Magical Music

I finally got to meet one of my all-time favorite choral composers! Several years ago, I sent Ola Gjeilo a fan letter (I had created a pottery piece based on his choral work, Lake Isle; my high-school choir was singing the piece at the time), and Mr. Gjeilo wrote back to me, praising my TED-talk! He had plans for coming to Denver at some point, and I’ve been keeping tabs on that ever since.

Right after my return from Baltimore, the long-awaited concert happened – Denver-based choir, Kantorei, presented a full program of Gjeilo works, with the composer present to accompany and improvise certain pieces on the piano.     I was spellbound, my heart full to bursting with the beauty of this music and the intense vibrations of hearing it live – it’s magical what happens when people sing together! After, I got to shake Mr. Gjeilo’s hand and tell him how much his music means to me.

My own choir, Cantabile, has been rehearsing Ola Gjeilo’s Northern Lights as part of our autumn program, and after a musically intense weekend retreat in Estes Park, we had our own concert. The following week, we performed a sensory-friendly version! As with all my previous SF concerts, there were colorful projections which somehow embodied the theme of each piece, enhancing the sensory experience; plus, my choir director had some of us share insights on being part of a choir.

Here’s what I had to say:

Throughout my life, music has filled my heart.

Like many of you here today, I have autism — and when I was little, hearing my mom sing to me always brought my eyes and ears to her, thus helping me out of my isolated little autism world.

As I struggled with language, music and singing helped my brain with processing and understanding.

Then, as I grew to school age, singing kept me connecting with my peers as I participated in children’s choirs, musical theater shows, and eventually, all the excellent choirs at Fairview High school.

Now I’m an adult—and my heart and soul sing when I’m with Cantabile – I love the beauty and variety of our repertoire, and I love spending time with these people!

That’s why I got the idea for us to do a sensory-friendly concert here – I wanted to share the joy of Cantabile with you all!

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