How many years were you in Schola and Madrigal Choirs?
Eight years in Schola and four in Madrigals, with one year of overlap in eighth grade.
What’s been the most fun or valuable part of choir? As in, what keeps you coming back when you’re so busy?
Easily, the people. I’m sure anyone else would tell you the same thing. While we’re all passionate about music, the best part about Madrigals is returning to the friendships we’ve made in the group. I’ve known Curtis since I was three years old and most of the other seniors since elementary school. These relationships are what make the group so special.
I’d like to ask you about writing the song. Do you write a lot of songs? What was the inspiration for this one?
I’ve been composing here and there since I was about ten years old. The first piece I actually had performed (around 2012, maybe?) was for piano, violin, clarinet, the only instruments that my group of friends knew how to play.
The second was “Snow,” which I wrote in my sophomore year of high school and had performed at Boar’s Head 2015. These days, I spend more time doing contemporary a cappella arrangements than I do composing, but “Homeland” was the one exception to that. The inspiration in this case came from knowing I would have to leave Madrigals in the near future.
When you write a song, do you write the lyrics and music all at once, or one and then the other? Which comes first?
For “Snow,” I wrote the music first, as it was assigned for a theory class. The lyrics for that piece were adjusted to fit the melody I had already written. For “Homeland,” however, I began the process of writing music already having an idea for what I wanted the lyrics to be. I wrote both parts more or less at the same time.
Did you mean to bring people to tears with this song? : ) I assume you didn’t, but do you have any ideas about why this song is so emotional?
Obviously, I didn’t intend to make anyone cry! That said, I’m not entirely surprised that it happened. As I said before, I wrote this piece for and about the friends I have made in Madrigals.
I hoped it would give me closure, in a way, to give one last gift to the group. As for why it’s so emotional to perform – while writing it was my way of saying goodbye, performing it does the same thing for everyone else.
How will your experience in choir affect what you will do in college and beyond?
I’ll certainly have high standards for any choir I join in the future, both in terms of musical ability and dedication.
The magical thing about Madrigals is that we all love it desperately, and because of that, we’re willing to stand through long rehearsals and sight-read in Welsh for the sake of the group.
What are your goals in college and life, do you plan to do something in music?
I have dedicated so much of my life to music so far that I can’t imagine surviving without it. In college, I’m planning on minoring in music and join an a cappella group. Beyond that, I haven’t decided exactly how to keep singing, but I’m sure I’ll find a way.
Anything you think people should know about DenDen and the value of being in the choral program at Grace Episcopal Church of Oak Park?
I owe everything I know about music to Denden. I’ve been in his choirs since I was two years old and have known the basics of music theory for almost as long as I’ve known how to read. But no matter when a singer joins the choral program at Grace, they will receive the same rigorous musical education. They will build the same unshakeable friendships and make the same timeless memories. Our program is truly something special.
Anything I didn’t ask that you wish I did?
I feel like I’ve spent so much time talking about the people that I didn’t say anything about the music. The selection may be a bit outdated, but in singing these songs, we pick up a ton of musical skills and knowledge that we would get in a normal choir.
What makes Madrigals special is that Denden hardly teaches us. He hands us music and we sing it, just like that. We’re responsible for teaching ourselves notes and rhythms, and if we come across something too difficult, we know when to ask for help. I believe this kind of self-sufficient education is the best way to learn music.