Elizabeth Swanson isn’t happy. Her students are singing a choir favorite, and their pitch is perfect, the harmonies in sync. But they aren’t feeling it. Worse, they aren’t believing it.
“Okay, okay, let’s hit the pause button,” the director of the Nyack College Chorale says while waving her conductor’s hand in the practice room in Lower Manhattan’s Battery Park. Nyack’s Chorale is the soul of a music program known for its wide range of repertoire and its heartfelt rendering of classical sacred music. The choir is rehearsing a gospel song of thanksgiving called “Come Before His Presence,” and Swanson wants more from the singers’ depths.
“So we’re stepping,” she says to the chorale members, referring to the way in which the singers move in choreographed unison, “but it’s very academic. I want you to dig deep with every step. I mean really.” She pivots from music teacher to pastor.
he reminds them of what they believe about Jesus and how he died for their sins. “We can’t just be going through the motions in rehearsal. We have to practice really living it. Faith without works is …”
“Dead,” the chorale answers at once, the chorus of “mm’hmms” and “Amens” swelling as Swanson preaches.
“That’s right, so let’s go on,” Swanson says. “And be thankful.”
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