There is a very clear distinction between liking something and appreciating it. While I may not like something, I can certainly appreciate the quality of it. This was my attitude toward the recent performace of the East Tennessee State University Chorale groups, prior to the show, at least.
Hymnal music is not my favorite genre of music, but I can certainly appreciate the aesthetics of it. So when I went to the First Presbyterian Church in Johnson City to listen to hymns, I knew going in that while the music was sure to be impressive, it wasn’t going to be my cup of tea.
The vocals lived up to my very high expectations of the ETSU Chorale – no surprise there. The guest musicians (Ola Gjeilo and Ted Belledin) were truly masters of their respective instruments, as well. There was no room for disappointment with their performance.
What was surprising, however, was that I not only appreciated the show, I rather enjoyed it, too. At the conclusion of the performance, I found myself rather curious as to what aspect of the show made me form an entirely different opinion than the one I typically have for this type of music. I was left with only one possible answer: this show had a very unique twist.
Adding an astounding pianist to hymnal vocals seemed fitting and it added depth to the music. Adding a jazz musician, however, is a different story.
It at first seemed out of place – the melody emanating from this brass instrument fit the music – but the sound was too unique and stood in stark contrast to the traditional sound.
Then I realized that this was the point. Or, at least, I think this is the point because I connected with it.
I closed my eyes and listened to the music and imagined an empty street. On one side of the street, massive cathedral doors stood ajar allowing voices of praise to pour outside, beckoning people to rejoice in something greater.
On the opposite side, a saxophone coming from a small venue promised the finest of drink, literature, company, and music to alleviate the troubles of your day.
You could tell that both sides were playing the same music, but each offered a different take on the message. This has been the most impressive feature of the chorale’s performances: they combine musical talent and ability with creative showmanship.
Keep up the good work guys and gals; I have another year’s worth of tickets to buy.