Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Singing

It doesn't truly seem like Christmas if I'm not singing in some performance or another. But because the season is so busy, we tried to keep our performance schedule somewhat simple. We sang in a Sacrament Meeting here, a musical number for a Bishop's Storehouse fireside there. Our two big ones where we were able to share our whole program, were at Temple Square and for a Relief Society in Taylorsville...the ward I grew up in, actually. My mother, who was the Relief Society President at the time, booked our group to come sing for their Christmas party way back in March. When my parents decided to move last summer, I asked my mom about the program. "Oh, I'm sure we'll still be around at Christmastime. Houses take a long time to sell, don't they?" Not theirs. It sold the day after they put it on the market. So I worked the details with the new Relief Society president...not a problem in the slightest seeing as I had known this woman since I was very little. If I'm remembering correctly, I think she was even one of my young women leaders when I was a teenager. And though it's been over 20 years since I officially moved out of the ward, I was surprised at how many familiar faces I recognized, and how well they still remembered me. 

Our program wrapped around Mary, the mother of Christ. I especially liked this quote by Bruce R. McConkie that I had the opportunity to share in the program...
"Can we speak to highly of her whom the Lord has blessed above all women? There is only one Christ, and there is only one Mary."



The Joseph Smith Memorial Building on Temple Square is such an amazing place to sing...the acoustics were awesome, and nobody decks the halls for Christmas quite like Temple Square. It's such a beautiful place, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building especially. We also sang at the Church History Library.
-Sarah

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mixer and mics!

With the money we earned from our Veterans Day Deseret Book gig, we bought sound equipment. Here's a few pictures at our rehearsal this morning as we try to learn how to use the mixer. Is it weird if I admit how geekishly excited we all are about each of us owning our own professional microphones? Up till now I personally only had a cheesy little American Idol mic that went to the kids' karaoke machine...

 Catrina did the original research into the various equipment brands. Once we had an idea of what we wanted, Kami made the trip to the store, chatted up the sales guy for info and actually bought the stuff. Julie has been our champion in actually digging into the manual and figuring out how everything actually works! Here she is during one of our songs, listening through headphones as she sings along, trying to make sure the sound levels are right.

 Catrina bought a special stand for her mic so she could be hands free to play the piano for a few of our songs.

The realities of our rehearsals....lots of kids under foot. Between the five of us we have 18 children. And yes, most of them are at school while we rehearse, but the youngest few tag along. Ask them...betcha they know the words and melodies as well as we do!

Cheat sheets as well as microphone in hand! Got the notes down...still fumbling some of the words!

-Sarah

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wearing hats...

Although this program for a Kaysville Relief Society might not have been as flashy as our Deseret Book Veterans Day....it was every bit as wonderful.
Our program...all about hats. Yes, you read that right...hats. More specifically the hats we wear as mothers and women. The message we shared had much to do with how to access the atonement in our daily lives and how women of God can never truly be women of the world....all while wearing the various hats that we do throughout the day. The taxi hat, the chef hat and maid hat, hats for being a teacher, a hair dresser, a nurse. But also the inner changeable hat (rather than interchangeable), the I'm-not-all-put-together hat, the hat of enlightenment, the blemished hat, the hat of comfort/warmth, and even the silly hat.
We sang, we shared testimony. And with the audience we laughed and we cried. It was truly a privilege and honor to spend the evening with such sweet and wonderful Relief Society women who were so welcoming and excited to hear what we had to share. We left with not only gifts of sweet treats and a vaseful each of beautiful flowers...but also with our spirits lifted and our hearts full.

