Thursday, November 18, 2010

How Can I Keep from Singing?

It's been a very intense couple of weeks on the vocal front. I went to a vocal workshop last weekend that my teacher hosted and learned a lot of good things about my appearance while I sing. I had a great voice lesson yesterday in preparation for the recital I'll be singing in in two weeks (you should come!).

Tonight, I went down to Temple Square right after work for a vocal assessment. You see, that's the biggest, most intense thing that has happened in the last couple weeks. Two weeks ago today, I got a letter from the Office of the Tabernacle Choir. I had gotten mail from them a few times before in the last few months, but this was the final letter.

I got home from work that day and found it sitting on my pillow, where my roommate Kerstin had placed it. I was suddenly so nervous about opening it- when I got it unfolded, all I saw was the word "Congratulations!" before I was pounding down the stairs, letter clenched in my hand, to share my excitement with Kerstin.

I got accepted to sing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

It's still not real. It's a three-step audition process that I've been though, and technically there's one more trial, or probation period, but I'm not worried about that. That last step is being in the Temple Square Chorale, January to May next year, before I actually join the main body of the choir. It's a time to learn all the ropes, make sure I'm up to speed on working with a choir like this, and to show that I will show up, participate, and essentially be a good, dedicated member of the choir.

There are 29 of us- new members of the choir, who will be in the Choir School together. To get a better assessment of my level of singing and skill, tonight I went back to the Tabernacle for a vocal assessment.

My head is spinning a little after that. I don't think I've ever been complimented on my voice so much in my life. It wasn't a test, but Sister Wilberg was filling out a form as she went, indicating things like how my posture was, my vibrato, my straight tone, my ability to sustain my tone while changing dynamics- even things like my facial expression, since this choir is on TV a lot more than your average group (I was marked down as "camera ready." heh.). I got almost perfect marks the whole way down. The only thing Sister Wilberg told me to work on was singing super high notes and sustaining them over long periods of time so I can sing with the "high cadre" in a few years.

I'm feeling pretty good right now.

Every year, the Tabernacle Choir puts audition materials on their website during the month of July. During that time, they are available for download, but they are removed at the end of July for another eleven months. Interested parties then have until the middle of August to fill out the application form and submit it with a picture, a letter of recommendation from their bishop, and a CD with their singing on it. Then it's time to wait.

The first letter came back over Labor Day weekend. It was was a thick one- that was a good sign. I opened it to discover that I had advanced to the next round of auditions- the music theory exam. Now, I minored in music, so I knew a fair amount of music theory, but I didn't want to take any chances and I couldn't tell from the letter just how much theory was required. The Office of the Choir keeps copies of a music theory workbook that they lend out to applicants, so I picked one up and spent about three weeks taking it with me everywhere, fretting that I couldn't seem to perfectly memorize my relative and parallel major and minor keys. I studied key signatures while donating platelets. When we drove out to go skydiving, I brought along the book to study in the car- it didn't really work, though.

The week before General Conference, I went down to Temple Square (I got to park under the Conference Center and tell the man at the gate "I'm here for Tabernacle Choir auditions," to which he promptly gave me an exit token. I felt kind of schnazzy), where I was escorted in a back door of the tabernacle, down into the recording studio in the basement, where I took the music theory test with about fifty other people. (If you want to see a picture, the Tabernacle Choir actually has a picture of us taking that test on their website- it's about halfway down, and I'm just to the left of center in a brown shirt.) The first part of the test was listening skills. When they handed out the written portion of the test, for which I had spent so much time studying, I looked it over and almost started laughing out of sheer relief. This was it? This was a doable test. I could handle this!

They graded those tests fast. When I got back to Salt Lake from Orem after General Conference the following weekend, there was another letter on my bed. "Oh, drat," I thought as soon as I saw it. "This is starting to be important to me."

I was brave and opened the letter. 80 percent was required to pass the test. I did better than that. The letter gave me a scheduled time to go to an in-person audition in the Tabernacle with Mack Wilberg and Ryan Murphy, and three weeks to think about it.

October 27th finally rolled around. I took a long lunch break to get in a voice lesson with Linda. She made me promise to not spend much time practicing that afternoon- a very hard promise for me to make.

I was somewhat surprised by the brevity of the whole experience. I had an interview with Mac Christensen, the president of the choir, which left me walking on air. Then I was escorted back into the recording studio, where Mack Wilberg and Ryan Murphy sat behind a table with all my information in front of them. I sang one verse of a hymn and sightsang five short phrases. Then I left.

