My Love Affair With Choral Music

It’s been a while since a music post, so I thought I’d dedicate today’s blog post to one of my favorite genres of classical music: choral. I am very lucky to have been born and raised in a state that not only highly values classical music (well, at least we used to – I’ll avoid getting up on my soap box regarding the current MN Orchestra and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra lockouts), but many different types. Specifically, Minnesota is a large participant in the Lutheran Choral Tradition (I capitalized it because I think it deserves it…even if grammatically incorrect :)) which was popularized by F. Melius Christiansen. We have some wonderful private Lutheran colleges with highly praised choral programs which have continued this tradition, including my alma mater, Concordia College. I was lucky enough to get to sing with the Concordia Choir under the direction of Dr. Rene Clausen for three years, and they were some of the most rewarding years of my life thus far (and most likely to come).

Choir-Tour-Graphic

Current Concordia Choir (image courtesy Concordia College)

I don’t talk religion often, because I views beliefs as highly personal, but something about the action of singing together with 70 other people is a very spiritual experience for me. I can’t articulate specifically what it feels like, but for you choral singers out there, you know the instant where everything just *clicks* and you lose yourself in the music? There’s nothing else like it. It’s simultaneously very personal and very public, because you are sharing this experience with peers you have worked so hard with to create the best music you can, while basking in the feelings you as an individual are feeling. I get goosebumps just thinking about it!

In my second year of the Concordia Choir, we performed Dr. Clausen’s piece, “In Pace” (Latin for “In Peace”). One of the best parts of choir was Dr. Clausen – not only an incredibly talented composer, arranger, conductor, musician, etc., Dr. Clausen is a wonderful human. He would always tell us the background behind the pieces we were singing in order to appreciate more when performing (and, as a music history buff, this was especially appreciated on my part). According to what he told us during rehearsal, Dr. Clausen wrote “In Pace” in response to his visit to a concentration camp in Germany during one of the Concordia Choir’s international tours. After hearing that, I don’t think I made it through a rehearsal or performance without tearing up. One of Dr. Clausen’s strengths as a composer is to use chords and voicing to create crescendos that build and build to a climax that is typically very emotional for the performer and audience member. There are two main climaxes in this song, the first occurring around the 4:55 minute mark and the second occurring around the 6:30 minute mark which can be heard in the version the Concordia Choir performed back in the 90s that’s made available through Spotify to listen to: Concordia Choir – In Pace.

The text translated to English reads:

In peace, I shall lay me down and take my rest. If I surrender my eyes and eyelids to slumber, I shall sleep and rest. Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Even to this day, I have trouble getting through listening to the song without becoming emotional. To me, this piece transcends singing notes on a page – it speaks to a part of my soul. I wish for everyone to have this experience – even if it’s not with music, that you find something that speaks to you on a level that could never be accurately articulated.

And with that, I wish you a wonderful Friday and a fantastic weekend!

Happy listening, singing, running, exploring, or doing whatever else gives you great joy!

 

Running Playlist

Happy Spring (I think)!

Ironically, here in MN, we are experiencing wind chills of below-zero temps today…spring, will you ever arrive?? Last year on St. Patrick’s Day it was 80 degrees! It has to warm up eventually, right?!

In anticipation of warmer weather and ramping up the mileage, I’ve been reworking my running playlist and thought I’d share some of my favorite tunes that keep me motivated during my runs. I’ll skip the classical run playlist for now (anyone else out there enjoy listening to classical music during runs?) and focus on the “pop” songs. Here are my top five songs:

1. Anything Could Happen – Ellie Goulding

I love the beat of this song (plus I just love Ellie Goulding in general) – it’s upbeat, but slower so it helps me subconsciously remember to breathe. I also love the repetition of the lyrics, “anything could happen” – I use this to remind myself that it’s my choice on whether or not I’m going to give my run 100% of what I’ve got; I can decide to make it an okay run or a great run!

2. Unwritten – Natasha Bedingfield

This is such a “feel-good” song, right? Good beat, good pace, great message! This is especially good for me as I’m a person who fears the “what-ifs” WAY too much – it reminds me that nothing is set in stone, the future is yet unwritten and challenges me to make the most of it!

3. Dog Days are Over – Florence and the Machine

I love the slow-build of this song along with Florence’s voice – she’s so talented (and fantastic live)! Plus, the lyrics of “run fast for you mother, fast for your father, run for your children, for your sister and your brother” always gets me going!

4. Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey

This is my all-time favorite karaoke song (along with many other people, I’m sure), but what makes this one so special is at our wedding, this song came on during the reception and the entire room erupted in song and sang along – it was awesome!

5. Fighter – Christina Aguilera

I may or may not have blasted this 24/7 during a previous break-up…but, I love that this song has transformed its meaning for me. Initially, it was literal – using pain from a break-up to find that I’m better off, but now I focus on how much I’ve changed as a person and remember the person who used I be as inspiration for finding strength in the person I am now. I will run at a 10 min/mile pace someday!

So, going through these songs got me even more excited for spring weather and being able to run outside without dodging ice patches and wearing 10,000 layers! Here’s hoping warmer weather arrives sooner rather than later!

What are some of your favorite running songs?

