It's Christmas time and the sounds of holiday music fill the air. Our choir is practicing Christmas hymns for our church celebration in a few weeks. There is a tradition in our stake at this time of year. It's called The Festival of Choirs - each of the wards in our stake perform 1-2 songs at the stake center on the first Sunday evening in December and immediately following the end of this performance, the First Presidency Christmas Devotional is shown on satellite TV at the stake center. We starting practicing for this several weeks ago.
I can carry a tune and have an adequate voice to hold my own in a choir setting. We recently had our stake conference and were able to share two hymns with the congregation. It was then that I started thinking about how important music is in my life. Several years ago I was fortunate enough to be a member of the Washington Family Singers (WFS). This group was formed from people from most of the wards in our stake who had a love of music. We had a very talented director, Sheena Joyce, and three amazing pianists - her husband Peter, their daughter Petra Collins, and Tim Willis. It was such a joy to sing with this group. We were able to perform at our temple visitor's center quarterly, and the concerts we performed during the Christmas season were almost always standing room only. We had such a personal investment to the choir, and the director and pianists. It was an extended family and something I looked forward to each week. Sheena always told us that is wasn't necessary to be musically perfect - the most important thing was that we sing with the spirit of the music and the meaning of the words we were sharing and hopefully that would touch the hearts of those who saw us perform. Sometimes during a performance, I would look at Sheena and could tell she felt the spirit so strongly that tears would well up in her eyes. All of us would have to turn our eyes away from her, or we would have teared up as well.
We were together as a choir for three years and then Peter and Sheena were called to the mission field in UT and departed from the choir. Their daughter Carole Santizo and Katie Curtis shared director duties, and Petra and Tim continued to play for us. Then Petra and her family moved to UT, followed shortly by Carole and her family. Katie tried her best to keep us together, and we had another wonderful pianist, Kurt Creel to help us out, but the decision was made to disband the choir. It has now been a couple of years since that happened. How I miss that choir and the wonderful experiences we had together. Sadly, Kurt died this past spring, far too young to have left this earthly world.
Flash forward to 2010 - Katie (who is our stake music director) selected a couple of pieces for us to perform at our stake conference. Katie completed her Masters music degree last year and is a talented soprano. But since she graduated, she had a different countenance about her and her directing is so fun to watch - she is so enthusiastic about leading our stake choir. As I previously mentioned, we have been preparing Christmas music for our Festival of Choirs - once again, Katie is our director and I love watching her as she leads us during practice. She has a love of music and shares her joy with those of us in the choir. So, the sound of music is ringing again with our stake choir and I am so grateful for this experience again.
One of the things that Sheena did for us was to record an Easter concert we did at the temple visitor's center, and gave every member of the choir a copy of the concert on CD. The hymns and anthems we sang for that concert were so moving and spiritual. One in particular, Scenes from Gethesemane, continues to haunt me everytime I hear it. The words are so moving and the music still gives me goosebumps, even after singing this for the better part of the past 12 years. Our stake center is about 30 minutes away from my house, and as I drive to rehearsal, I will sing along with the CD as a warm up. The CD isn't performance quality (and my youngest daughter Kim can be heard coughing throughout the CD during several of the songs). But it's a tangible reminder of the WFS and our love of singing.
Hopefully we will continue to perform songs as a stake choir on a more regular basis. And hopefully, Katie continues to serve as in her role as stake music director. I'm so glad music is back in my life again.