I Had A Paintbox – Redux, Part 3

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

303 ReMinders

In case you missed it, here’s Part 2…

Video: What I Told the Kids That Night

I enjoyed their ideas and the insights they came up with to explain why they thought that Randall had placed the notes the way he did around those words. But I left my own thoughts out of it for the time being.

At the concert in November I took a moment after we finished The Pasture to tell the audience about our interaction with Randall Stroope. I told them how fun it was to watch, and how gratified I was that they had come well prepared with intelligent questions for the composer. And this was when I finally shared my thoughts about Tali Shurek’s The Paint Box. I chose this moment because it was my last with the 303 Choir for the foreseeable future, and I wanted them to understand not only what choral music can convey, but what I hoped they were learning from us on this night, in this setting, through this musical experience. Here’s what I told them.

“My grandmother was a painter. And I can imagine a situation where (had I been a little smarter!) I might have sat down with her and asked, ‘Grandma, How did you decide to live your life? What caused you to make the decisions that you made?’”

“And I think in her wisdom she might have said, ‘Son, you know I’m a painter. And I have this paint box. And I had the opportunity to choose the colors that went into that paint box – the colors that I wanted to use to paint my life. There were certain colors that I rejected. I didn’t want to have anything to do with colors that represented discord and pain and hardship. I chose colors to put into my paint box that would allow me to paint beautiful paintings and create a beautiful life.’”

“That idea is what I hope you guys will take with you – the idea that you have the opportunity now to put the colors into your paint box that you are going to use to paint the painting of your life. And I hope that you will do as the song says. That you will use that opportunity to create something beautiful. Let’s make beautiful things with that paint box, shall we?”

With that I turned back to the choir, gave the accompanist the downbeat, and we were into the music.

So what really happened that night? At least, what do I hope happened?

Here was a group of young people whose entire lives lay before them. Middle schoolers. High schoolers. Only starting to have inklings of who they are as unique individuals. I wanted to have an influence on who they will become. I don’t care what they become. I care that they become their truest, most perfect selves, whatever that might look like. So I planted a seed – the idea that they are the captains of their own souls. They will be the ultimate arbiters of what their life-paintings look like when they finally put their brushes away.

And here’s a thought. You are older than them. In fact, if you’re like me you’re approaching the end of middle-age. What does this idea have to do with you?

How about this? Just like those singers, your entire life, however long it may be, is before you. The reality is that some of those kids will have more time to create paintings than others. Some of us adults will have relatively more time to work on our canvases as well. There is no difference. Those of us with more time in our past have just that – a history. We cannot change it. We have no control over it. It will enrich our memories forever.

What we can change is tomorrow. What will your tomorrow look like? What colors do you need for your paint box? Will you reject colors that represent wounds, orphaned children, the face of the dead, burning sands? Will you choose colors warm, cool and bright? Colors that evoke joy and life? Buds and bloom? Clear bright skies? Dreams and rest?

Are you today living the life you were meant to live? Do you already have the paints you need? Then paint! If you are not today doing the things you were put on this earth to do, take out a new, clean canvas. Go get your paints. And paint the masterpiece of your life.

The Symphony of Your Life

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Link to Mark’s book, The Symphony of Your Life

http://www.symphonyofyourlife.com

Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-777s around the world, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Contact Mark today to schedule a keynote or workshop for your organization!

Email mark@symphonyofyourlife.com or call 720.840.8361

 

I Had A Paintbox – Redux, Part 2

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

303 Local Artist            Stroope and Lauridsen

Here’s Part 1 in case you missed it…

Ya gotta love the internet! We found a date when Randall would be in his home office and we’d be in rehearsal. It was all set.

On the appointed evening, we gathered in Travis’s basement and ate pizza while he set up the Skype connection. Before we knew it, Randall came on the screen, sitting at his desk in Stillwater, devoting his full attention to these 25 eager young people in Arvada, Colorado. Now what?

I had a list of questions prepared in case the conversation dragged, but it wasn’t needed. Right out of the chute one of the kids asked, “Why do you write music the way you do?” Not bad.

Randall didn’t miss a beat. He explained that it’s always about enhancing the text. The text always dictates how the music is written. Every aspect of the music – notes, rhythm, meter, harmonies – should be about bringing out the message that the poet is trying to convey. The music should always bring the words to life.

Next question: “What inspired you to compose The Pasture?”

“I wanted the music to convey the reality that Frost wasn’t talking literally about cleaning out a pasture spring. He was talking about building a relationship. So I built the notes around that idea.”

