Posted by admin | Posted in My Box | Posted on 07-04-2012-05-2008
Saturday, April 07, 2012 12:00 AM | Printer friendly version | E-mail to a friend | Comments
Editor’s note: Dr. Phillip Burgess was honored March 27 at the Mayor’s Spirit Luncheon for using music to bring the community together. here are excepts from his speech.
I am thrilled to be here today at this Spirit Luncheon to speak to the mission, ministry and music of the Salisbury Ecumenical Choir.
I placed music last because music is merely the vehicle that we as a choir use to further our ministry and our mission. Our sole purpose being to break down barriers and build bridges between all people in our community. Building a community one note, one measure and one song at a time.
Music costs money. The Salisbury Ecumenical Choir receives no monetary support from any one source. Major support for the choir comes from community foundations that support the “grassroots” mission of the choir. Additional funding comes from choir members themselves.
A great deal of the music that we perform is either donated or purchased at a significantly reduced price. yes, big music publishers do indeed have a heart when you start telling them of the mission of the choir. And perhaps I do add a little arm twisting.
although I am being honored today, I really want to give credit where credit is due. The choir members themselves deserve the praise. without singers, conductors might as well be waving their hands in an open field.
The choir membership is drawn from more than 30 churches throughout Salisbury and Rowan County. this year we also were honored with the addition of some residents of Rowan Helping Ministries.
Mayor Woodson really wanted the entire Ecumenical Choir to sing; however, if we had done so, there would be no room for you! We will, however, at the conclusion of my part of the program, enjoy a medley of songs performed by Phyllis Partee and Rebecca Stinson. any time you can hear these ladies perform, it is a blessing and a happy day.
Additionally, there is one very special person not with us who deserves the real credit for the choir’s success, our former Mayor Susan Kluttz.
In 2001, Mayor Kluttz and I began a conversation in the produce department of a local grocery store. She told me of the impending sister-city proclamation and the visit of a large contingent of officials from Salisbury, England. She wondered if the Parish choir at St. Luke’s would present a program in their honor. She wanted to make them feel at home in our historic church and show them the “real” Salisbury. Of course I said yes.
However, as I continued to shop the aisles, I looked at the customers. there were Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic, Asians and people of all races, nationalities and creeds, a total cross-section of the population. indeed the food variety in the aisles also spoke to what I had just observed, if not even to a greater extent.
Nearing the end of my shopping excursion, I once again ran into Mayor Kluttz in any Episcopalian’s Favorite part of the store, The Wine Aisle. After suggesting to her that a bottle of Pinot Grigio might go better with the salmon than the Chardonnay she had selected, I told her of my observations.
what we needed to create was a choir that was indeed a true reflection of the City of Salisbury. The Chapel at Catawba College was selected as the venue, and along with the help of Phyllis Partee of Crown and Glory Lutheran and Pastor Godair of Cornerstone Church, a choir of 111 was formed for the Sister-City Celebration. Music for the performance included traditional choral works, shape-note hymnody, African-American spirituals, gospel and praise music sung in English and Spanish.
An amazing musical experience had occurred. many of those in the chorus had never sung in a racially diverse choir, let alone in a group with such a wide variety of music. I remember being so proud of what we had accomplished with only one program and I was flying high. My flight was short-lived, however, in that I soon was brought down to earth once again.
My dear friend and school board member, Kay Norman, walked right up to me as I was leaving and said, “OK, so what are we going to do with this group now? what is the next step? We can’t stop.”
it seems that others felt the same way, and a Christmas concert was organized. That annual event is now known as The Glory of Christmas.
Over the past 11 years or so, the choir has given numerous performances. these performances have generally been at the invitation of groups with a similar outreach missions: Rowan Helping Ministries, Gethsemane Baptist Church, Human Relations Council, just to name a few.
We have performed three times at the Martin Luther King Breakfast, which we would like to rename the Martin Luther King Brunch, and we have performed for Let’s Get Connected Day. In 2011 the group was invited to perform with the Salisbury Symphony Orchestra at the Pops at the Post Concert. The group was selected not only for their wonderful sound but also in recognition of their humanitarian efforts.
