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Songs with staying power

"Songs with staying power" Continued...

Issue: "Effective Compassion," June 16, 2012

What I did appreciate was Martin Luther's view on music, a little more than John Calvin. ... I'm still a firm Lutheran.

The students had all those intricate pieces memorized! How have you seen the process of memorizing all that music change students? It gives them freedom, they're not obstructed. I can still sing pieces that I sang [when in the St. Olaf choir]. That memorization process-I hated it then, but I'm grateful for it now. You just never know what you need, and what seeds you're planting. ... It's giving them a gift that will come back.

In "It Is Well," it was the beauty of their spirits singing that, their ability to shape words. "Lord hasten the day when our faith shall be sight." You can see on their faces, they understand. "The trumpet shall sound, the Lord shall descend."

You sing those night after night. ... Why do we say the Lord's Prayer? It's a remembrance of who God is in your life. It becomes intrinsic to your muscle memory. It's how you build faith.

You didn't have any music to look at for much of the concert either. That allows me freedom so I'm not tied to the music. There's an abandonment that I have.

Can you reflect on your time at St. Olaf? These last 22 years-this is not my choir. Whatever time, I've been given stewardship of this choir to keep the mission going. You don't hear sound coming out of my hands. ... That last part of Bach-I was barely keeping up. They don't need me waving my arms.

I wanted to maintain the excellence we've had, and I think we have. I also wanted to expand the literature and make it more global. I want this choir to be known not just for its beautiful sound, but for making a difference in the lives of human beings. It's worth being on a bus for six and a half hours, sleeping in different hotels every night.

These young people-to see their faces, their connection to the music. That's why I'm in this business. I've been offered jobs at a lot of other places ... but there's something incredible about these kids. I hate cold weather. I'd rather be in Tampa, Fla. But it's working with these young people, people who want to use their gifts at their best. And hopefully that will be something that will gird them.

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emzleb.

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