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!