France and South Africa 2007

The Summer of 2007 was truly a transformational one, both musically and personally. Arriving in Paris in late May with my colleagues at the Curtis Institute, professor Alan Morrison, and great friends and supporters Bruce, Fred, and Dan, we spent an action-packed week crawling from one organ to next all over the magical city. Playing Widor and Dupré at Saint-Sulpice, hearing François-Henri Houbart's exhilarating improvisation on the American National Anthem at La Madeleine, experiencing the shattering brilliance of Duruflé's Neo-Classical instrument at Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, and being both completely overwhelmed and reduced to tears by the extraterrestrial sounds of Notre-Dame Cathedral's terrifying organ - only begins to describe that most memorable week.

I don't think any one of the ninety-five or so Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church choir-members, family, and friends who departed from New York's JFK airport in late June, destined for Johannesburg, could have fathomed the indelible mark the next two weeks would make on each and every one of our lives. I have been struggling to find the words to try to express even a little bit of what this trip meant to each of us as a whole and individually...but there are no words that can capture the torrential outpouring of emotions and love that at no point was absent in that shared experience. And then there was the music - as if I had never heard music before. This account of a fellow Bryn Mawr choir member captured, as best as can be described in words, the music we experienced:

"Early in the trip, Sidumo Jacobs (director of music at St. Mary's Cathedral in Johannesburg) urged us to sing from our hearts, "to own the music, embrace it and keep it for the rest of our lives." The Africans we met sing like this, without any self consciousness and often without any preparation. The music just seems to well up and spill out into the world. There are no barriers, not between singers, not between the singers and God. In fact, I am sure that there have been times when all they had was music and God. That's how they sing... as if all they have is music and God."