Beautiful Voices Creating Peace Within Us

I seem to have a fascination with ironies and contradictions in the arts. Unlike some composers who thrive on creating dissonance and chaos and mashing things together, I prefer simpler and more gentle statements, on the whole. There can be a lot of loud power and anguish in my music, but I think and hope that the calm and soothing voices generally win out.

I love pondering the seeming contradiction of peace, of utter serenity, emerging from an overwhelming gathering of hundreds of voices singing with passion. This is what I experienced recently at a rehearsal of Eric Whitacre's music, conducted by him and featuring Joanna Burrell, soprano soloist. Because she is a friend and colleague, and as I know how beautiful her singing is, I was not surprised that in the gentle simplicity of Goodnight, Moon she warmly lifted the power of this beautiful music to a hall full of people. So we were all riding high a bit later when 800 voices filled that hall with more music, gripping and exciting and gorgeous. What was most magical was the way that both experiences, both those thrilling peaks of vocal music, actually made me feel at peace, soothed, that I could not have even spoken had I wished to. It is like a singular point of calm in a huge storm, a miniature perfection in a swarm of ideas and actions. Beautiful music can literally freeze a person in place. Sometimes that happens when the tiniest and the grandest statements meet.

--James Gibson


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