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Devotion: An Orchestra Kid Stumbles into a Choir

Colleen Cook, an alto in the National Lutheran Choir, shared this devotion prior to rehearsal on April 19, 2016. She connects the singing she was required to do at St. Olaf with the singing she had done all her life. It's a Minnesota tradition!

I’m standing before you today as an orchestra kid. This Minnesota choral tradition we’re celebrating? Yeah, I had no idea how big of a deal it was, or that it was a deal at all, until maybe five years ago. I went to St. Olaf because I liked the food, it looked like Hogwarts, and the orchestra director was nice to me. Someone mentioned St. Olaf’s Christmas Fest to me, and I thought, “Aw, cute! I love Christmas concerts!” I was totally blindsided by the approximately twelve million hours of rehearsal. I still get Larry Fleming and Kenneth Jennings mixed up in my head on occasion. My first major interaction with Lutherans at all was going to St. Olaf and being moderately aware of the people around me.

And yet, you still let me in this choir, and I’ve learned a lot.

The beginning of my singing journey had little to no fanfare. Instrumental music education majors at St. Olaf were required to sing in a choir for one semester, so I joined Chapel Choir my junior year and ended up sticking with it until graduation. Chapel’s music sounded fun, and the director was a firecracker. That could be loosely considered my “choral awakening.” (“Awakening” is probably a generous term based on how little I thought about it.) However, if I think about my musical life prior to St. Olaf, I realize how much singing I did growing up and how it never seemed like a huge deal. It was just...there. It was a part of the Minnesota fabric.

So, perhaps I’ve always been immersed in the choral tradition, so much so that I didn’t notice it, and that’s part of what makes it so unique. The Minnesota choral tradition reaches far beyond Lutherans or any specific group, and it gathers people in a way that, in my experience, no other place has. We are a state of singers, and some of us happen to find ourselves in organized choirs, and some just sing in their backyards for fun. Many do both, and the tradition continues to live and breathe and morph with new generations of singers and composers, and I’m excited to be a voice that continues to move it forward.

I’m standing up here as an orchestra kid and a grateful singer. I need both traditions to inform each other and push me as a musician. I wrestled for awhile for a pithy, eloquent statement of how they inform each other, and so far I’ve got nothing. Check back in later for wisdom.

Thanks for welcoming me to this choir, clueless as I was. I’m catching up. Let’s pray through our singing tonight, and let it be whatever you need. Amen, Namaste, ready set go, let’s sing.