Last night, Jenn and I went to the West End Cultural Centre to see and hear Begonia for her/their CD release party. It was great. We knew it would be great. Alexa Dirks, who initiated this project, has an ethereal voice and a commanding stage presence. In addition to taking in live performances whenever we can, we decided to go largely because of this music video:
As happens in Winnipeg, we ran into friends and acquaintances. One of whom was Vic Pankratz, my high school Choir / World Religions teacher. In addition to being a fine musician in his own right, he is a fantastic and caring teacher. Vic gives a lot to his students and to his program. He worked us hard, but we were/are better for it. I met my wife in the University of Manitoba Singers – an opportunity which I would not have had were it not for the training I received in his high school choirs.
As I stood in the warm music hall, grooving to Dirks’s sweet voice (accompanied by Vic’s son, Jason, on the bass and nephew, Jamie, on the keyboard), I was thinking about the positive effect that Vic has had on my life. One of his expectations for students in the choir program was to attend ten concerts a year. We could have gone to the symphony, student night at the opera, an all ages punk rock show, or a school band/choir concert. It was our choice. This expectation enhanced my appreciation for the arts. Not the reflection or concert review component of the assignment… nope – just the demand to have an artistic experience.
One of my most memorable experiences came in the Rideau Chapel inside the National Gallery of Canada, experiencing Janet Cardiff’s sound sculpture Forty-Part Motet. The
experience of sitting in that awesome room, surrounded on all sides by forty speakers – each playing a single voiced track from a 16th century choral work – is indescribable. At one
moment, I’m listening to that beautiful song and feeling as if
those forty voices were assembled just to sing at and for me. The next moment, I’m feeling my body articulating the dynamics of the piece – physically rising and falling with the music. The National Gallery’s website (which I’ve linked to above) identifies this installation as “deeply moving” – indeed, it is.
One of the highlights of that event was recalling that Henry Engbrecht, another choral director/teacher of mine, had told me about the piece ~10 years before I experienced it. He mentioned it in passing one day – planting a seed for what has become the most powerful musical experience of my life.
Here I am, now a teacher myself, wondering how is it that I can set the stage for my students to have these experiences as masterfully as Vic and Henry did for me. To be able to fully appreciate the beauty of Begonia’s lyrics or the deeply powerful music of Cardiff’s Forty-Part Motet… Am I doing this already? Is it enough to have a philosophy of education which seeks to provide as full an education as possible for my students? A philosophy which demonstrates passion, inquiry, interest, and respect for multiple modes of communication, expression, and understanding? Or can I do more? Do I need to do more? I feel that I should always be doing more.
Just a Saturday night musing…