-Sarah

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Veterans Day


It was a shocker when we got a call from the vice president of publicity for music from Deseret Book a few weeks ago. She had heard of us and got our names from the Davis Arts Council...and was wondering if we'd be willing to dress up '40's style and sing for their Veterans Day Event at their flagship store at the City Creek Mall in Salt Lake City. We were interested and excited just at the invite to perform....but while on the phone she also felt us out for future possibilities of performing at Time Out For Women and Women's Conference and also recording. Well, oh my and holy wow!!
 Needless to say, despite the fact that we had a performance already scheduled for a Relief Society two days later and it would be an entirely different program, we jumped at the opportunity and started some heavy duty rehearsing immediately. That heavy duty rehearsing was a hindrance AND a blessing to our daily lives. It was a little overwhelming at times to make arrangements for the extra rehearsals, to plan and prepare two entirely different programs. There were a few tears shed here and there. But the spirit we felt as we buckled down and dug into our music and the messages we planned to share was equally overwhelming in a truly wonderful way. We knew we were being aided in what we were trying to accomplish and our families were being blessed for their sacrifices.
The Veterans Day program was also the DVD release of Saints and Soldiers Airborne Creed. The program consisted not only of the seven numbers that we performed but also messages from the director and actors of the movie, the author who wrote the book the movie was based on, and speakers Representative Curtis Oda and Congressman-elect (and author) Chris Stewart. But the true stars of the day were the veterans. A few even from as far back as WWII, the room was filled with them. I'm not even sure I have the words to express what it felt like to sing The Star Spangled Banner with all those veterans, most in their dress uniforms and medals, standing at attention with their hands in a salute. Veterans Day took on a whole new meaning for me...a more deeply appreciative one. And even if nothing else comes from this opportunity with Deseret Book other than this one performance...it was still incredibly worth it!
After the performance was finished, the meet and greet was concluded and all the pictures had been taken, we headed across the street to the Blue Lemon Cafe for lunch. The Saints and Soldiers group had the same idea. They teasingly and often called out to us from across the room to sing. "Hey....flash mob in 5 minutes. Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. Okay?" ha. ha. ha. We had fun joking around with them. But as we were getting ready to leave, they directed our attention toward a table in the corner where a newly returned missionary was enjoying lunch with his family for the first time in 2 years. Stephanie marched right over to welcome the missionary home, understanding well that first day home feeling, she having served a mission herself...albeit many years ago. I'm sure the family was rather surprised to have a quintet of women all dressed up in bright red lipstick and '40's garb come over to talk to them....but then even more surprised to have us break out into a 5-part harmony rendition of "I'm a Child of God." Surprise or no, they were all in tears, the whole family, when we finished. It was like the frosting on the cake.
-Sarah

Monday, October 29, 2012

Rehearsing....

video
Working on some choreography for one of our "Silly Songs".....

We're presently working up a program for a Relief Society performance in November, a 40's-themed mini-program for a Deseret Book sponsored preview of "Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed"/Veterans Day program, also in November, and a Christmas program for a couple of performances in December.  All programs, though overlapping a bit, have different songs, different segues, different themes. So we are BUSY!

It's hard, sometimes, to balance life....and our roles as mothers and wives with rehearsals and performances. We all have things pulling at us in our own personal lives...different responsibilities, trials, and just daily "stuff." And so a lot of times it's a juggling act, trying to be aware of and sensitive to everyone's various needs and schedules as we proceed forward.

But we feel strongly that we are on the right path, so with much prayer.... proceed we do.

-Sarah

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Unity

"Unity is a holy thing....It requires listening, weighing, pondering, seeking inspiration, speaking up, articulating problems, and recommending solutions. It means that when decision is made in council, all agree and support that decision wholeheartedly. It means we will not hold back and sabotage the final decision, even when it wasn't the one we brought to the table....UNITY DEPENDS ON our recognizing that each of us has different talents and skills to contribute - different gifts - and THAT BY UNIFYING THEM WE CAN FUNCTION AS A WHOLE."
- (Virginia Pearce, "The Beginning of Better Days: Angels and Epiphanies")

This rang very true from our practice thought yesterday. Everyone needs to have a voice when ALL are in unity. Unity IS holy.


-Julie

Monday, September 17, 2012

Name change: We are now Higher Ground!!

We've changed our name! A little bit of an explanation is probably in order. We loved the idea of the name Witness and what it meant...standing as a witness through music, of motherhood, womanhood, the gospel and any and all things that are GOOD in this life. All the same, we waffled back and forth on using the name Witness officially. Did we sound like Jehovah's Witnesses? And though it worked alright for religious performances, we found ourselves decidedly uncomfortable when doing more secular things like singing at Cherry Hill or Layton's Broadway night, or singing a national anthem somewhere. At a recent rehearsal Catrina was sharing with us the new song she had written...she said it was called "Higher Ground." And just like that, we knew. Our heads all flipped up in unison, we got goosebumps, and then the chatter started..."that's perfect!" Still acting as a witness....but doing it from Higher Ground.


-Sarah

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Girls Night at The Nashville Tribute Band concert!

Taking a break from doing rehearsals and performances of our own, we drove down to the Sandy Amphitheater to sit in the audience and watch The Nashville Tribute Band perform. A perfect girls night! Strangely enough, I'd never even heard of The Nashville Tribute Band, let alone seen them perform. I was expecting a country group covering well known country songs. So I was rather surprised when out walks Katherine Nelson, a gal who actually lives in our own stake, singing songs about strength and hope and family...songs that were very decidedly LDS. And even more surprised when Jason Deere, Due West and the rest of the group that make up The Nashvhille Tribute Band joined her and started singing songs about the Restoration of the gospel and missionary work! (Albeit, with a redneck, country twang.) I got chills when I realized that this is exactly what we want to do! They are singing to sold out audiences not only in Utah but all over the country and into other countries as well...some of their audience most likely not even members of the church but people who enjoy uplifting country music. We are doing the same thing but on a much smaller scale, obviously. And equally as obviously...not country style.  :)

Jason Deere had a big line-up of people waiting to get autographs, take pics or just shake his hand after the concert. We were actually just passing by when he grabbed us and pulled us in for a photo-op. I felt a little bad for all the people who were already waiting in line but we took the opportunity and handed the camera to a nearby person. It was dark outside and the lighting was a bit funky so the picture didn't turn out stellar. Still, we're thankful to have it because it brings back some fun memories.
(Julie....we missed you!!)

