For an hour, the 200-member Festival Choir assembled to sing Jan. 21 at the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., practiced breathing, resonance and ran in place.
With an hour behind them, only seven more hours remained. All of the singers are among the best on campus, but it is important to merge the Voices of Lee, Lee Chorale, Ladies of Lee, Lee Singers, Campus Choir, Evangelistic Singers and Choral Union into one group.
Dr. William Green, dean of the School of Music, will lead the combined choir.
“Good music is more than just technique and if you emotionally connect with one another, then the whole thing is so much better,” he said Friday afternoon.
“So often when we do Festival Choir events, we do them very quickly and we are segmented. Consequently, it doesn’t have the unity you need to feel in music sometimes, but we really want this to have that.”
More than 100 of the students are not music majors. Some of them might be math or science majors who only go to the music building for choir rehearsal.
“They don’t know anybody else who practices in this building,” he said. “But, from the very first rehearsal, several of the directors mentioned to me there was this different energy in the room that felt like it was us altogether. That’s what we really hope to see happen.”
Friday, Saturday, today and Monday are intense practice days before classes begin on Wednesday.
There is a lull, but the pace resumes the following weekend with another big day of rehearsal on Saturday.
“We’re actually singing at North Cleveland on Sunday morning,” he said. “We’re not doing everything we’re doing at the inauguration, but we’re doing a few pieces.”
The choir will sing Jan. 15 at chapel and a community service on Jan. 17 in the Conn Center at 7 p.m. The wind ensemble will also perform that evening “because they do such a great job on patriotic music and Sousa Marches as well. That will be the night before we leave and a great way to finish up before we head out the door.”
Lee University’s performance will occur immediately before the official swearing-in ceremonies at midday on Jan. 21. The chorus will perform outdoors on the upper west terrace of the U.S. Capitol.
Green selected nine songs that reflect patriotism and Christianity, since the school is a Christ-centered institution. He is not at liberty to release the song titles other than “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” which was selected for its regional identity.
Five buses will leave the music building Friday morning by 8 and arrive in Silver Spring, Md., by 8 Friday evening.
“As we always do at Lee, we work to do our very best job and make it as excellent as can be. This is no exception,” Green said. “This is a lot more than about the choir. There are so many details not even related to the music and there are so many people working behind the scenes.”
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee came to Cleveland Nov. 1 to issue the invitation on behalf of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.
The senator said thousands of Americans will stand in the cold, millions of Americans will watch on TV, and many more millions of people around the world will watch the inauguration.
“Just hearing the music today just reminds me of how wise a recommendation it is for the inaugural committee that the Lee University choir perform, because I’d like for the whole world to hear what I heard this morning,” he said in November.
The conductor wants to represent Lee University well and by extension, represent Cleveland well. But, the performance will be representative of the United States of America.
“That’s kind of sobering when I think about it,” he said.