On Feb. 4 2016, I traveled from New York City to meet Tim Mahr and the St. Olaf Band at Pascack Hills High School in Montvale, New Jersey. We were hosted by director of bands Chris Wilhjelm.
The St. Olaf Band had been on tour and had done at least six performances of the piece before I heard the music for the first time at Chris Wilhjelm’s school. We had only an hour to rehearse.
This was only a beginning time of my hearing into the music, and helping the band fully to embrace it. They were playing well but they were still searching for the voice of the piece.
The music wasn’t complete in my hearing, and I had to wait two days until the Saturday afternoon rehearsal in Carnegie Hall.
We got into the rehearsal at Carnegie and the transformation took place. Suddenly they got it. The group moved powerfully into full ownership, not only of Angel of Mercy, but their entire program.
This kind of change point is what I work toward with every ensemble – a combination of meditation (holding the group and conductor in my mind) and patient work to hear the true qualities of individual sounds.
The Carnegie concert was triumphant. An audience of more than a thousand gave a prolonged standing ovation for Angel of Mercy. It was a highlight moment in my life to stand in my box at Carnegie Hall
and receive that applause.
Tues., Feb. 9 travel to Northfield, MN to continue work with the St. Olaf band. Wednesday rehearsal, Thursday performance of the whole program in Minneapolis for the MMEA conference. Friday: honorary doctorate convocation. The band provided entry and exit music (Procession of the Academics, Mother Earth) and a portion of Angel of Mercy as “meditation” music before my speech. It was another unique moment for me, and quite the thing hearing Tim Mahr speak to the influence of my music in the world.