klĭn’ĭk: Muskego High School, WI

I have now been back in Seattle from Wisconsin for a day now, entering back into reality, and as I look back on this past week I can only describe it with the word: Providence.

Muskego High School is in my opinion on a roll right now…or at least rolling in the Right direction.  Their two directors, Matt Wanner and Meredith Bonis, are easily among the best high school teachers I have seenPassion is nearly bleeding from them, but it is mixed with a purposeful temperencia and topped off with vision.  Our short time together was way….way! too brief, and I felt immediately part of the team with two goals: 1. to get their commission Waly Waly in the right emotional world, and 2. to engage the students in profound ways.

And what delightful students!

I had the opportunity to spend time with 4 of their 6 choirs, working on nearly everything they were preparing for their spring concert and in many ways the students took on many of the amazing virtues of their instructors.  The sound of their voices and the general openness of their hearts were plain to see and feel.  And they were “ready.”  That means a lot to someone like me, who wants to come in and really be intense and enter into a special world with them.  Sometimes the students just aren’t there, aren’t “ready” and I don’t necessarily mean just musically, I mean ready to open up and grow.  These students were.  And once again I brought the same message:  to sing in a choir is to Love!  With every choir we worked on everything from vocal health, musicianship, and general choral dynamic, but as is now my desire, all is wrapped in beautiful clothing of intention, sacrifice, and servanthood.  What Joy can be found!  And we did.

What is there to say of the commission, Waly Waly?
Can I admit I was worried?  I was, of course, not about the quality of their performance, no no.  I was worried that it wouldn’t “work.”  This is a poem often set, although only a stanza or two is used, recognized as The Water is Wide.  I really wanted to capture the heartbreak and profound depth of the entire poem instead of focus on the familiar lyrics.  I added quite a bit of drama, and I stretched the tonality here and there in new ways, and in general made it pretty tough for a high school choir.  After the first minute of their singing I thought to myself, why did I ever doubt?  I can’t stop thanking the students for bringing it to life in the way they did.  After digging deep into subtleties and layers, it went to a level I had never considered and Oh to hear the sounds they were making!  There was a moment where Matt stopped, we looked at each other and nearly started laughing and crying all at the same time.  The students were beginning to literally erupt with intent and energy.

Needless to say, I hope you give Waly Waly a look sometime in the future if you feel comfortable with your ensemble.  You’ll be able to find it at: http://www.ewbmusic.com in the near future.

I had so many profound moments that I will carry with me.  The conversations with my new friends Matt and Mer were dynamic and ones that I will always wish in my heart to have.  And I will treasure the shining eyes of the students of Muskego High School.  The final message I left with them was this, so profoundly said by my old friend C.S. Lewis:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

I would add one thing also:  To sing (wholly, absolutely) is to be vulnerable.  Therefore to sing (wholly, absolutely) is to love.

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