I wasn't sure at all how I did, but I figured it was out of my hands anyway. So when that letter showed up, I really wasn't sure if it would tell me "thank you for your time, try again next year," or that happy word I saw first, "Congratulations!"

This will change my life quite substantially, but I think I'm up for it. Hello, my next big adventure. Now I can go back to the bucket list and put a check next to "Sing with a professional choir." I'm using the term "professional" here loosely, since the members are volunteers, but since it's a world-famous choir that has best selling CDs,I think it works. Hold on tight, life is about to change big time!

Friday, November 12, 2010

This is the hardest time I have ever had to think of this

A while ago, my old roommate Kristel sent us some marriage advice that her first-grade class had given to their teaching aid on the occasion of his marriage. I have laughed myself sick over it a few times and I finally decided that I wanted to share it with my internet audience. Please enjoy.

Take care of her when she gets a baby. And when she is sick you should make her breakfast in bed. And if it’s Mothers Day, you should do something special for your wife. And be nice to the baby when she gets the baby. And be nice to your family. Never be mean to your family. And never be mean to your friends and family. Do nice things like making the bed when she has to make the bed, because my mom always has to make the bed. And never, ever be mean to your class.
(it's pretty clear that some of these are from girls who are all about equality- I'm pretty sure this girl won't grow up to make the bed, at least)

Remember to take your wife out to dinner. When I was supposed to stay in my bed to sleep, my dad got me a baby doll that I really wanted. You should do that if you have a little girl.

Congratulations! Happy Wedding! Hope its good. Give your wife flowers. My dad hugs my mom to show her that he loves her. You should do that. Never spank your wife. Kissing is good. Help your wife go down the steps.

Give the lady a wedding ring. Are you writing what I say? The only thing I know is giving them a ring.
(Hehe. Some of the terminology used makes me happy. Give the lady a wedding ring. I'm so curious about the word choice of "lady.")

I don’t know. I don’t know. Do what you are supposed to do. Wash your car. I don’t know what else.

Well I don’t know. I am not sure I have ever done this... except for my mom…and that’s ‘cause I love her. This is the hardest time I have ever had to think of this. Marriage is hard. You make people feel glad and happy. You never hurt people. My Dad helps my mom, so help people

I love your wife. I think she’s beautiful. Probably you should marry her today at the school. And you should bring her to the school. Please.
(This sounds oddly like something that would happen in a Magic School Bus episode- "The Magic School Bus and the Wedding at the School." Or maybe in a sideways story from Wayside School. I'm pretty sure he did not get married at the school, as much as the first grade girls would have loved that.) happy about it. You should be friendly to your wife. Always go to work like my Dad. Be kind to her. Hold her hand even though that’s kinda gross.
(A truly chivalrous young man! He feels that hand holding is kinda gross, but he advocates it anyway because girls like that. What a good chap!)

Congratulations! Marriage is fun. And I bet you will be a good husband. How about give your wife flowers until you get married. Then you get kissed.
(Logical flow? Give her flowers leads to getting kissed at the wedding?)

I don’t know yet. Buy her stuff like phones and a ring.
(Yes, this was submitted by a girl. Yes, she probably has a lot of Barbies.)

You should be a good husband. You should be nice. You should comfort her. You should buy her flowers when it’s her birthday. You should let her snuggle you. She will hug you. Let her hug you.
(Another very gallant young man- if she wants to hug you, let her hug you. I like this kid and I don't even know him)

You are my helper. You are nice. You have a girlfriend. You should get married. You should help your girlfriend have a baby. And the baby will grow up and then it will be a big boy or girl. You will read to her or him.
(How do elementary school teachers keep their faces straight? I don't know if I could . . .)

You should bring her to the movies. You should go on dates. My dad sold the boat to show my mom that he loves her. In the summer, before I broke my arm, I went on the tube. Actually, you should buy a boat and go boating with her. You could even go fishing. Tell me how you like the wedding

You are very nice. You should clean up and smile. You should talk to your wife in funny voices. I am glad you like the school. You like reading. You will be a good friend your wife. You will be nice to your children. You will have a great married time. You will look beautiful. Well, one will look pretty and you smile all the time, so you will look happy on your wedding day.
(I really like this one. I want my husband to be a good friend to me. And then I will look pretty and he will smile all the time. Sigh)

When boys love girls, they kiss them, but I’m not allowed to kiss until I am the right age. You should also give hugs. You never fight. Never hurt her. Never marry someone else.
(All very wise and sage, including the bit about not being old enough to kiss.)

