Welcome to a series of stories that basically make up my autobiography. It’s not entirely thorough, but I’ll do the best I can with the memories locked away inside my head. Could be therapeutic for me. Could be humorous for you. Either way, enjoy…
Previously on Life Story… I took a bunch of classes during my freshman year. Because I figured that just what you’re supposed to do when you go to college. You take classes.
Something else that I did during my freshman year was get involved with a choir. I actually did this early on during the fall, after I’d seen flyers for open auditions around campus.
I wasn’t a music major. I had no desire to take any music classes. But I loved to sing. I grew up singing in various choirs and knew this would be something I could enjoy as a college student. And I could only hope it wasn’t the joke I’d viewed choir to be in high school.
Did I ever tell that story?
Look, I know a lot of people took choir at Patrick Henry and they took it seriously. My sister was one of those people. But I remember signing up to take choir as an elective during my junior year of high school, walking into the choir room, and very quickly realizing that this was not the place for me. Because I looked around the room and saw a bunch of kids who clearly only had one thing in mind: socializing. I also saw a choir director who barely took attendance on that first day. As soon as that first class period was finished, I visited my guidance counselor and dropped the class.
Like I said, lots of people took choir in high school and loved it. They didn’t treat it like the easy A that it was. Those kids even loved the choir director/teacher, whom I’d seen as just a glorified babysitter who seemed frustrated with her job. That was just my experience.
Anyway, back to Bluefield…
I remember the first time I met Dr. Heape. She was the head of Bluefield College’s music department at the time. And she was the director of Bluefield’s audition choir, Variations. I don’t think I realized it at the time, but there were several choirs available for students at Bluefield. Bluefield Singers was a non-auditioned choir that kids could take as a fine arts credit. The Masterworks Chorale was another non-auditioned choir, but was also open to members of the community who wanted to be part of a choir.
At least I think that’s the way it worked. I didn’t know Bluefield Singers existed until after I’d already joined Variations. I don’t think I knew Masterworks was a thing until they sang in the school’s Christmas concert.
Oh yeah… I got sidetracked there. The first time I met Dr. Heape was in the bottom of the chapel, where all of the music classes were held. She was in the hallway, just outside her office, talking with one of the few students at Bluefield that I already knew. Granted, at the time, we didn’t know each other very well. Trevor was a student I’d met while on a mission trip a couple summers before.
Anyway, I asked about auditions and, upon hearing my speaking voice, Dr. Heape assumed I was a tenor. Like I’ve got a high speaking voice or something… She was happy about that because, apparently, they needed another tenor or two. Trevor, I learned at this point, was also in Variations, but sang the baritone part.
So Dr. Heape ushered me into her office where she had me sing a little bit and prove that I could read music. Now, I’ve never been able to just look at sheet music and play the piano. But I know what notes fall where on the page and I could even pick out a line of music on the piano if you don’t expect me to play more than one note at a time. Apparently, this was good enough.
I made the cut and was invited to begin rehearsing with Variations the very next day. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday thereafter, at 4:00, I made my way back to the bottom of the chapel for rehearsals.
This led to performances in local churches for Sunday mornings or special services. We sang for convocation on campus sometimes. We held concerts for special events. And in the spring, we left for choir tour.
Choir tour was something I was kind of nervous about that first year. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was because I’d be paired with one of the other guys as a roommate for the week. I mean, I’d already had two pretty horrible roommate experiences that year, so here’s, potentially, another. Maybe it was the fact that during this tour we were being housed by strangers from the churches in which we’d be singing throughout the tour. Maybe it was the fact that I’d be missing a week of classes.
No… that last one couldn’t possibly be it.
I’m pretty sure the tour that year took us to the eastern portion of Virginia. I want to say we were around the Virginia Beach area… so that’s what I’ll say. I don’t remember for certain.
I do remember that we shared a huge charter bus with the Bluefield Singers kids. Actually, most of the Variations members were also in Bluefield Singers, which was led by Chris Sheppard, a music teacher who I believe was new to Bluefield that year. I felt a little odd being one of only three people who just sang with Variations. Because it meant that, during our concerts, while Bluefield Singers took the stage, I sat on a front pew in some church watching while everyone else joined the other choir.
Felt a little awkward.
I sang with Variations for four years total and got to go on several other choir tours. But those are stories for later.