At 1:30 today (on Good Friday) the Shorter Chorale visited South Highland Presbyterian Church and gave a very emotional performance of great choral music.
Their director, Dr. Martha Shaw, is a former student of John Jennings who is the former director of South Highland's music ministry. I took the job after John's retirement a few years ago; his wife Joyce still plays the organ.
Dr. Shaw brought about 30 of her 50-member choir over to Birmingham today to sing a tribute to Dr. Jennings. That's right . . . thirty people gave up a day out of their busy lives to sing a concert for one man. There were others of us in the small audience, but the concert was for a solitary individual.
It is one of the nicest things I have ever seen in my profession.
There is a debt that nearly every conductor owes to her mentor . . . for Dr. Shaw it was John Jennings. My own debt is well known.
The deed speaks as much about Martha Shaw as it does John Jennings. Once, a guy named John made a tremendous impact on a young student in his college choir. Years later, the student acknowledged that experience by honoring her teacher with a concert.
I won't forget it.
I'm sending the choir a note that contains the following message:
Dr. Shaw and Members of the Shorter Chorale . . .
Thank you, thank you, thank you . . . for your emotionally and musically satisfying performance at South Highland Presbyterian Church today. It was a special concert and one could not help but be moved by your heart-felt singing of wonderful music.
You invested yourself in your performance today and it was touching. You obviously have a great love for your teacher and she obviously has a great love for hers.
All of your faces where expressive and a few were absolutely radiant. I wish my choir could have seen you sing. You proved today that choral music is as much a visual art as it is an aural one. I actually feel as though I "got to know" the group . . . just from watching you sing.
My best wishes to you and your director for many wonderful years together . . . .