Both the Chamber and Adult choirs were under the expressive direction of Dr. Jason Max Ferdinand
August 23, 2023
Video URL: https://vimeo.com/840925740
During the Presbyterian Association of Musicians’ Worship & Music Conference held over two weeks, Dr. Jason Max Ferdinand took 400 already polished singers each week and worked them — worked them hard, at times — to put forth a glorious sound pleasing to the 700 or so people who gathered each week, and pleasing to God, too.
“I have to say, I’ve been very impressed with the level of musicianship with all the groups,” said Ferdinand, the founding artistic director of the Jason Max Ferdinand Singers and director of choral activities at the University of Maryland. “I’m trying to think if I’ve witnessed another denomination that can pull music off like this in terms of being able to read it and rehearse it on that level. It’s pretty astonishing, really.”
“I’ve just been really impressed with the musicianship here.”
During both weeks of the Worship & Music Conference, held each year at Montreat Conference Center in Montreat, North Carolina, Ferdinand conducted both the larger Adult Choir and the select Chamber Choir.
Watching Ferdinand lead a rehearsal of the Chamber Choir last week was both instructive and inspiring.
“Basses, you’re spot on!” he said at one point.
“All right, quick fix,” he said moments later. Once the choir made the fix, Ferdinand said, “ooh, that’s like epic music.”
During worship — and after just a couple of rehearsals — the Adult Choir practically raised the roof on venerable Anderson Auditorium with “Thanks Be to God” from Mendelssohn’s “Elijah.”
“I think it was a great challenge for the choir to pull it off with such few rehearsals,” Ferdinand said. “I thought that more people would have sung this prior to this conference.” During the initial rehearsal, Ferdinand asked how many had sung it before, expecting about 70% of the singers to raise their hand. Instead, about 10% did.
“It was a real challenge trying to pull it together quickly,” Ferdinand said, “but they did that.”
“It’s good pressure, but you have to pace the rehearsals very systematically,” Ferdinand said. “It’s been great working with the people here. They read music very well, and they adapt very, very quickly to instruction, so that’s been good.”
“Honestly, we don’t have time to even think about the challenges” of polishing the musical selections in such a short period of time, Ferdinand said. “We just dive in.”
A singing group as large as the Adult Choir “always has to think about articulation” so the product isn’t “muddy and messy.”
“But like I said, it’s been a ton of fun,” Ferdinand said. “They’ve adapted in a very — what’s the word? — malleable way.”
“I’ve just been reminding them to go with the text,” Ferdinand said of the work he’s put in over the past two weeks. “The text will inform us what our musical decisions should be.”
Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service
Today’s Focus: Presbyterian Association of Musicians’ Worship & Music Conference Chamber and Adult Choirs
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God of all people, you care for each of us. Strengthen us to go out and tell others the good news. We trust in your call to be disciples of Jesus and to be instruments of your mission wherever we go. We pray that our eyes and ears are open to answer your call every day of our lives. Amen.