Monday, August 26, 2019

Singing Praises, not quite as planned By Susan Aylworth

Our daughter, Rebecca, loves a challenge almost as much as she loves to sing. Becca and her eldest son, Caleb, signed up some months ago with a wonderful group that provided both challenge and the chance to sing; it also set them up for an amazing opportunity. In becoming part of the Millennial Choirs and Orchestra (MCO), they looked forward to several important concerts, their summer season culminating in a highlight performance in Carnegie Hall.

We heard their performance in Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City. Titled "Nearer, my God, to Thee," the concert began with an astonishing and deeply moving arrangement of "A Mighty Fortress" and consisted mostly of heart-felt sacred music. Since the New York City performance was scheduled for mid-July, they also offered a patriotic segment.

Five groups of choirs and orchestras from around the southwest studied the same music, preparing to divide into three casts, each of which would have one big night on the stage in the renowned Stern Concert Hall inside Carnegie. Becca and Caleb were in the "blue" cast, scheduled for Saturday evening, July 13.
With a once-in-a-lifetime experience ahead of them, and a world-famous, sold-out concert venue awaiting, Becca and Caleb endured an intense rehearsal schedule, costume fittings, and all the expected preparation.

That wasn't all. The rest of the family wanted to see them in concert, and since they were going to be in Manhattan, they certainly wanted to take a few bites of all the Big Apple had to offer. Months of work, planning, sacrifice and saving led up to the big day.

There they were, rehearsing on the concert stage just hours before the performance, when the lights went out. At first, they went right on. Accustomed to having the lighting technicians at work while they were, they continued rehearsal, using only the battery-operated lights on the orchestra's music stands. When the blackout did not ease, the group became restless. This wasn't just normal light-testing, was it?

Soon the Hall officials came in to report that something had happened, blacking out all of central Manhattan. Yes, their scheduled performance was on that night, the night the lights went out throughout the central city on the exact anniversary of the 1977 Manhattan blackout. July 13 also came during Manhattanhenge, the one time per year when the setting sun lines up with the downtown streets, making the sunset visible through the urban canyons.

For a short time, the musicians continued to rehearse, hoping and praying that the power would come back in time for their concert as scheduled. The Hall's staff knew when their fail-safe point occurred, the hour when it would be too late to load in an audience even if the power returned. When that time arrived, they came in to deliver the bad news: For the first time in its history, Carnegie Hall canceled a performance due to technical problems.

Imagine the heartbreak. This concert had been the focus of months of effort and sacrifice, not just for hundreds of musicians, but for thousands of their family and friends, many of whom had traveled to NYC to enjoy the experience with loved ones. Tangible disappointment chased them all.

As they exited the hall, one woman announced, "I came here to sing. Let's sing." Most of the orchestra members could not participate, given the difficulty of setting up instruments on 57th Street, but the singers quickly organized and an impromptu concert began. Their director came up with a makeshift podium and began leading.

As the sun set between the skyscrapers of Manhattan, the Millennial Choirs sang praises to God. Though they missed their opportunity to perform to the 2,800+ people who would have heard them inside the hall, they ended up singing to hundreds on the streets of Manhattan, many of whom would not have chosen to hear them on the stage. Several million have now heard their performances recorded on YouTube. (See #MCOINNYC I Stand All Amazed Carnegie Hall - NYC Power Outage; I Believe in Christ - MCO Outside Carnegie Hall, and others.)

The Millennial Choirs went to New York to sing praises in a famous hall, and ended up singing to the world.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 18 published novels. Her latest is SUNNY'S SUMMER, a sweet romance set in the Sierra foothills near her northern California home in the aftermath of the devastating #CampFire, also the second book in the "Seasons of Destiny" series. She is preparing to release AMBER IN AUTUMN, book 3; book 1, PARIS IN THE SPRINGTIME, is also available. Susan lives with her husband of 49 years, Roger. She loves to hear from readers. Find her at, @SusanAylworth,, or Also on Pinterest and Instagram.