen, Professor Emeritus in Music at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.
The first of our pieces is an original piece Our Blessing Cup, which was composed for us by Padraig Meredith, a composer from Newbridge in Co. Kildare. The second piece, Jesus, Be With Us Now by David Haas, is one we have been singing for a few weeks as part of Mass on Sunday and at the Novena Masses.
Our Blessing Cup was introduced to us for the first time in January of this year by its composer Padraig. I had just joined the choir and when I heard the piece for the first time, I was sure I would never be able to master any of the soprano lines. It is a really beautiful piece but it is quite a technical and challenging piece for a choir and even more technical and challenging for me – a novice in the choir!
Both pieces are uplifting, poignant and really moving, especially when they are sung from the heart and when they are given the attention that our choir director Cora gave them.
At our last rehearsal for the concert Cora decided that we were going to use our music and books for Our Blessing Cup and that we were to drop our books on the floor in front of us and sing Jesus, Be With Us Now from memory. Yikes!
So Monday 31 May came and we gathered in a small room in the Dominican College in Newbridge for a vocal warm up and to run quickly through the two pieces. We were performing second last so the nerves and butterflies would have plenty of time to be fluttering as we listened to the other choirs.
Our turn came and we processed up – almost the way we had rehearsed – and stood ready to perform. I am front row, dead centre, where Cora can keep an eye and an ear on me. I was really nervous and terrified that I was going to forget the OOs and the Ahs (when you listen you will hear them) in Our Blessing Cup and doubly terrified about forgetting the words to Jesus, Be With Us Now.
With Cora directing us, Shona singing solo and Padraig accompanying us on piano, the bars of the intro to Our Blessing Cup began and off we went. When we sang the last line, I breathed a sigh of relief as I felt we had nailed it. Shona, our soloist sounded amazing and I felt that we sounded the best we had ever sounded with this brand new piece.
Then I closed my music book, leaned forward and dropped it gently to the ground. All around me 45 other books dropped too. Suddenly I felt exposed. My prop was gone. Cora made funny faces at us to get us to laugh which had the effect of making us relax – in so far as relaxing was possible at that moment.
The beautiful opening bars of Jesus, Be With Us Now began and off we went. We have to sing the opening line ‘we come before you with all we have’ in one single breath and it’s not easy to do. I think we all managed it. I felt goosebumps as we got to the climax of the chorus and you could feel something special in the air.
We had no books, no props, no words to distract us. We opened our mouths, looked out at the audience and sang from the heart. It felt wonderful. I hoped it sounded as wonderful as it felt to me. I hoped that Padraig was pleased with how we sang Our Blessing Cup.
Our two pieces over, we left our positions to loud applause. We did it. I did it – my first concert was over.
It was wonderful to sit back in the pews and to breathe a sigh of relief. I didn’t forget my OOs or my Ahs and I remembered the words of Jesus, Be With Us Now.
Here are our two pieces performed back to back. Excuse the audio – it was recorded on my iPhone which I left on the pew just before we went up to perform.
When the concert was over a woman came over to us to tell us we moved her to tears as we performed. She said we sang from the heart and really engaged with the music. We were delighted to receive such positive feedback. It’s all down to the wonderful talent we have in the choir but especially to Cora, Shona and Padraig. You make it easy for us!
I am immensely proud of our choir. Joining In Caelo is a new year’s resolution I will never regret.