ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Kathy Coudle-King, Grand Forks, column: Music helps GF schools stand out

By Kathy Coudle-King GRAND FORKS -- I just got back from Central High School's holiday concert at the Empire. I had to go: my son was in it. I've never been a big classical music fan; I know, that probably makes me a Neanderthal in some people's ...

By Kathy Coudle-King

GRAND FORKS -- I just got back from Central High School's holiday concert at the Empire. I had to go: my son was in it.

I've never been a big classical music fan; I know, that probably makes me a Neanderthal in some people's eyes. But I didn't grow up with it, not at home or in school. "The Sound of Music" was about as high class as we got in my New Jersey neighborhood.

Heck, if you asked someone who Vivaldi was back in my home town, they might answer, "The guy at the deli?"

We just didn't get a lot of high culture back in West New York, so I was prepared to sit down, look at the program and count how many songs I'd have to sit through before I could get my kid and tell him "You done good. Let's go get some ice cream."

ADVERTISEMENT

You Herald readers probably know where I'm going with this. You think I'm going to say it was good, right? Wrong, smarty pants. It was -- fantastic. Everything from the brass quintet and the Madrigal singers (what are Madrigal singers, anyway?), to the incredible orchestra.

And, yes, there was my baby singing with that amazing choir. A couple of the soloists brought tears to my eyes (the good kind), and when those violinists did their thing, I felt all the tension in my shoulders disappear.

I read the program notes and learned that Antonio (hey, I knew a Tony or two in Jersey!) Vivaldi lived in the 1700s. Here was my kid and all these other kids singing his work all these years later. Obviously, I'm no music critic, but I think Antonio would have liked it.

When I looked up at that stage filled with teenagers, I couldn't help but think about all the typical issues they wrestle with daily: alcohol, sex, drugs, depression. Then it hit me. For half their lives the country's been at war. Some of them have seen loved ones deployed, maybe more than once. They deal with parents who divorce, lose jobs, can't find jobs. They get their first license and can't afford gas to fill the car.

They've got a lot on their shoulders.

But a few afternoons a week, they get together and learn to sing and play this 300-year old music, music that has survived despite -- well, despite everything.

How many of us have sung or heard the "Gloria" at some time in our life? We may not have understood the Latin words, but we got it -- on a molecular level. Vivaldi wrote it to be the song the angels sang to the shepherds on the night Jesus was born (learned that at the concert).

You don't have to be a Christian to understand the joy in that piece. It's about celebration and hope. When I looked at those young people on the stage, it gave me hope. It also made me want to celebrate the gift our music programs give to our community.

ADVERTISEMENT

It's people such as Paul Barta and Geoff Mercer who facilitate this gift to our community. I also noticed Marlys Murphy in the background on keyboard. She's like some sort of musical angel popping up at "Annie" auditions and Bel Canto recitals (Maria Williams, Bel Canto Studio director -- another musical treasure, like Grand Cities Childrens' Choir director Melanie Popejoy and the myriad other K-12 teachers who bring music to our schools.)

All these people make their living working with children making music, but I'm sure they don't get compensated nearly enough. Plus, music programs often are the first to get cut when budgets are trimmed. I hear they were going to have a guitar class at Central, but it vanished almost as mysteriously as accompanist Marlys Murphy appears.

Ah well, that's an issue for a different letter. At the concert, a hundred or so people had the privilege of hearing 300-year-old music sung by tomorrow's visionaries. And that's not something that happens in every town. If you think it is, you can just fugetaboutit.

Coudle-King is a playwright and author.

Related Topics: GRAND FORKS PUBLIC SCHOOLS
What To Read Next
Alerus Center staff expected a sellout of all 2,500 tickets. All 500 VIP tickets sold out.
Presented by Spirit Lake Casino and Resort
Presented by Spirit Lake Casino and Resort
Here are a few upcoming local arts and entertainment events