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Back From The Midwest Convention

I spent the past weekend in Chicago at the 20th annual Midwest Sacred Harp Convention. It was an intense, rousing, ecstatic couple of days. Eventually I want to give a full report, but on reflection, I find that I'm too emotionally exhausted to do it justice right now. Perhaps a day or two of distance and I'll be able to describe this experience properly. In lieu of that, I'll give just a few quick impressions while they're still fresh and raw.

Every time I return to Chicago, I am overwhelmed again by the love with which the singers greet me. In addition to all of the hugs, squealing, and promises of blood sacrifice to the ethnomusicology faculty of the University of Chicago so that they'll accept me into the Ph.D. program, my friend David showed up for a few minutes. David is a professional conductor whose days are packed tight with gigs and rehearsals so he can earn enough money to keep body and soul together. He likes Sacred Harp and usually tries to make at least the second half of the Sunday session of the Midwest. This year, though, his schedule didn't allow him to come. But he showed up for a few minutes anyway, even though he didn't have time, just because he knew I'd come, and he wanted to see me. The fact that I have friends like that means more to me than I can ever express.

I have no voice left. We had an unusally live singing room on Saturday, and I oversang a little, so I was hoarse this morning. I thought I'd try and conserve my voice and sing softly. But after the first hour of the singing today, my singing voice came back; it would not be denied. The Singing took over, and I could no more hold back from singing than I could stop breathing. Sacred Harp uncovers hidden resources deep within a person. Then it demands every bit of what it discovers.

The memorial lesson was the finest I have yet heard, and I have heard memorial lessons that have reduced grown men to open tears. This one left them all behind.

Usually, I find it difficult to feel myself as being part of a community. I'm not an emotionally open person, and it's hard for me to be really part of a group. But sitting once more next to the guy I sang next to for four and a half years and blending my voice with his as if I'd never left was incredible. They'll always have a place for me in their hollow square.

I'll write more after I've had a chance to sleep a little and process this weekend.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 30th, 2005 12:51 pm (UTC)
This sounds like an amazing experience, Pony.
May. 30th, 2005 01:52 pm (UTC)
It was. And what I wrote up there isn't even the half of it.
May. 30th, 2005 11:39 pm (UTC)
Just..wow. That sounds so incredibly wonderful. I'd have loved to have heard that.

It must have been so wonderful to have gone to sing like that. Group singing is the one thing that I tend to miss since I left behind church, and it can be such an unbelievably rich experience. (I used to be part of a choir, believe it or not. lol. That actually long outlasted any faith I had. I just loved the singing. It's gone since a bit thready from abuse, but my voice at least used to be suitable to church, folk, a bit of Broadway, and that sort of thing.)

It sounds like you had the most incredible experience. And I'm SO routing for you to get into that school, if that's well and truly the one you want!

Fencing, marvelous grades, such wonderful depth of knowledge about music, and culture, and so many things! And SINGING! They'd be nuts not to want you!

May. 31st, 2005 01:14 am (UTC)
Sacred Harp singing is one of the most powerful musical experiences I've ever had. Possibly one of the most powerful musical experiences available. It can produce an effect as profound as Baluchi trance music. I saw the whirling dervishes this year, and I think that they were also having that kind of experience. It's really something.

Once I get the thesis underway, then the University of Chicago will indeed be nuts if they don't want me.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


by Illsaysheis

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