A Singing Saint in the Big Apple
By Olivia Wall
Ask me what it is like to work with nationally recognized composers and arrangers and perform in Carnegie Hall all within the same weekend. As hard as it may be to believe, I am able to tell you. Being merely 17 years old and just beginning to tap into my passion for music as well as music performance, I never in my wildest dreams would have thought about performing in New York City under the direction of incredible musicians like Greg Gilpin and Joseph Martin. However, on Monday, February 17, I sang in Carnegie Hall with about 200 people celebrating the 75 anniversary of Shawnee Press, a music publishing company.
Gilpin has a Bachelor’s Degree in Vocal Music Education and now is a nationally known, award winning composer and arranger. He is the Director of Educational Choral Publications for Shawnee Press and conducts different choruses all over the country. Working with him this past weekend was the most fun I’d had at any rehearsal ever, but trust me, there was a lot of work to it as well. Gilpin’s high energy and enthusiasm kept everyone focused and involved. He emphasized the extreme need to annunciate every consonant while singing and feel the music as you sing. Gilpin conducted our chorus for five songs, Why We Sing, Battle Hymn of the Republic, Bill Bailey, Wayfaring Stranger, and Hope. The combination of fun rhythms and lyrics, as well as heartfelt ballads had the audience in awe and ready for more when Martin walked out to deliver his set.
Martin has a Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance as well as his Master of Music degree in Piano Performance. He then taught piano and shortly after began to compose his own music. He is the Director of Sacred Publications at Shawnee Press. He is known across the country for his choral compositions and is published by multiple companies. Martin’s style varies greatly from Gilpin. His approach to music performance is bold and proud. He doesn’t toy around with games and jokes. He was strictly business but still managed to captivate the entire chorus during rehearsals. Every single person eagerly awaited his direction and was striving to learn from him. Martin conducted our chorus for six songs, including the finale. His set included Shout to God, You Raise Me Up, God of Heaven, Come to the Music, Going to the Holy City, and the final song, God Bless America. The audience was stunned after every song was completed, especially You Raise Me Up. Once that song was over, everyone on stage heard a subtle “wow” come from the audience. I thought I could never feel more proud of myself than I did in that moment, but then we sang God Bless America and the audience went absolutely insane. The only thing I could do to keep tears from streaming down my face was look up to the ceiling and thank God for those 49 minutes on the Carnegie Hall stage.
We spent roughly seven hours in rehearsal with Gilpin and Martin and I assure you, those seven hours have made me an immensely better performer. The five days I spent in New York City encouraged me to never give up on my dreams. Greg Gilpin and Joseph Martin encouraged me to never give up and I didn’t even have to have a conversation with them. The heart and passion they put into every single performance was clearly evident as I stood in the chorus and watched them direct us. I know I have said it 100 times already between my family at home and at school, but performing at Carnegie Hall is a life changing experience. Whether you are debuting as a soloist, instrumentalist, or even just singing in a chorus, one must think about all of the “greats” that have been on that stage. Just having the opportunity to stand there makes me thank God for my gifts in life. I loved every second on that stage and I would do it again in a heartbeat (obviously).