The choir holds minimal rehearsals in the weeks prior to a performance. I use the word “rehearsal” lightly, in that our rehearsals are more like church.
Members begin arriving at least 45 minutes ahead of schedule to talk with one another and if lucky, maybe Art Bolick will sing some Willie Nelson. At the conclusion of rehearsal, we have prayer time. And prayer time can take a long, long time.
Rehearsals are held all over the city with the help of my colleagues, Phyllis Partee, Rebecca Stinson, Ernestine Ingram, Kay Norman, Dr. Grant and Joanne Harrison and Thelma Banks. indeed, some of these rehearsals may have only a handful of persons, or may be just one on one with the director.
But that is how you build a choir, and that is how you build a community — one note, one measure and one song at a time.
many years ago the book “Everything I Needed to know I Learned in Kindergarten” was a bestseller. I thought to myself, obviously the author has no grasp on reality. I have spent 10 years in college and graduate school. I have a Ph.D. what do kindergartners know of math, science, business or making a living?
it wasn’t until I started working with the Mother’s Morning out program at St. Luke’s Church that I realized the author was entirely correct.
Have you ever observed a group of infants and toddlers? I mean really observed them? if you have, you will notice that Preston, Si-Lang Ji, Carlos, and Terrell’s minds are not concerned that the colors of their skin are not the same.
They just want to get that square peg in that round hole or that little train to stay on the track.
As a preacher said to our congregation a few weeks ago, friends, sometimes it is more important to unlearn than it is to learn.
what we learned in kindergarten is indeed what is most important in life. And that is, how to treat all people with dignity, decency and respect.
A few years ago, a CEO of a Fortune 500 company shared the secret of his success with stockholders and executives. Opening his coat, he held up a simple, colorful box, much like this one.
yes, the secret to his success was a box of crayons. Not the 128-color box, but the simple primary color box. He encouraged them to daily sit at their desk and doodle. Buy a coloring book. Observe that when the colors run together, they make a new color.
And yes, it is OK to color outside of the lines. Because when we go outside of the lines, new ideas and images emerge.
Our world, our nation, and indeed, our city of Salisbury is like this box of crayons. Every color is important, and no one color is more important than the other.
each color has something to add to the overall picture. without green and yellow, there would be no blue. without red and blue there would be no purple. Wouldn’t it be great if the city of Salisbury gave all its employees a simple box of crayons? can you imagine what would happen?
On the grounds of Robert Schuller’s church, the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif., there is a statue called “The Flight to Egypt.” it is an intricately carved life-size depiction of Jesus, Mary and Joseph making their way to Egypt to escape Herod.
The face of Joseph is rugged. The face of Mary is inviting. The face of Jesus is a mirror. this was a deliberate choice on the sculptor’s part in that when anyone looks into the face of Jesus, they see themselves.
As a child, my family traveled extensively. Travel is a way to learn and experience other cultures and other ways of thinking, and I am grateful for the experience, which has helped me to grow. However, we really do not need to travel to learn about others.
I am ashamed to admit that I have lived on my street seven years and only know the persons in the house beside me and behind me. Sure, I wave at the other neighbors, but I have never spoken with them. Salisbury is full of homes with porches. big porches with lots of furniture. Furniture that no one uses. When did we learn not to use our porches?
Today, I invite you to reconnect with the child that still exists in you. Grab your crayons, grab your toys, invite some friends over, sit on your porch, share your ideas, your hopes and your dreams. do not be afraid to color outside the lines or do things in ways that have never been done.
Learn that it is OK to unlearn.
Before I conclude this afternoon, I once again want to thank Mayor Woodson and the City Council for this recognition. I want to thank all of the members of the Ecumenical Choir and I accept this on their behalf. I want to thank the Rev. Whayne Hougland, rector, and the staff and vestry of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church for allowing me the latitude to continue this important ministry.
And I want to thank God for giving me the gift of music and the desire to teach and inspire others.
Dr. Phillip E. Burgess is organist and choirmaster at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.