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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Personal/Musical: Oregon High School Voices To Vienna: Christmas In A Small Town 
23rd-Dec-2008 02:03 pm
High School
A quick Christmas post for friends from high school: I transferred my tape copy of the Oregon High School Choir's recording Voices To Vienna: Christmas In A Small Town to mp3s that everyone is welcome to download.

When people ask me about growing up in Oregon, Illinois, I inevitably talk about the land, the hiking and climbing I indulged in, tramping and running all over the countryside in grade school and high school. I will sometimes also talk about the art, and the unconscious way growing up in a small town unusually littered with art work – remnants of the great Lorado Taft's Eagle's Nest Art Colony – sowed seeds of an awareness of art to which I wouldn't become consciously sensitive until after I had gone to college. But if Oregon gave me any truly extraordinary gift, something irreplaceable and indescribable, it was the utter immersion into song I experienced there.

When I was a sophomore, my high school choir was invited to represent North America in the International Youth Music Festival in Vienna, with a week of performances in the city and a week's touring through West Germany, Austria, and France. (And my Mom even letting me head off to England with my friend Jeff Wingert by ourselves for a full week after: too cool!) This musical opportunity was largely due to the recommendation of Weston Noble, widely recognized as America's premiere choir educator, who recognized our choir director, Byron "Mac" McKinstry, as having created an exceptional vocal music program. This was particularly so considering that our high school choir required no auditions, and welcomed people who had very little singing talent, yet made the collective result something special. As a student, I only began to recognize how unusual this was when I realized that the choirs we regularly competed with in contests were composed of singers who were only accepted through a process of auditions.

As part of raising the funds throughout my junior year to take some 80 students and their chaperons to Europe, our "Voices to Vienna" drive produced this Christmas recording. Having done a lot more recording in my life since then, I now have to wince at how low-tech the recording was, being little more than a standard tape recorder hooked up to two room microphones. The tape deck itself can be heard clicking, for crying out loud. The microphones, having been set up with little input control, cannot handle the signal oftentimes, and thus you get the "clipping" of the choir overwhelming the microphone and the distorted sound of too much power.

But still....

Underneath it all, there's still something good. Maybe it helps to have that personal connection, of course, but I think there's a bit more than that. Mac gave me an education in the American spiritual tradition that has proved unsurpassed by anything I received in my continued university and post-university musical formation. In selection and performance, despite the quality of the recording equipment, I remain staggered by what Mac coaxed out of a bunch of kids from a small town in northern Illinois, and my life will be forever enriched by it. Despite the fact that the entire European trip was canceled due to fears of terrorism (the night the parents had to make a final decision was the night the United States bombed Libya, which made everyone presume – wrongly, it turned out – that there would be significant reprisal against U.S. targets) this recording personally gives me some kind of return on the deep investment into the music we were making at the time.

The latter part of the recording, featuring the OHS Madrigal Choir, is of considerably finer quality, having fewer voices to deal with and being recorded not in the Old Gym with the equipment described above, but with a higher-quality recorder that, mercifully, did not click. The version of "Deck The Halls" is not quite the traditional one, and features a "fa la la..." run that I've always thought so much more fun than the one you usually here, if slightly roughened here by the valiant leadership of bass Gregory Towne trying to keep the sopranos from going sharp. Some of the traditional hymns are quite lovely: I love the full mystical set of lyrics included in this version of "What Child Is This?" and Jennifer Zimmerman's opening solo in that one always melts me. I've been involved with professional recordings since high school, half a dozen or more, but there's still so much soul in this one that, despite its technical flaws, I cannot think any less of it. Like I said, it's for some high school friends who might want it in digital form, but anyone is welcome to give it a whirl: you might find some Christmas spirit in it for yourselves.

Oregon High School Voices To Vienna: Christmas In A Small Town
Directed by Byron McKinstry

Oregon High School Mixed Choir

"Adeste Fideles (O Come All Ye Faithful)" arr. J. Reading
"Christmas In A Small Town" Rick Peoples
"Simple Holiday Joys" J. Fisher, arr. Pooler. Flutes: Debbie Farber, Deanna Massey, Jamie Russell
"O Holy Night" Adolphe Adam. Soloists: Deanna Massey, Jeff Wingert, Lydia Easley
"A Special Night" Don Besig
"Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming" arr. Noble Cain
"Hark, I Hear The Harps Eternal" arr. Alice Parker. Solo: Michael Cullen and Mike Novak
"Allelujah" J. S. Bach
"Cantique de Jean Racine" Gabriel Fauré
"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

Oregon High School Madrigal Choir
"Masters In This Hall" Traditional
"The Gloucestershire Wassail" Traditional
"Deck The Halls" Traditional
"Angels We Have Heard" Traditional. Soloists: Gregory Towne, Jeff Wingert, ???
"The First Noel" Traditional. Soloists: Jim Lauer, Rhonda Richardson and Carol Carpenter?, ???, ???
"What Child Is This?" arr. Sir John Stainer. Soloists: Jennifer Zimmerman, Gregory Towne, ???
"O Come, O Come Emmanuel" Traditional. Soloists: ???, Tim Stouffer and Don Rodgers, ???, Jeremy Easley, Joanna Easley?
"Adeste Fideles (O Come All Ye Faithful)" arr. J. Reading
23rd-Dec-2008 08:27 pm (UTC)
Mike, I love you -- surely you can upload ONE zip file...
23rd-Dec-2008 09:16 pm (UTC)
Tell me how! I couldn't figure out how to make it one file.
23rd-Dec-2008 11:24 pm (UTC)
You know how to make a compressed file on your computer, yes?

