During the blazing blur of my freshman fall, I managed to stop a moment to ponder my experience thus far. I came up with this profound conclusion: college is weird.
We are essentially homeless--though rather comfortably housed. It’s a rather bizarre position in the world. We have left one household, but have not yet joined another. There is of course some semblance of community on campus–in a dorm hall, at a sports event, a chapel service–but these moments of togetherness do little to quell the surging chaos of self-centered independence. Each student has their private goals and the much-anticipated freedom to pursue them as they please.
College can easily become an almost purely selfish lifestyle. You may have friends, but they are mostly the sort of friends that merely satisfies your needs: for fun and excitement or for intellectual stimulation. Soon you are dependent on no one, and no one is dependent on you. An aura of community remains, especially at a Christian school like Biola, but Christians need more than the bond of belief. They need the fellowship of a particular purpose. There is a special significance in the partnership that believers share when they make and accomplish a common goal, be it a small group, a mission trip, a college class, or, in my case, music.
During Biola’s ‘10 Fall semester, I had the opportunity to co-direct the Torrey Music Club, and in doing to so, to reflect on the purpose, methods, and meaning of choral performance. This reflection took place through collaboration with my co-director and through group discussion during rehearsal. We did not merely perform; we analyzed the why’s and how’s of choral music.
…..It is readily apparent that singing in a group differs significantly from singing solos--but why?
…..What changes when music is created in community, particularly vocal music?
…..What is the difference between a soloist singing a line of music and a choir singing that same line in unison?
…..And what about harmony?
The harmony of a choir is amazing. Even when the various members are singing different words or notes, each tone or phrase serves an ordered musical whole. The many come together in one accord, somehow, and are unified by a single musical expression.
It’s true that moments of individual artistic creation have their purpose, but when limited to individuality, art begins to isolate. Human beings need to create, and they need to create together.
In a choir, the harmony of disparate parts extends to the persons, and not just their voices. When people sing together, they feel a strong kinship, a sense of belonging to a whole. Choral singers must listen to each other, rely on each other, and only then are able to create something beautiful.
In a generation of radical individualism, joining a choir satisfies an urgent need. It makes the drifting individual dependent. The camaraderie of like-minded friends provides the sense of wholeness easily lost in a college year, and a club like Torrey Music provides the chance to give, to need, and be needed. It is not home, but it’s near to it–near enough to nourish my need for belonging and purpose.
by Emily Woodroof - January 2011