Days off and Millikin "Vespers"

After what was a very busy week last week, we’ve now had 4 days off and it’s time to get back on the stage (which will happen tomorrow). The performances have continued to go well but I’m glad we had a bit of a break, even if it wasn’t long enough to allow me to zip home to the States. I’ve done my customary great deal of walking in the city and just relaxed. There are other projects to prepare as well. I usually try to work a few months ahead on music so that I’m in good shape when the next job starts. I am anxiously looking forward to Christmas with the family and am getting my mind around “Salome” once again for Geneva, Switzerland which comes early in 2009.

The picture above was taken at the 50th anniversary of “Vespers” at my alma mater, Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, earlier this month. Every year, the music department at Millikin presents an extraordinary series of concerts before Christmas which utilizes the combined strength of the various choral and instrumental organizations. It is indeed a treasured holiday musical feast for the community. In this picture you can see Dr. Brad Holmes, the current Director of Choral Activities at Millikin (an incredible musician and friend), and one of the dearest ladies I’ve ever known, Mrs. Kay Hoffland. She and her husband, Mr. Richard Hoffland, began the celebration of “Vespers” a half century ago and established a tradition of choral singing that has influenced so many singers around the world. I learned so much in my vocal studies at Millikin---how to sing, act, etc. But it was singing under the direction of Mr. Hoffland where I first began to LOVE to sing. What a huge influence Mr. and Mrs. Hoffland have had upon my life---and that influence is still felt in every performance I sing to this day.

From what I understand, the concerts this year were once again a grand success. Mrs. Hoffland even played the piano on a few numbers including a piece with the youth choir that is seen on stage in this picture.

I have sung on nearly every major operatic stage with the finest conductors and with incredible colleagues. I have performed with many of the best orchestras and in the world’s finest cities. However, I’ve always said that there has never been, in my life, a greater musical experience than singing in the Millikin Choir under the direction of Richard Hoffland. I can’t imagine that experience can ever be surpassed and I am grateful for every memory of that time floods my mind. Go Big Blue!