Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Breath of Aire

Sixty singers filled the risers of the church on Sunday evening, men and women spanning six decades, dressed in formal attire, all waiting for the director to take his place.  When Dr. Bayard DuBois stepped onto the platform and raised his arms, the Breath of Aire concert choir leaned in.  On the downbeat, the room exploded with music to rival any choir I have ever heard.  Animated faces, bodies moving freely as they sang, all eyes riveted on the director and all voices blending as one.  It was not just a concert -- it was a musical experience that carried us along.

Breath of Aire is a regional choir, with members coming from all around Washington State.  Indeed, the pianist, who used to accompany the group when she was living in Oregon, had flown in that day from her new home in Houston to be there for the final concert of the choir's 11th season.  Their mission is to inspire, educate and encourage.  I certainly felt inspired, encouraged, even educated, as I sat alert, listening with my ears and heart to songs of hope and joy and heard of the organizations that have benefitted from the offerings taken during the concerts.

Most of the choir's selections at Sunday night's concert were spiritual -- hymns, gospel, and classical pieces -- but their growing repertoire, to which is added 15 or 20 new pieces each year, also includes patriotic, Americana, country, show tunes, and contemporary inspirational songs.  Singers were featured through solos, duets, and quartets, and several members of the local church choir joined the Breath of Aire singers for two lovely numbers.  After the intermission, the musicians circled the sanctuary to sing Shenandoah, sung as a round, echoing through the room with a rich stereo effect, and a beautiful rendition of The Love of God.

It was during these two songs that I got my closest view of the director.  He stood in the center aisle near our seats and poured his heart into drawing music from his choir.  He used his entire body, arms in motion, body swaying, face reflecting the soul of the music.  A general practice dentist, Bayard DuBois has learned the secret of choir directing: relationship.  "When a conductor has a good relationship with his choir they feel safe with him and are willing to take risks.  The whole thing explodes from there," he says.*

It is evident that his choir loves him.  As he stood in the aisle he held up a piece of sheet music and moved it around the room so that the singers could see it.  But some couldn't tell what it was -- they didn't know what they were about to sing!  He laughed, told them the piece's title, and away they went, all eyes fastened on their director, even if some of them could only see his back!

My sister, Peach, is a member of the choir, and has spoken with such enthusiasm of the concerts -- and even the rehearsals -- that we didn't want to miss the evening's event.  As with most of the concerts, this was a fundraiser for a local need.  The offering, earmarked entirely for the Puget Sound Christian Clinic, raised $2577.  Earlier this year one of their concerts brought in $12,000 for a young boy who needed a double lung/heart transplant.

As we moved toward the car at the end of the evening, Tom was greeted by a young woman who was a part of the local church's choir.  Her excitement was tangible.  She had just joined Breath of Aire!

If you'd like to know how you can hear the choir or sing in it yourself, check out their website, BreathofAire.org.

*from The sound of grace: Breath of Aire chorus performs in Bastyr Chapel this month, by Elizabeth Griffin (11/09) in the Journal Newspaper Group

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