GUEST BLOG: "Conference Reflections: Oklahoma City" by Paul Carey
Date: March 2, 2013
Get ready for ACDA Dallas - it’s almost here! And yes you can still jump in and join us for an incredible experience.
As you may know, I have been sharing personal memories of the last four national conferences - we hope that reading these vignettes may help you realize that attending an ACDA national conference is an absolute must for all choral professionals. I really don't know how they have done it, but the planning committee headed by president-elect Karen Fulmer have packed so many opportunities to hear music and share in conversation about music that it is truly astounding.
Today I am recapping memorable moments for me from the Oklahoma City conference of 2009.
But first, just a reminder that there are activities on Tuesday, March 12th. The Asia Pacific Youth Choir directed by four conductors, including the astounding Hakwon Yoon (see further down in my blog) and Jonathan Velasco, will perform a concert that night at 8 PM at the Winspear Opera House. At ten PM is a reception open to all sponsored by IFCM at the Omni Hotel. When I arrive early Tuesday I plan on walking a mile from my hotel to the Sixth Floor Museum, a John F. Kennedy Heritage museum which occupies the infamous Dallas Schoolbook Depository from where Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated JFK. It will be a sad place to visit, but I think it’s a must for any of us who can spare the time to get there.
Speaking of sad events and how we still must acknowledge and possibly learn from them, one of the most deeply memorable events during the 2009 OKC conference was the peace event/tribute to the victims of the OKC federal building bombing. Led by Anton Armstrong, this was powerful and touching.
I will now share what, to me, was a great memory from the final day, Saturday, of the 2009 OKC conference. There were three choirs on the last large program. My friend Lisa Fredenburgh presided over this concert and Rick Bjella's choir from Lawrence University did an amazing program and proved there is more to Wisconsin than the Green Bay Packers and cows (Rick is now at Texas Tech; Phillip Swan and Steven Sieck are continuing the great choral tradition at Lawrence).
Next Lisa introduced Maria Guinand's Cantoria Alberto Grau, a women's choir whose electric performance brought tears to my eyes- just amazing tears of joy. In fact, as they danced and swayed off the stage after this incredible performance, the sheer joy of the music and their profoundly beautiful music-making overcame me. First some little tears and then more, and finally to the point that manly me thought I might totally lose it and cry like a total baby! So, of course being a manly man I did fight back some of the tears; but I certainly relearned in that moment that the joy of music can have an amazingly powerful and immediate affect on the emotions. Cantoria Alberto Grau blew away the audience at ACDA and received a standing ovation that went on for a very long time. They gave us the gift of a rainbow of color, both musically and with their costumes, and sang with their hearts on their sleeves and a knowing wink of the eye during some of their sillier folk songs. Bravo!
The final choir was the Incheon City Chorale, a fully professional ensemble of fifty voices, directed by the amazing Hakwon Yoon. Their program consisted mostly of modernized versions of Korean folk music by their composer-in-residence, the very talented Mrs. Hyowon Woo. The Korean music just floored the entire ACDA audience- even from such a sophisticated audience of professionals there were gasps of amazement in response to the music of Incheon City Chorale. The pieces were presented using various degrees of lighting/stage effects, drumming, antiphonal spacing, stage movement, etc.
Hakwon Yoon's conducting was blowing everyone away with his minimal use of gesture to create any sound desired; a great lesson to all conductors not to overconduct! Mr. Yoon at times looked as if he were at some sort of invisible magic floating console which he barely had to touch to create the sounds he desired. Obviously, the choir has amazing precision, discipline, and a shared goal of excellence. Their dynamics ranged from about ppp to a giant wall of ffff sound. Their love of the music and texts and of performing to an appreciative audience was especially appreciated by all. As they left the stage to our thunderous applause they all waved to us and grinned from ear to ear- they had as much fun performing as we did listening to them. I will have to say that this is the best choir I have ever heard.
I was lucky enough to run into Mr. Yoon and the choir at the airport on my way back to Chicago. I introduced myself and gushed over the performance, kind of feeling like a little kid talking to his major league baseball hero! Mr. Yoon and the choir were very gracious, asked about what I do, and we took turns shooting photos. No diva attitudes here; just wonderful, gracious, smiling talented real people. It was great fun to meet them. And then, a few weeks later, I received a commission request from Hakwon and the Incheon City Chorale for a missa brevis with a very firm request that it be truly challenging (they had tired of singing easy music!). I was amazed to receive this commission and after I wrote it (combining bravura and lyrical elements as well), Incheon City Chorale flew me to South Korea for the premiere to an audience of 2,500 at the Seoul Arts Center. My visit to these gracious, very talented people was wonderful and I hope to return some day. And just think, if I hadn't attended ACDA 2009 in OKC, and if I hadn't run into Hakwon at the airport, that commission and my trip to South Korea would have never happened. Obviously the moral of the story is to GO TO DALLAS ACDA and besides hearing incredible musical performances, you might make a professional connection or two of your own that will develop your career in this field!
Side Note Numero Uno: Our fearless ACDA executive director has given me some foodie tips. Tim says the food-carts around the Dallas Arts District are excellent and very affordable (Cool! I hope they are as good as the ones in Portland, OR!). For sit-down dining he recommends mid-range restaurants Gloria's (on Lemmon) and Meso Maya (a must according to Tim). For high-end dining visit celebrity chef Stephan Pyle's eponymous restaurant near the Fairmount Hotel.
Side Note Numero Dos: Dr. Amanda Quist reminds us here that there are many sessions that will highly benefit younger ACDA professionals and students. And don't miss the student reception Friday from 6 to 8 PM in the City Hall Performance Lobby.