A Musician’s Notebook: Making a Rainbow

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This is a beautiful and special place.

Each summer, a prep school campus of rolling, green hills, clear mountain air, and rippling streams, nestled at the foot of Mt. Everett in Sheffield Massachusetts, becomes a backdrop to artistic achievement and expression.

babb;ing BrookAlthough I’ve been participating since 1991, I still marvel at the unique experience that is The Berkshire Choral Festival, as scores of avocational singers and professional choristers and musicians from several countries and continents, raise their voices in song. Many of us are strangers (save friends from seasons past), and yet we meet, we greet, we dine and we share our dormitory refrigerators and life experiences, in a total immersion experience.

Benson CommonsArriving on Sunday afternoon, with “…the notes learned…”, we begin the process on Monday morning: absorbing the music, understanding the intent of the composer, and fulfilling the interpretation of our pre-eminent, world-class conductor. We have no doubt at the outset, that this journey – a full week of intensive focus (rehearsing each morning and evening) – will lead us to new heights of musical expression.

As the week progresses, we put the finishing touches on sectional and ensemble challenges, just as The Stewart Center is transformed from a sports complex to an acoustic concert space. We unabashedly hum aloud, as we tackle the hilly terrain between dining hall, dorms and rehearsal spaces. When not rehearsing, we become classroom students, for courses specializing in the composer of the week, music theory and vocal technique; and we enjoy recitals performed by the staff and apprentices.

We are physically and spiritually immersed in music.

Saturday, rolls around all too soon and as curtain time draws near, we wait backstage in concert garb, nervously warming up. We are reminded why we are here; that this unique collection of individuals, has never performed together, and will never do so again, and most importantly, that through our singing, we are adding beauty to a troubled world.

imageMaestro takes the podium. Orchestra and Chorus are poised for the downbeat. Silence. Then, ever so quietly and solemnly, the opening strains of Brahms’ “Ein deutsches Requiem” fill the concert hall, and for the next 70 minutes, all are lost in the drama, beauty and emotion of this masterpiece.

The BCF Chorus sings with inspiration, soloists and the Springfield Symphony perform beautifully, the audience is genuinely moved and Maestro is pleased, as our voices and instruments artfully soar, becoming so much more than the mere sum of the parts.

Afterwards, basking in the glow of a profoundly beautiful performance, we raise our glasses in celebration of a job well done; finally bidding adieu to Maestro, faculty, and new-found friends (and old), promising to return next year.

Under the limitless canopy of a star-studded New England night-sky, I contemplatively embrace the silence in an attempt to forever etch this moment in my psyche, as the inevitable, anticlimactic letdown begins to permeate my spirit.

Yes, this is a special place, where individual contributors – unique colors of the spectrum – meld to become a resonant rainbow of sound.  I am privileged to be a tiny sliver of light in that rainbow.

Berkshire Choral Festival
Berkshire Choral Festival


This was written for the Light and Shade Challenge, Monday July 21, 2014; using the provided photo prompt and the following quote:  “Sunset is still my favorite color and rainbow is second.”  (Mattie Stepanek), and is  a true reflection of my experience last week at the Berkshire Choral Festival (www.choralfest.org), concluding with the Saturday July 21st performance of Brahms’ “Ein deutsches Requiem”, Op.45.  

7 Comments on “A Musician’s Notebook: Making a Rainbow

  1. I am and forever will be in awe of , and your total compassion for music and song. I have never met anyone who loved to sing so much. But to sing really deep stuff. Grateful for all you have taught me about music. You got the good ear for music from dad. I did not. So this beautiful piece helps me to live vicariously through you. I love it so much.


    • You certainly do have the ear…an appreciation, even though, (like Bobby), you are not doing the singing or playing. Mom couldn’t carry a tune and yet she taught me to sing ( go figure). But yes, Dad had the passion and natural talent without ever having had a lesson. We are blessed to have been given the gift of music that we can pass on to our kids and grandkids. thanks, Ei…Love you!


    • It is! I am still thinking…”this time last week I was….” Most of all I recall conversations with people met during meals or treks across campus. I learned that we have more in common than one might expect. Thank you for your comment.


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