My Life as a Sometimes Music Teacher

My studio is well underway and has been officially in existence for over six months. I had always thrown around the idea of starting a studio, but had some anxiety (have I mentioned yet that change and I don’t typically get along all too well?) surrounding “what-ifs”. Last fall I decided to stop fearing what wasn’t and start embracing what is, and haven’t looked back!

Here are some items I’ve learned through this new adventure:

#1) I thought I would be the one teaching and not learning, but I have discovered I too have been learning a great deal.

What I hadn’t anticipated was what a wide range of abilities I would be tasked with teaching from the get-go. I had students who had some musical background and could sight-read and match pitch well; at the same time, I had students who were approaching singing needing more help with the basics. I learned it’s important to help students recognize the progress they’re making – whether it’s singing an entire song a cappella in tune, or finding proper placement of a vowel on the first try.

#2) Everyone is on their own journey and it’s important to respect and embrace that.

Maybe I think too much or something, but I’ve noticed through teaching (especially through teaching people in different life stages), that it’s very important to go at their pace for learning and growing (with a little nudge here and there when needed Smile). Similar to how I’ve found running be such a personal experience, making music can be a very personal and meaningful journey. I feel so blessed every lesson I teach that I have been selected to accompany my student on their journey.

#3) Everyone is different and has different learning styles – it’s important as a teacher to figure out (and quickly might I add) what their style is and embrace it.

I learned in college that every teacher should be prepared to present any given topic in seven different ways to accommodate everyone’s different learning styles. This is probably the thing I use in lessons more than everything else I learned. For students who have the technical background, I can use technical terms to help them achieve the correct placement, for example. For those who don’t have the technical background, I have to explain things in a way that is meaningful to them.

All this after only six months – I can’t wait to see what the next six years bring!

Happy making music, all! Note

Any other teachers out there? If so, what lessons have you learned in your teaching experience?

Gustav and Alma Mahler

Well, this blog isn’t called runninginthepark, so how about I finally post on my love affair with classical music? Winking smile

With all the snow we’ve gotten over the past 36 hours, I decided that the playlist for this dreary Tuesday most definitely needed to include Symphony No. 6 by Gustav Mahler (nicknamed his “tragic” symphony). Mahler wrote this with his wife Alma as the inspritation. There is some question as to the order of the four movements – if memory serves me, at the premiere, Mahler put the Andante moderato movement second, but later revised it to come third. At any rate, the Andante moderato movement is probably my most favorite classical music piece – it contains Alma’s theme and brings me to tears each time I hear it.

Here’s the link to a recording on YouTube:

Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 Andante moderato

Gustav and Alma’s relationship was complicated (as most relationships are…right?). I feel, through my own research during my college years, that there was a deep sense of conflict within Gustav as he wanted to give Alma more than he was able. Alma had been a composer prior to marrying Gustav, and after marriage, Gustav demanded that Alma stop composing. She obliged, but it’s evident that she resented Gustav for this demand. I think it’s one of those things where one just can’t compromise – it doesn’t come from a malicious place, but rather through recognizing one’s own weaknesses (even if we hate admitting those weaknesses). Mahler had an ego and I think he recognized that there was only room enough in their relationship for one composer.

Gustav Mahler courtesy of www.scena.org

Alma Mahler courtesy of www.austria-forum.org

I have always felt that Maher uses his Symphony No. 6 Andante moderato to express this longing and turmoil he feels within himself and his relationship with Alma. There are the bright sections that remind me of spring, which is often the metaphor for new love, around minute 6:10 in the above video. There are also sections full of dissonances and resolutions which build to create a sense of urgency and longing beginning around 10:40 minute mark and continuing to build through to the climax at minute mark 12:25 in the above video. The music seems to come in waves, which reminds me of how emotions can come in waves, especially when thinking on that special someone.

I was able to see this symphony performed live two years ago by the Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis and it was a truly magical experience for me. I know that most people don’t have a love affair with classical music as I seem to have (but luckily my mom shares the same passion, so I don’t feel completely alone on an island), but seeing and hearing this live was a memory I’ll cherish as long as I live. The Minnesota Orchestra’s interpretation matched closely with what I hear in my head, and it completely exceeded my expectations.

If anyone out there (is there anyone out there???) is interested at all in getting into classical music, I can make some suggestions to get you started on your adventure. While I love me some Mahler, it can be heavy at times and I don’t want to scare you off!

Happy listening, everyone!

Everyone has to start somewhere!

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Dan and Katy on our Disneymoon in 2009

Recently I have been searching online for reviews of runDisney races, as the husband and I are planning on running in Disney’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon later this year. Through the many recaps I’ve found, I discovered a wonderful community of bloggers who seem just as obsessed with running and Disney as I am, and I discovered that this is a community I want to join! Thus, running&singinginthepark was born!

I live in St. Louis Park, MN with my wonderful husband, Dan, and our two cats, Alma and Gustav (named after the composer Gustav Mahler and his wife Alma). I started on my running journey three years ago while we were still living in Columbus, Ohio, and after a brief break in 2010, I have become more and more of a running fanatic. I joined a couple running groups here in the Twin Cities and haven’t looked back.

In addition to running, music is a very large part of my life (hopefully that’s fairly apparent from the naming of the cats! :)). I recently began teaching voice lessons out of my home on a part-time basis last year, and it has turned out to be one of the most fulfilling journeys I’ve ever embarked on. I’m also the alto section leader in a community choir based here in the Twin Cities.

So, without further ado, let’s get the show on the road!