And so it went. Randall graciously gave us a huge chunk of his time. The kids asked several more questions. Then we sang “The Pasture” for him through the magic of the internet, us in Arvada, him over in Stillwater. Then it was over and he was gone. And the kids will never forget the night that they “met” a famous composer and actually got to speak with, and then sing for, him.

That was in late September. Our concert was scheduled for early November. So we had several weeks to introduce concepts of traditional choral music that were new to members of the 303 Choir. We would have been remiss had we not frequently referred back to their time with Randall, whose music they were now learning in earnest. As part of that process, sometime in mid-October I asked the singers what they thought Randall might have been thinking when he set the notes around the text in The Paint Box. I enjoyed their ideas and the insights they came up with to explain why they thought that Randall had placed the notes the way he did around those words. But I left my own thoughts out of it for the time being.

In Part 3 I’ll share what I learned from this experience, and what I hope the kids took away…

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Link to Mark’s book, The Symphony of Your Life

http://www.symphonyofyourlife.com

Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-777s around the world, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Contact Mark today to schedule a keynote or workshop for your organization!
Email mark@symphonyofyourlife.com  or call 720.840.8361

I Had A Paint Box – Redux, Part 1

A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle

 

This is a re-imagined version of a blog post from a few years ago. Hope you like it! – M

I Had A Paint Box

February 5th, 2014
The Paint-Box

I had a paint-box
Each color glowing with delight;
I had a paint-box with colors
Warm and cool and bright.
I had no red for wounds and blood,
I had no black for an orphaned child,
I had no white for the face of the dead.
I had no yellow for the burning sands.
I had orange for joy and life,
I had green for buds and blooms,
I had blue for clear bright skies.
I had pink for dreams and rest.
I sat down and painted
Peace

– Tali Shurek, Age 13, Beersheba

Several weeks ago I had the privilege of conducting the 303 Choir from Arvada. They’re a non-auditioned group of young people who spend the majority of their time together learning music in the style of their culture, that is rap and hip-hop. All with a tie to the Denver area. Hence, the name.

This is their third season since the group was founded by my friend and colleague from the Colorado Children’s Chorale, Maestro Travis Branam. And this year Travis decided that it was time for them to be exposed to a set of more traditional pieces of choral music. But how to tie traditional choral music to the 303?

This is how I came to be part of the 303 Choir.

Years ago I lived in Omaha where I sang with the Nebraska Choral Arts Society, conducted by #RandallStroope. Randall’s family and mine became friends through that and other musical organizations in Omaha. As our friendship developed I came to understand that Randall had spent quite a bit of time in the Denver area. In fact, he ultimately earned his Master’s Degree from C.U. in Boulder.

As way led on to way, I moved to Colorado. Now more than two decades later I work with the Colorado Children’s Chorale. Travis had organized 303 Choir as an affiliate of CCC, so I was well aware of how they were thriving. It was fun to hear Travis talk about their growth and his vision for expanding their musical world. He had brought them to the point where they needed some choral repertoire with a 303 connection. And Randall had become an internationally known composer.

Was there an opportunity here?

It was Travis’s idea to look into the Stroope connection. We started digging, hoping we might find three of his compositions that would be suitable to this choir. They would need to be accessible to singers who, though entirely enthusiastic, hadn’t had much formal training. And sure enough, that’s what we found. We decided to program Randall’s settings of Robert Frost’s “The Pasture,” Tali Shurek’s “The Paint Box,” and “The Inscription Of Hope,” from the walls of a cellar in Cologne, Germany, circa WWII.

Now, here’s something really cool about 303 Choir. Travis makes it a point to connect the choir with the artists whose music they are singing. He sets up regular workshops and invites in the performers. And they come. And the kids learn.

So how to get Randall together with the choir? He’s a full-time professor living in Oklahoma, and he travels almost weekly to musical events all over the country. Having him attend rehearsals was a low-probability outcome. So we went for the next best thing. Skype. Ya gotta love the internet! We found a date when Randall would be in his home office and we’d be in rehearsal. It was all set.

On the appointed evening, we gathered in Travis’s basement and ate pizza while he set up the Skype connection…

In Part 2 I’ll tell you about what happened when Randall came on the screen. Thanks for reading so far.

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Link to Mark’s book: The Symphony of Your Life

http://www.symphonyofyourlife.com

Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-777s around the world, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Contact Mark today to schedule a keynote or workshop for your organization!