24th-Dec-2008 12:10 am (UTC)
Oh, crap: and all I had to do was upload a .zip file to MegaUpload? Somehow that never occurred to me: like they could compress my files for me, but I couldn't send and leave compressed files there for someone else. Dar. I can't believe how much time I just wasted.
24th-Dec-2008 01:58 am (UTC)
*hugs, ruffles hair affectionately*
24th-Dec-2008 03:00 am (UTC)
Okay. Now I'm a year old again.
24th-Dec-2008 03:17 am (UTC)
Think of it this way -- for me, you are forever young :)
24th-Dec-2008 01:05 am (UTC)
Done! Thanks for pointing that out to me: I've been wanting to make that possible than the ponderous downloading of 20 individual files or somesuch, but I didn't look any further into it, after putting the files all into one folder on MegaUpload and that not doing the trick. At that point I assumed that it was a premium service. My mistake. You've improved the quality of my internet experience: thanks!
(Deleted comment)
25th-Dec-2008 08:13 am (UTC)
Hey Tim! That's a delightful surprise: I assumed that, despite my own thoughts, that only some high school friends might download this, probably through a few Facebook notifications I tossed out.

But yes, I feel exactly the same way as you do, of that whole "cold nights and sitting rapt in warm blankets" feeling. I still love the song selection, though I admit that that, too, can be merely the power of autobiography. But at the same time some of my favourite recordings are still those of no pretense – of one of my friends putting down a handheld tape recorder in the middle of the room as everyone just made music. There's something so utterly sincere about such things – that don't have all the magical perfection of the studio – that the ear can enjoy just as much.

I'm getting a little bit more of that feeling now, in the middle of the night, after having slept an awful lot today with this flu that's made me miss getting together with my family. WGN is playing an image of a fireplace, calling the over-all program "The Yule Log" and playing old radio shows, which I've always loved. Orson Welles's production of A Christmas Carol, starring Lionel Barrymore, now followed by an old Burns and Allen Christmas episode. It's a soothing substitute for being able to be with family, and something I just tripped across after watching the Vatican's Midnight Mass.
26th-Dec-2008 04:01 am (UTC) - Merry Christmas
Nice Mike, I've played the Emmanuel track over and over since you gave it to me a few years ago. I thought I heard my voice doing solo there, but couldn't be sure. I was never quite confident enough to go it alone, but that song always called to me in way that I couldn't explain then and can only get a little closer to understanding now.

It was something that none of us quite recognized or appreciated as the time wasn't it -- the absolute joy and privilege to be included in our choir. Madrigal was it for me. A bunch of novices coming together to create a higher talent, a both bigger and better voice, like individual vocal chords.

Of course most of those girls were famously HOT, so that made up for having to wear tights.

I'm sorry to find you by yourself at home with flu, but know that we are thinking of you. Know also that though I couldn't tell you at the time I felt that you were talented beyond many of us for whom it was a social gathering, fun and fest. I liked your take on things and while I'm complimenting you I'll do it again. What a remarkable memory for the facts. I didn't have a grasp on most of them at the time, so no remembering them for me, but I'm grateful that you had the good sense to be in a position it mentally journal the times.

Merry Christmas my friend, I hope you are better soon. I'd send you an old video of me as Jacob Marley in my College's production of A Christmas Carol, but alas I don't have one. Lots of white and green make-up, a big ole wig, white period clothes and white leather disco side zip up boots with square toes, lots of plastic chains and a trick mirror complete with stage smoke. 18 straight days of performance with a dozen being two-a-days where we did a matinee for local grade school classes.

Freshman year. That was fun. Mom and Dad came all the way down to see me.

Today was beautiful at their cabin in the woods. Stockings and presents and our kids with big crack-your-face smiles that never faded. Mom made us all a huge breakfast on the wood stove. All of it over way to fast with the promise of work tomorrow. Kinda like High School.

I love you my friend. I wish you a productive and gracious New Year.

29th-Jan-2009 10:53 pm (UTC)
I found your post after doing a search for OHS music, and I wanted to thank you for the download. I graduated from OHS in 1997 after having a similar, marvelous experience in Mac's music program. Recently, I met with a classmate from high school. We talked at length about our time in Oregon and the music program there. It was special.

Thanks again!
30th-Jan-2009 03:02 am (UTC)
Awesomeness! We just missed having even any family overlap, as my brother Joe was the last of us to graduate OHS in 1992.

I wish I could be more specific for you, but at some point in the not-too-distant future, I'm going to put up the one other recording I have from OHS, which was a professional thing done at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa as part of the 1987 Dorian Festival there. That has a few OHS classics in it, too, although Mac was trying to squeeze too much into 20 minutes, so you might think, like I do, that "Wow, that's really faster than I've heard it before." But the quality is good. The setlist is:
"Three Hungarian Folk Songs" Words: A.L. Lloyd, Music: Matyas Seiber
"Two Latin Fragments" Esteban Salas, Gottfried August Homilius, arr. Pooler
"Ye Followers of the Lamb" E. Ferguson
"Cantique de Jean Racine" Gabriel Fauré (of course: was this still a Mac fav in your day?)

And with the combined choir:
"I Sing The Greatness of Our God" Isaac Watts, Fred Bock
"Thy Will Be Done" Craig Courtney
"Where Shall I Be?" arr. William Grant Still

So that'll be something that I put up for OHS friends and can be found under my oregon illinois tag.
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