Very simple. I gather for two hours or more and sing with these people, ten months out of the year. I guess I’m thinking about this because last night was my last rehearsal until the fall and I was thinking of how much I’ve enjoyed singing with”these people” who make up Capriccio Columbus. I’ll tell you more about them in a minute.
It started when I decided that I was tired of listening to music and wanted to make some. I have always loved singing and several times sang in church choirs. In fact, it was the demise of our church’s choir that led to auditioning for Capriccio. I had never had any vocal training, and wasn’t very good at reading music and knew just the rudiments of musical notation. I borrowed a book of Beatles songs from my son, picked one that was in my range, and practiced in the car on a trip back from Pittsburgh. The director, Larry Griffin, and associate director Karrie Horton listened to me, told me I was in and where to pay my dues and get my music. It probably helped that I am a tenor. There is never a plentiful supply of them!
I joined in the third season and we just completed our tenth season with a concert on Saturday featuring a performance of Karl Jenkins Requiem (here is a link to the Introit on YouTube). It combines the Latin Requiem Mass with Japanese haiku death poems set to music. It epitomizes what I think has made Capriccio Columbus so special. We sing so many different kinds of music. Larry Griffin grew up in the black church tradition, and so we sing a good amount of music from that tradition. This year, as part of our tenth anniversary celebration, we did a whole concert of Stacey V. Gibbs music, including a piece commissioned for our tenth anniversary. Gibbs, based in Detroit, arranges choral settings of many of the spirituals that have been part of the history of the black church. We had the privilege of being directed by him in concert. That’s not the first time this has happened either. Several years ago, we did a concert of Caldwell and Ivory music, with each of them directing portions of the concert.
I’ve been part of memorable performances with orchestras of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Brahm’s Requiem, and Orff’s Carmina Burana. A couple of my favorite concerts include one we called “Puccini and Porter”. We concluded by encircling the audience and singing Porter’s Every Time I Say Goodbye. What a beautiful moment. Another one was a performance of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Songs, a rarely performed suite of songs that includes a dance piece and accompaniment with a jazz orchestra. One of the more unusual concerts featured a piece called The Blue Grass Mass. There was a song about crossing Jordan that had me almost in tears, as I was singing it shortly after my mother’s death. This spring, even as the U.S. opened relations with Cuba, we sang a work by Cuban composer Jose Vitier, with Vitier accompanying us.
But probably the best part of Capriccio Columbus may be our Tuesday night rehearsals. There is so much laughter, often at our mistakes! Larry uses humor and exaggeration of our faults to show us how to sing the way he wants us to. He can be funny and irreverent, but he also helps you pay attention to the words and music and meaning so we don’t just sing the right notes at the right tempo but sing with heart and soul. It is such a change of pace from what I do the rest of the time. To laugh, and then work hard at singing well with those in your section and the choir often leaves me uplifted, even when I might have been mentally saying, “another rehearsal” beforehand.
Laughter during rehearsals, the mental challenge of singing a challenging piece of music, the moments where it all comes together and you are lost in the beauty of what you are singing, the chance to begin to understand a great piece of music from the inside, learning to sing a wide variety of music with different rhythms and in different languages,and the opportunity to keep the tradition of choral singing alive in our patch of Central Ohio all contribute to my answer to the question “why do you do this?” I’ve had more fun making music than I could have possibly believed. Thank you Larry and Karrie!
Perhaps you are like me and enjoy music, and dream of making it. Sometimes you just have to make space for such things, and seek out a community choir or good church choir. And if you happen to be around Central Ohio, you might check out our website and talk to me about joining in–particularly if you are a tenor!