Two weeks, seven rehearsals and one dress rehearsal.
That’s all the time the BYU-Idaho Concert Choir had to learn six new pieces for their performance with Grammy-nominated violinist Jenny Oaks Baker during her Friday, May 6 concert in the BYU-Idaho Center whilst simultaneously getting ready for their devotional performance of “Be Still, My Soul” on May 3.
“I was excited, but I was also stressed because I didn’t realize how soon into the semester the performance was,” said Reagan Jeppesen, a senior studying music. “We really needed to work hard. We needed to kick it into gear, if you will.”
Baker and Kurt Bestor, the music’s composer and conductor of the concert, invited the choir to participate in the show, which served as the world premiere of Baker’s album, The Redeemer.
“I don’t know about everybody else in the choir, but I was like, ‘This must be perfect,'” Jeppesen said. “This can be nothing less than perfect, you know? I had really high expectations of what we should be doing and what we should sound like, and I think a lot of other people also had those high expectations.”
During the winter semester, the members of the Department of Music faculty were asked if they could be involved in preparing the choir for the concert. Eda Ashby, the choir director, stepped up to the plate, ready to ensure the choir was singing the music exactly as Bestor wrote it.
“I was delighted that when he (Bestor) called us in the dress rehearsal for certain notes that ‘That note is wrong, altos,’ and then he got out the score and looked at it on the piano and said, ‘You’re singing the note that’s here, but I need you to sing this different note. Change it,'” Ashby said. “We were doing exactly what he wanted, except that he hadn’t written it right.”
Having performed with Lexi Walker and Santino Fontana when they performed at BYU-I in 2017, Jeppesen knew she would have to devote time outside of rehearsals to make sure she was personally ready for the concert. She estimates she spent 30 hours learning the new music over the course of those two weeks.
“Even without the Jenny Oaks Baker concert, you should always work on your music on your own time,” Jeppesen said. “I feel like a lot of people did that, and I think that’s why it ended up being as good as it was.”
The opportunity to work with established professionals in the music industry inspired Wesley Esmond, a senior studying music education.
“That gives me a little hope because it’s like, ‘Wow, like these people are just normal people, normal members of the church just trying to live the gospel and everything,’ and they’ve accomplished so much through hard work and dedication,” Esmond said. “What can I accomplish with hard work and dedication?”
The choir could feel the Spirit’s involvement, especially with the tight preparation window. Jeppesen said it was one of her most spiritual experiences, and Ashby called it a miracle.
“We did everything we could to prepare, but I feel like God took us the rest of the way,” Esmond said. “It’s kind of like with life. We put our greatest efforts in, and God will not just make a difference, he’ll make all the difference.”