My dear friends- I once had this great idea that I would blog every week...well, I am afraid to check on the date of my last entry but I know it has been awhile since I caught you up on where I'm at. This past month has been a whirwind for me- in the past week I've shaken hands with probably 20 celebrities, conducted a choir on 2 songs for a cd recording, taken 7 planes, crossed over to Canada, slept in my bed for one night, saw friends and family for the first time in almost 9 months, and learned and taught 6 new songs to a different choir in 3 days! What a reminder of just how quickly life can change and how flexible your direction, course, and ideas are in it all!
One giant surreal blur of an incredible opportunity and adventure later I am "settled" back with my choir in Georgia and surrounded by the familiar faces of my team and smiles and relationships with my children. A week ago I was in Nashville with choir 31 to help them learn 6 new songs for a large country music benefit called Nashville4 Africa with (for a country music fan) an incredible line up of artists: Big Kenny (save a horse ride a cowboy anyone?), Damien Horne (an artist who has done a lot of work forming partnerships with the Sudan), Keith Urban (who we opened with!), Faith Hill, Dierks Bentley, Brad Arnold, Ashley Cleveland, and the SteelDrivers. I met up with the choir 31 team in Monreal and from there travelled with them to Cambridge ON- I never thought I'd see the day when I cheered for the 401 and took 6 pictures of the Canadian flag- all poor quality taken from the bus window and really not worth posting- but it felt so good to be home! It is funny how just being near home an in a familiar place has such a feeling of comfort attached. Between being in Montreal and Cambridge I ran rehearsals with the kids for probably 10 hours and they learned 6 new songs! I felt so happily relieved by the end of our second rehearsal that everything had come together so well, especially with so many people counting on me for the event. After rehearsals my parents picked me up, and from there I got to see my sister again and my close friends for dinner too.
The best part about it? It felt like it was just the other day since I'd seen them and we were all enjoying dinner together and talking. Nothing felt strange about being surrounded by the people dearest to me from home- it was so natural to all be talking at the dinner table and comfortable and relaxed. What a comforting reminder that distance doesn't change the depths of good relationships. Not even 24 hours later I was back in Cambridge with choir 31 boarding the bus for a 2 day long trip to Nashville. When we finally got there we spent our first day in Oceanway recording studios- a studio set in an old church with such beautiful acoustics! From here on there are so many good stories to tell but I will highlight my favourtie moments. I don't remember a lot of details from the best memories, but how I felt in the moment is what remains...
1. At the recording studio recording with Dierks Bently. I was lucky enough to conduct with his manager for the cd recording. I hope amidst my nervous energy and excitement I did some justice to my conducting classes! My lasting memory is the creative energy of his manager- and his excitement in working with me. In any doubt of why I studied music- that feeling of how the music just stirred something within me when I conducted with him is the answer.
2. Conducting solo our third recording song and having the studio manager come out to the children after the first take- with no words, but a smile and tears. Every hour of rehearsal was completely worth it just for watching how their work and singing could then move someone.
3. Sound checking with Keith Urban for his hit single somebody like you- was I really on the same stage as him just last week?
4. Seeing how genuine Faith Hill is- she had the house band cover one of the chilren's songs from concert. I overheard her saying to her producer "this night is for the kids- it's about the African Childrens Choir- not about me. I'll sing off to the side- but I want the focus to be the kids. I'm not about to try and be the star for a song they've done for 25 years!" She left soundcheck after introducing herself to each of the children and the chaperones. The next day before the show she gave each of the children silver bracelets with the love verse from Corinthians engraved on it, and her daughter (maggie who's 10) donated all her money to the children that she'd been saving for the past year. At intermission she even came to the children's green room just to get more time in to play with them!
I had a lot of fun working with the team of 31, and leading their children in rehearsals. I also left after seeing the influence that fame has on our generation. In a society that idolizes celebrities I can say that I saw first hand the impact someone of such stature and wealth can choose to have on this world. How encouraging to see it be used for the positive!