Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Want to hear great church music? Head to the train station.

As a transplant from New York City who spent lots of time in the public transportation system (I commuted to high school from the suburbs for four years), I was astounded to discover this NYTimes story.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, 17 people with sheet music gathered in a semicircle in the Graybar Passage at Grand Central Terminal. People streamed by. After a brief warm-up, the group’s conductor, John Hetland, dressed in dark jeans and a green plaid shirt, lifted his hands and the chorus began its a cappella rendition of a polyphonic hymn, “Kyrie,” by the 15th-century German composer Heinrich Finck.

The hallway filled with sound, the baritones roiling like cumulonimbus clouds, the altos and sopranos shooting through like light, the melodies intertwining. The voices carried down the hall and were faintly audible in the Main Concourse. A crowd gathered to listen, but no one gave money, because there was nowhere to put it. When the song was over, Mr. Hetland turned around to face the small audience.

“We’re the Renaissance Street Singers,” he said, “singing the music that we love to sing and to share.”
I had never heard of this group until today; commuting to and from Long Island probably contributed to that. (Grand Central Terminal serves the suburbs north of Manhattan; and compared to GCT, NY Penn Station is positively ugly, both visually and acoustically.)

Here's the Wisconsin connection:
Mr. Hetland, 71, has been singing choral music nearly all his life. His father, Henry Hetland, was a Lutheran campus minister at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (where students called him “Pastor Hank”) and, later, the executive secretary of the National Lutheran Campus Ministry in Oakland, Calif. In Wisconsin, he had directed a 50-voice choir, and he taught his four children to sing multipart hymns and folk songs to pass the time on long car rides. Soon, Mr. Hetland, his older sisters, Pauline and Maren, and his younger brother, Jim, were singing complex music as a treble quartet.
Read more here.

(HT Dcn. Kandra)

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