Around the holiday season, Millikin University’s School of Music hosts Vespers for a weekend at KFAC. It’s a tradition I’ve always looked forward to since freshman year in Millikin Women.
Starting at the end of October (or the start of November, depending on the year), all the choirs gather at Westminster Presbyterian Church to look over combined ensemble pieces.
Each Sunday is filled with themes, like Halloween-costume night or pajama night. For the first rehearsal’s Halloween theme, the directors give prizes to the person with the best costume. While I never won anything, it’s still fun to see what costumes my friends decide to go with.
When we start rehearsing at KFAC’s auditorium, everyone’s confused about where they’re standing at what time. Movements keep changing from night to night. Everyone wants to make a surprised Pikachu face when the directors say the combined ensemble pieces should’ve been memorized by now.
I live for this chaos.
And why do I live for it? I can’t put my finger on that. It could be that I’ve been singing holiday shows since high school, so maybe I got desensitized to the world exploding behind me.
A better answer might be that Vespers will always be the concert that made me fall in love with Collegiate Chorale. The first song they sang, I was hooked. I’ve been calling that choir my home since sophomore year. Whenever Vespers rolls around, I’ll always look back with awe, and the chaos is a reminder of the choir I love so much.
Then there’s the solos. I always look forward to hearing them, too.
When I first sang “Hlonolofatsa” my freshman year, I wanted to have one of the solos, but auditions weren’t open to freshmen at the time. When the next year rolled around, I jumped in for auditioning, and I got one. I didn’t tell my folks about it; I wanted to surprise them, and surprised they were.
I auditioned for solos this year (after a sinus infection nearly took out my voice last year), but I never got one again. It doesn’t bother me, though. Solos always sound better when they’re given to people I know, especially those I’m proud to call my friends.
It’s amazing to hear and see how much my friends have grown in terms of their singing. In some cases, the people getting these solos were nervous little freshmen who found their confidence and now shine it for all to see. It blows me away every time.
Tech week: life just falls apart. Falling behind on work, not remembering the right words and/or notes, not getting enough time for sleeping and/or eating, and catching up on stage movements is just the beginning. My brain is this close to exploding, and it’s only Monday.
The only thing that’s keeping me going is embracing the chaotic Vespers spirit. It’s all going to be worth it in the end, and it’s a revelation that everyone comes to know eventually.
What my family sees, it always leaves them amazed. My cousin Molly, one of my best friends, had told me the show blew her mind. The audience gets immersed in sound, and it’s wonderful that my family could be a part of that.
Pianist Beth Creighton and Dr. Brad Holmes, Millikin Men and University Choir’s director, always share stories about people who buy tickets for their deceased loved ones who loved coming to see the show. It’s their explanation for empty seats. Thus, they would have the best seats in the house.
I love hearing these tales every year. It brings me a little closer to home. My Nana would’ve loved to see this show, and every year, I feel happy knowing she’ll always get the best seat in the house.
My solo in “Hlonolofatsa” was one of the last times my Poppy ever saw me perform. He, along with my Nana, his wife, and my Aunt Onnie, will be sitting in those empty seats both days, seeing me sing.
Call me crazy, but I find it all wonderful.
Vespers is one of the many things I’m going to miss now that I’m graduating next semester. Sure, I can save my pennies and go see it as an audience member, but it’s not the same. As crazy as this whole process is, I still enjoy participating in it every year.
I love Vespers with all my heart, and I always will, no matter what.