You can help your wife when she has a baby. You can help her by helping the doctors push the baby out. You can help her maybe change the baby’s diaper and cook the baby’s food. You can also read books. You can give your wife lots of hugs. And give her kisses. You can play with your wife. You can play games like Go Fish, Hide-N-Seek, and you can also watch movies. You can go on dates to the movies or to the restaurant, and you can go to Lagoon on a date.
(Now I'm having visions of playing Go Fish and Hide-N-Seek with a cute boy [of my own age, not a first grader])

Make a big birthday cake. Dance. Invite people to your backyard. Kiss.
(Recipe for a GREAT reception!)

Take her to a restaurant. Go to the store. Buy her earrings. Buy her a purse. Buy her some make-up. Buy her a new shirt. And a new fuzzy coat. Buy her some pants.
( . . . and then discover that love cannot be bought)

The aid his wife are getting married. He loves her. He likes her. Give her flowers and draw her a big heart. A marrying dress. A song, like the song Kiss the Girl. When the song hits the ice, it sings. When it sings, the flowers all move. And we are married. And the eagles eggs hatch and they all sing a song or something. When the flowers bloom, you will be married. You are a flower, you are going to marry. When the birds sing, you will sing beautiful. When the trees grow, you will grow. When the horses are wild, you are wild. When I smile, you will smile. When I laugh, you will laugh. When children are happy, you are happy. When the butterflies are beautiful, you are beautiful. When bears are cuddly, you are cuddly. I am thinking all about animals and making things beautiful. When penguins slide, you slide. When octopuses are wiggly, you are wiggly. When snakes are slithery, you are slithery. And when a cheetah is running, you are running.
(I'm not certain, but I think this kid might have a future in freeform poetry. Some of this is actually quite striking imagery, and then I get to "When the horses are wild, you are wild," and I think, what on earth?)

Go somewhere fun like Boondocks. Kiss her. Take on a honeymoon. Buy her a house. Be nice to her. Treat her nice. Make her breakfast. Get her jewelry. Help her with work. Never be mean to her. Never divorce. Never do something she doesn’t want you to do. Never sit where she doesn’t want to sit. Like, at the movie theater, let her pick the seat. Have a good honeymoon. And make sure she doesn’t ever divorce you.
(More advocation for chivalry- let her pick the seat. Well spoken.)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

He's got me covered

When I was attending BYU, I took two New Testament courses from Camille Fronk Olsen, one of my favorite teachers. The people, places, and stories of the New Testament came alive in her class and I felt like I learned so much more about the context that the Savior lived in than I had ever known before.

One of my all time-favorite things she taught us was the actual Hebrew word used in the original Old Testament to refer to the atonement. The word was kaphar.

Its most literal translation into English is "a covering."

Kaphar was translated a few different ways into English. One of its translations, in reference to the tabernacle, became the mercy seat.

One of my favorite things about this word and knowing its original definition is that it brings a lot of color to so many phrases, both scriptural and in everyday usage. If I am going to do something that makes me nervous or scared, or so I go out on a limb somehow, I might have someone cover me. If I don't have enough money to pay for something, someone might offer to cover the expense for me.

Interesting, isn't it?

The scriptural phrases are just as interesting. A word search for cover shows some very interesting examples- as well as the difference between the Savior covering my sins and me wanting to do it myself. (Hint: If I try to do it myself, it doesn't work).

This is among the most beautiful imagery that I know. The Savior covers our sins for us because He knows that walking through life with a bunch of sins attached is like walking through life with a self-imposed handicap. A net drag, if you will. It's exhausting and it prevents one from doing all kinds of things- and prevents one from hearing a lot of the subtle direction given along the way about course changes and such. So He offers to cover us, so that we don't have to carry that burden.

I love the atonement. I love the feeling of being covered. I sometimes extend it mentally to include a covering like a warm blanket- a comforter, if you will- that not only covers my sins but also provides protection against a lot of the grit, grime, and winds that are out there. And it is the warmest, nicest comforter out there. Give it a try sometimes. I think you'll like it, too.