Invitation to sing in symphony makes great learning experience

Posted: Friday, November 21, 2003

Diesen Kuss der ganzen Welt!" Kisses to the Whole World...and especially to Kyle Wiley Pickett and Todd Hunt! Here, "above the starry firmament."

I am so happy that I live in Juneau and that Kyle and the Juneau Symphony found each other! As a 28-year resident and supporter of our symphony orchestra, I am just thrilled to pieces with the growth and musicianship over the past several years under his direction.

Most of all, right now, I want to express appreciation for Kyle's encouragement and inclusiveness that led to my having the courage to join up with the Symphony Chorus for Beethoven's magnificent Ninth. My singing history was limited, to say the least. I led the Brownies and Girl Scouts in songs around the campfire, 40 years ago. I sang '60s peace songs in the '60s and with the Singing Peace Cranes in this spring's Alaska Folk Festival. In-between and around, I joined singing Christmas carols with friends and family and stood next to - and followed - strong voices at the Unitarian church services. I tried lip-synching popular songs when I couldn't remember the words. That was about it.

In September, I heard Kyle's phone call from California to Susan Fitzgerald, on KTOO's "Juneau Afternoon." He was making a pitch for singers. He wanted "100 or 120, enough to blow the roof off the high school auditorium." I started trying to recruit friends that I knew who liked to sing and were good at it. After a few rehearsals, I heard that about 60 people had registered. Then I learned that auditions were not required! I thought, "Maybe I can be part of this!" It seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime musical opportunity.

So I signed up. And went to rehearsals. Todd, the chorus director, was wonderfully gentle and positive. It was a steep learning curve for me, music-wise, but my one year of high school German was definitely an asset.

As the words and tempo came together, there was a growing sense of excitement among us all. I left every two-and-a-half hour practice higher than a kite. When Kyle came and worked with us, he asked how many had never sung with an orchestra before.

There were a couple dozen of us adventurers along with the Juneau Lyric Opera folks and other more proficient vocalists. Our numbers didn't hit 100, but we did expand into the 90s and, with the orchestra, quite filled the stage and stage extension. It was impressive! As our mastery grew, so did our confidence.

When we began rehearsing with the musicians and then with the soloists, the sound did fill the auditorium. And the music and meaning filled our hearts, too, as Kyle promised.

And the overflow audiences felt it on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. After the performance, the shouts and applause went on and on. We all just beamed. Only in Juneau could I ever have had this experience. An awesome "Ode to Joy." Danke Schon!

• Dixie Hood is a Juneau counselor.

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