photograph by Sara Brennan

ear Choral Director of Asheboro High School: I attended your Winter Chorus Concert, the one in which four lanky boys — two on trombone, two on trumpet — stood at the front of the sanctuary at First Presbyterian Church and raised their instruments to sound the opening fanfare, a rousing arrangement that prompted the chorus, 80-some girls and boys to file in from the back of the church, march down the aisle and fan out, just as you’d choreographed them to do. They lined the sides of the church, perfect formation, girls resplendent in black satin dresses; boys spruced up in black suits and bow ties, tenor and alto and soprano voices crisscrossing, projecting in all directions, enveloping the audience in song.

They sang “Hoj, Hura, Hoj,” a call-and-response Czech mountain song, and you asked us, the audience, to imagine an echo resounding throughout the snowy Bohemian-Moravian Highlands, and we did — we were transported! Two soloists sang selections from My Fair Lady; you told us that these songs would be part of those students’ college auditions, so we listened harder, holding on to every note. The ensemble sang “Il Est Bel et Bon,” a French piece, and then you announced that the concert would culminate with a performance of the “Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s Messiah. A showstopper.

It’s an ambitious piece of music to teach, a promise that your students will graduate knowing how to sing a masterpiece that can follow them for the rest of their lives, and as you raised your arms to signal the beginning, you moved to the back of the room, out of the audience’s sight. You were focused solely on those students, nudging the corners of your own mouth upward to remind them to smile, but I hope you also heard the outpouring of our applause, how we whooped and jumped to our feet at the end, lifted by the exuberance of these young voices, the ones you’ve taken such care to shape.

I can’t imagine the effort involved in putting on this show. A renovation to the high school auditorium meant that the performance had to change locations, and that’s why it was at the church across the street; a key singer couldn’t make it at the last minute, so your own husband stepped in to sing with the students.

What were you thinking, watching your students on stage? “Please don’t rush and please don’t go sharp,” you told me, laughing — but I can hear so much more in your voice, the many challenges you face: navigating snow days and illnesses; scheduling time for rehearsals; encouraging students to be collaborative and respectful; keeping standards high. “It’s shocking what students have to overcome,” you say, and your voice breaks, but just as quickly, a lilt there, and the acknowledgment of pride — of the maturity of your students, of their depth of character and understanding and empathy; of their willingness to try new things, of their resilience, of their optimism and hope. And I can’t help but think that many of those qualities are a reflection of you and of your teaching. A labor of love.

Dear Choral Director — and also every English teacher and math teacher and chemistry teacher and librarian and principal at every school throughout this state — a resounding hallelujah, hallelujah! For your work, your sacrifice, your heart. A standing ovation to you all.

 

                            

Elizabeth Hudson                         
Editor in Chief                          

 

This story was published on

Hudson is a native of North Carolina who grew up in the small community of Farmer, near Asheboro. She holds a B.A. degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and began her publishing career in 1997 at Our State magazine. She held various editorial titles for 10 years before becoming Editor in Chief of the 80-year-old publication in 2009. For her work with the magazine, Hudson is also the 2014 recipient of the Ethel Fortner Writer and Community Award, an award that celebrates contributions to the literary arts of North Carolina.

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