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Personal/Musical: Grades Done; OHS "Christmas In A Small Town"; Lilly Mae Easley

Lots of things:

I finished grades yesterday at about 6:30am, after pulling an all-nighter in order to make sure they were done by noon on Monday, which was the deadline for submitting them. I'm now getting the emails from students expressing dismay or confusion or requests for tweaking. In a few cases, there certainly may be issues of something I need to take into account, but on the whole I think there's more of the confusion of a student body used to being "A" students in high school who now find that that creates an entirely new standard at the university, and that few of my students will have earned such grades. It's hard: I'm a student who expects that kind of performance of myself, too, and I hate to be the guy who has to stand firm and let the ax fall.

+++

I converted an old tape to digital the other night. This was my first recording project, the Christmas In A Small Town album that the Oregon High School Mixed Choir and Madrigal Choir recorded as part of our "Voices To Vienna" campaign. I went to a high school with an extraordinary vocal music program, all due to the exceptional direction of Byron McKinstry, to whom my musical debt will never be repaid, which made my four years of high school rather like a four-year-long episode of Fame. In particular, "Mac's" attention to the American spiritual and folk tradition gave me an education in the American musical heritage that was effortlessly excellent: one of those things you look back at later in life – especially as an educator – and which seems amazing at how much you picked up without realizing you were doing such quality work. At this point, the choir had been selected to represent North America at the International Youth Music Festival (or some such name) at the personal recommendation of Weston Noble, who is often called the greatest choral music director the States have ever produced. So we were a bit awash in honours at the time.

But that said, our recording equipment left something to be desired. The quality of my recording is somewhat poor. The tape is a copy of a tape, and the source tape had problems, the biggest being during much of the large choir performaces where you can actually here the recorder itself clicking. Insane. The original tape had some clipping on it, where the choir overwhelmed the microphones and you would get some of the "buzz" of too much signal for the microphones to handle. Unfortunately, my conversion process tends to amplify this, and that with the gain turned down as far as I can. But the Madrigal quality is much better, being a smaller group in better acoustics and a recorder that didn't make its own contribution. Still, the recording quality aside, it's a great mix: classic spiritual pieces, celebrations of small town Americana, and the ringing fun and clarity of the madrigal tradition, which I came to adore in high school. Hearing the pieces brings back some incredibly clear flashes of memory from high school: the excitement of recording this material seemed high drama to me at the time.
"Adeste Fideles (O Come All Ye Faithful)" arr. J. Reading
"Christmas In A Small Town" Rick Peoples
"Simple Holiday Joys" J. Fisher, arr. Pooler
"O Holy Night" Adolphe Adam
"A Special Night" Don Besig
"Lo, How A Rose" Noble Cain
"Hark I Hear The Harps Eternal" arr. Alice Parker (my only "solo" here, sung with Michael Cullen, I think – I was pretty musically raw at this point, and that was quite nerve-wracking enough for me)
"Allelujah" J. S. Bach
"Cantique de Jean Racine" Gabriel Fauré (in many ways, our "signature" piece, I think: the years have given me an ever-greater appreciation for Mac's taste in this choice)
"Little Innocent Lamb" Marshall Bartholomew
"Do You Hear What I Hear?" Harry Simeone
"Ring Christmas Bells" arr. Hawley Ades
"Roundelay Noel" Gordon Young
"Jingle All The Way" arr. Lou Hayward
OHS Madrigal Choir:
"Masters In This Hall" Traditional
"The Gloucestershire Wassail" Traditional
"Deck The Halls" Traditional (a much cooler version than the one you usually hear, with twice the Fa La La action!)
"Angels We Have Heard" Traditional
"The First Noel" Traditional
"What Child Is This?" arr. Sir John Stainer (my personal favourite, I think, with a wider, Incarnational variety of verses, and a tender opening verse by my frequent Show Choir partner, Jennifer Zimmerman, that has just grown on me over the years)
"O Come, O Come Emmanuel" Traditional
+++

I found out that the mother of an old friend – or friends, really – from high school had been killed last year. I had found the following article online, looking for any online references to the "Voices to Vienna" recording, but it didn't have a date, and so I had to ask 2ndtimothy, and found out that it was indeed an older article. As news articles go – especially from a TV station – it seems to do a good job of describing exactly how broadly influential this family was when I was in school: I knew four of the five children and somehow, through them, Pastor and Mrs. Easley garnered a lot of respect from us as we grew up. It's been years since I've seen them, having stopped by their place last during my Notre Dame days, when Mom still lived in my home town of Oregon, Illinois.
A Grieving Community
Reporter: Rebekah Baum

They have been the center of their community, spreading prayer, love, and music to their neighbors. But last Thursday, tragedy struck after a car accident claimed the life of Lilly Mae Easley. Her husband, Pastor Carlton Easley, was seriously injured, their daughter, fortunately, wasn't hurt.

On Wednesday, a community celebrated the life of one of its leaders, and prayed for the recovery of another. Sixty-seven-year-old Lilly Mae Easley was killed in a car accident on Route 2 last Thursday.

"She was a gracious lady, with a smile and a hug for everyone. When I think of 'love thy neighbor as thy self', I think of Lilly," says congregant Mike Plemons.

Lilly, along with her husband Rev. Carlton Easley, have pastored in two local churches for years, Ridott Community Church, and North Grove Christian Church, small, tight-knit congregations, now experiencing overwhelming grief.

"They were supporting partners in a mission, they not only had a tremendous effect on Oregon and the students of Oregon High School, but of course the church and the surrounding area," says family friend Byron McKinstry.

Pastor Easley has been moved out of intensive care, and is recovering, and this small church community waits anxiously for his return.

"He's still our leader, and he'll be back, the Lord will provide," says Plemons.

Friends say Lilly Mae reveled in the arts and literature, but her story was a book of faith, a faith she shared with her husband and five children, and a faith she instilled in her community.

"They've been a blessing to me, and certainly, we're going to be there to stand behind the kids and Carlton in any way we can. We appreciate them, and all that they've done," says McKinstry.
Tags: cultural, education, friends-oregon era, high school, historical, incarnation, musical, mysticism/spirituality, obituary, oregon illinois, personal, setlists, teachers
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