28 Apr It Only Takes Three Minutes: by Mentor Desiree Maira
Like many artists can probably recall, there have been countless moments of musical transformation in my life as a performer and teacher. But the memory I would like to share is from a special choir trip in seventh grade. The Middle School of the Arts in South Florida was invited to sing at the Heritage Music Festival in Toronto, Canada. It was my first trip out of the United States and I was elated to be singing with new friends! We had been practicing Sing Me to Heaven by Daniel Gawthrop, an a cappella SATB piece that features beautifully haunting text, emotionally gripping harmonies, and a rich musical theme.
After performing our piece in traditional rows and sectioned by voice part, we were asked to stand in a circle and mix up. Our conductor was prompted to step aside and we, the choir, were instructed to close our eyes and hold each other’s hands. Sensing the supportive energy of the people beside me, I breathed and began to sing. For a moment, I felt vulnerable and alone, until the warmth of the bass line “wrapped me in song,” as the text suggests.
With no direction or order, we sang on. Breathing together as a unit, making music organically, without consultation or approval – singing from our hearts. We created an intimate artistic experience that was completely untouchable. Something so private and incredible that each of us as individuals could not quite explain it. And yet, the fact that it was something we shared made it that much more magical.
When we finished singing, we were told that no one opened their eyes or unlocked their hands. The musical energy that circulated among us was too powerful for description. After some time passed, we were asked to “come back” and talk about what happened. We all cried, unable to process what had truly happened in those three minutes. Sing Me to Heaven is a song I will never forget because of how it transformed me. It was then I discovered that music provides a deeper connection to autonomy and unity.
My favorite part about being a mentor/teacher is the collaborative process. A musical discovery made together through creativity and courage is life changing. Taking risks and experimenting vocally is what musical growth is all about. Those three minutes in Toronto almost 20 years ago directly inspires how I encourage young singers of today. The greatest reward received as a music educator is developing quality relationships with students and helping them reach their fullest potential as performing artists.
Sing Me to Heaven
In my heart’s sequestered chambers lie truths stripped of poet’s gloss. Words alone are vain and vacant, and my heart is mute. In response to aching silence memory summons half-heard voices, and my soul finds primal eloquence and wraps me in song. If you would comfort me, sing me a lullaby. If you would win my heart, sing me a love song. If you would mourn me and bring me to God, sing me a requiem. Sing me to Heaven. Touch in me all love and passion, pain and pleasure. Touch in me grief and comfort; love and passion, pain and pleasure. Sing me a lullaby, a love song, a requiem. Love me, comfort me, bring me to God. Sing me a love song, sing me to heaven.