Even though the holidays are officially over, I want to share with you an experience that deserves mention. On December 7th, Connie and I heard the Christmas Concert given by The Rush County Chorale. It was held at St. Mary Catholic Church. The concert also included a brass ensemble and featured Terri (Wiley) Ewigleben on trumpet. Terri was born in Rushville and lived in Milroy before moving to Chicago when she was five years old. Terri moved back to Rushville when she was a freshman in high school. In addition to teaching music, she has been the principal trumpet player with the Lafayette Symphony for the last 35 years. The Chorale has nearly forty members and is directed by the one and only David Doyle.
I’m not at all sure we would have The Rush County Chorale without David.
Sometimes small towns get the reputation of being filled with untalented, unmotivated, happy-with-being-average people. Places where the arts are either nonexistent or mediocre, at best. Places where the people would never support a community choir any more than they would support a lacrosse team! Over the years, to be honest, there have been times when worthwhile projects that would have truly benefitted the community never got off the ground because it might have taken some effort or, God forbid, have cost us some money! Now, I would be the first to say that we do support youth sports – well, maybe not a lacrosse team – but the good old All American sports like baseball and basketball, as long as our kids don’t have to work too hard or as long as it doesn’t cost us very much for them to play – and if everybody gets a shiny participation trophy at the end of the season. I’m also prepared to suggest that most small towns are pretty much like I’ve described. I have come to believe, however, that this community has transformed itself over the last few years and the results are visible all around.
The Rush County Chorale is a perfect example. Not many towns our size could or would support such a group or have enough people talented enough to handle the difficulty of the music our chorale does! If you were able to attend one of the two performances last month, I don’t have to tell you how amazing our chorale is. You already know they’re amazing. If you didn’t make one of the performances I would most sincerely urge you to go to their next performance probably sometime around Easter. Connie and I have had the opportunity to listen other singing groups from time to time, here and there, and they all pale in comparison to our chorale. Not only do we have people who have beautiful voices, but also people who can read music and, under artistic director David Doyle, perform pieces in Latin and a variety of other languages. For example, this year’s concert included a trio of Latin Motets; Cantate Domino, Ave. Maris Stella, and Ave Maria. The featured work, with the brass ensemble, was “Alpha and Omega” by Gwyneth Walker. The brass ensemble that performed with the chorale, by the way, included two trumpets, French horn, trombone, tuba, and percussion. To say that their performance was inspiring and beautiful is almost an understatement! They also performed more familiar holiday favorites such as “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and, of course, “Silent Night.”
We are so fortunate to have such a large chorale composed of such talented people and led by someone with David Doyle’s extraordinary skill and experience. The support from the community flies in the face of all the nay-sayers who disparage small towns as cultural deserts. The Rush County Chorale is an outstanding musical aggregation that can hold its own with any comparable organization anywhere – and all these people are volunteers who simply enjoying singing – not professionals paid to perform!
In years gone by our high school A-Capella choir was invited to perform in Mexico City. It was a daunting undertaking that required fund raisers to fly an entire choir to another country, not to mention chaperons, choir robes, and other ancillary people like translators. Connie and I went along because our youngest son, Jonathan, was in the choir. One of the real highlights of the trip was performing on Mexican National Television. The show was like the old Today Show called “Un Nuevo Dia” which means “A New Day.” To say it was a big deal is a gross understatement. To add to the occasion, one of the leading candidates for president of Mexico was assassinated on the day our kids were to perform. One of the show’s producers asked David if our choir had any appropriate music – considering the events of the day. Naturally, David had prepared sacred music for our choir that fit the terrible events of that day. So, instead of singing just a couple of songs, our choir sang several numbers in Latin that fit the day perfectly! On a happier note, our choir was also invited to perform at a local high school in Mexico City. Their kids loved the performance because, in Mexico, they have nothing like an A-Capella choir in their schools! Over the years, our A-Capella choir has been invited to perform in several countries because of its reputation.
But getting back to the Rush County Chorale, we are very fortunate to have such a fine singing group led by one of the best directors anywhere. The next time they perform; I would urge everyone to go see them. They’re really wonderful!
That’s –30—for this week.