Minot Chamber Chorale to put on virtual concert
DL-B student’s poem set to music
Mia Wiese, a freshman at Des Lacs-Burlington High School, has put to words what many students in the area have been feeling since the restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic upended their lives.
Her poem about the pandemic was the winner of a statewide poetry contest earlier this spring. Emerson Eads, director of the Minot Chamber Chorale, set her words to music this summer.
On Oct. 18 at 2:30 p.m. the Minot Chamber Chorale will launch its first virtual choir concert singing “I Will Go On – Pandemic Poem.” The 5-minute concert will be streamed on the Chamber Chorale’s Facebook page and will be free to view, though charitable donations will be accepted. Prior to the concert, there will be interviews with members of the choir. The interviews will be streamed at 2:30 p.m., with the concert streaming at 3 p.m. that day.
Wiese, who turns 15 later this month, said she entered the contest because one of her friends was entering and wanted Wiese to do it with her. She wanted to get all of the different feelings and perspectives people around her had into the poem.
“It was a lot of screens and I missed my friends and everything,” said Wiese about the feelings that inspired her poem.
When she found out that she had won the contest, Wiese said “I was in shock. I didn’t think I would win because everybody else was entering.”
Eads contacted her earlier this summer and asked her if he could change a few of the words in the poem to make them a better fit with the music.
Eads said he is used to some of the poets he works with being very protective about their work and they sometimes object to their words being changed, but Wiese readily agreed.
Wiese said Eads was “great” to work with.
Wiese also won $150 as the prize for first place in the contest.
Eads said the Chamber Chorale had to cancel its spring concert last April due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was kind of hard at the time not to be too despondent,” he said.
He got the idea for a poetry contest as he was driving through town and kept seeing the paper hearts that people had taped to their windows as a sign of hope.
Years from now, he thought, the kids in town will be talking about what it was like to live through the coronavirus pandemic. He wanted to find a way to express those feelings in music with the theme “life and love in the time of COVID-19.”
When the poetry contest was announced, the organizers received submissions from high school students all over the state. There were even some would-be submissions from teenagers in New Jersey and California, but Eads said those regretfully could not be considered because the contest was only open to North Dakotans.
“The poetry was just so beautifully felt and everyone took it really seriously,” said Eads. “It made making that cut for the winner so difficult.”
Eric Furuseth, an English professor in the Minot State University English department, chose a few of the submissions that he felt were among the best and presented them to Eads for consideration. Eads said he considered which of the poems would be readily set to music, with words that “feel good to sing in the mouth.”
Wiese’s poem stood out as “beautiful” and expressed the emotions that have been so common for everyone during this time.
“(It) talked about the whole idea of being locked in and the choices that we have to either submit ourselves to this safety or … to go out and break the rules,” said Eads.
She talked about having too many screens and not enough contact with people and underlying depression, but realizes that she can go on with the help and love of her family and friends.
“The poetry really hit home with all of us,” said Eads, “hearing this young, unadulterated perspective … It might not have been so penetrating if it was an adult writing. (There was) this innocence and directness about the poem that was attractive to me and to the board.”
The performers in the Chamber Chorale have also put in a tremendous effort to put the virtual choir performance together.
Each singer heard the score, with their own part highlighted, and had to record themselves singing individually and send it in. Up to 30 members of the Chamber Chorale and the same number of Minot State University choir members participated. The final performance was produced with the help of virtual choir producer Laura Sam. Eads said that Sam’s past career as a choral conductor aided her in producing the beautiful final product. Sam had asked people to submit photos of life in Minot during the pandemic to aid her and told Eads that she feels connected to Minot, North Dakota. She lives in North Carolina but people there have experienced the same things.
Eads said Jazmine Schultz will be the soloist during the performance.
“It expresses the resilience of humanity that’s expressed in the poem,” said Eads.
I Will Go On
By Mia Wiese
I will go on
What should I do?
Should I be lazy?
Should I be active?
Should I take a chance? Or…
Should I play it safe?
There are too many screens
And not enough people,
No proper goodbyes,
No proper greetings or gatherings.
I can’t do this much longer,
I can’t play by these rules.
But then I hear…
What is it I hear?
It’s the sound of love.
From my family,
I have love.
I can go on.
I will go on!