-Sarah
--------------------------------------------
 See below for a bio on The Nashville Tribute Band if you are interested. I found their beginnings and how they have and continue to organize their group rather fascinating...but maybe that's just me.


ABOUT THE NASHVILLE TRIBUTE BAND

Award-winning songwriter and Nashville record producer Jason Deere regularly invites a revolving cast of talented artists and musicians that he calls the Nashville Tribute Band to join him in touring the world performing the stories and songs from the albums Joseph: A Nashville Tribute To The Prophet, Trek: A Nashville Tribute To The Pioneers and THE WORK: A Nashville Tribute To The Missionaries.  Over the years Dan Truman (of the Grammy Award-winning country group Diamond Rio), Brad Hull, Matt Lopez and Tim Gates (of the country group Due West), entertainer David Osmond, actor and recording artist Katherine Nelson, country artist Billy Dean, Ron Saltmarsh, pop artist Mindy Gledhill and Dyer Highway are all among those who have often joined the stage with the band.  The band has done over 500 shows for audiences in the U.S., Canada, Australia and China since 2004.  They have performed in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City as well as several performances in the Tabernacle on Temple Square.
“In 1989, four months into my mission in Las Vegas, Nevada, my companion and I rode our bikes home to our wretched little pink trailer house on Boulder HWY. After getting settled that night, I walked out on the porch with my guitar and wrote a song about Joseph Smith called ‘Lamb To The Slaughter.’ That moment on that porch was truly the beginning of these projects.
Trying to make a living in Nashville, I didn’t write another religious song until 2003, when I was called to teach early morning Seminary. We were covering the Old Testament that year, and I immediately had this crazy fascination with The Restoration. I was teaching Exodus in the morning and reading everything I could get my hands on about The Restoration in the evening. I was immersed in both subjects and something started to change in me. Suddenly, songs about the Restoration started coming out of nowhere. I wrote two or three, and then called my friend Dan Truman, of the country supergroup Diamond Rio. I went to his house and played him the songs. We knew we had to do something. We had no idea what the world would think of redneck Mormon songs, but we knew that we had to make an album – for us, if for no one else. In a few weeks, I had written all but one of the rest of the songs for the album (the last song, a song about Hyrum Smith, came as songs sometimes do – on the morning recording sessions were to begin).
In June of 2005, the first album with this project was released: ‘Joseph: a Nashville Tribute to the Prophet.’ The release, to our amazement, has been one of the best-selling LDS albums ever, leading to hundreds of concerts for thousands of people all over the United States, Canada, Australia and China. It’s also led to another album, ‘Trek: A Nashville Tribute to the Pioneers,’ and in 2011 yet another, ‘The Work: A Nashville Tribute to the Missionaries.’
We love our history. We love our religion. We love the way we feel each time we look out at a group of people and sing songs about people who we know lifted the fullness of the everlasting gospel from the dust of the earth with their own sweat and blood so we could be so blessed today. We love to meet you after the shows and hear how you love the “main characters” of the Restoration as well. These years, and these songs, have changed us all forever.
That’s how it all began, and I hope that this is truly the beginning of many more opportunities for all of us who live at the end of this dispensation to connect with those at the beginning of this dispensation. We are one dispensation. We are strong. We are blessed. May we be forever thankful.”
Jason Deere

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Singing the National Anthem for Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband...

The Davis Arts Council...the organizers of the Broadway Talent Show that we sang in this past June....asked if we would be willing to sing the National Anthem at the Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband concert at the Kenley Amphitheatre in Layton. It just so happens that we had a pretty rockin' arrangement of The Star Spangled Banner that we had worked up for our Cherry Hill concert. Frosting on the cake...free tickets for the actual concert for each of us plus one. Can you say "date night?" So our answer was, ABSOLUTELY!

Meeting Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband and hanging out with them for a bit in the green room was a lot of fun. The high-fives we received from them as we traded places on stage...us coming off, them moving on...was a highlight.

Lots of "way to go's," "good job's," and "you sounded amazing's"...from the organizers back stage and members of the audience as we made our way back to our seats for the actual concert...were really gratifying and humbling. One lady even came over personally and said, "I voted for you!" referring back to the talent show in June. Another, at intermission, asked if we did concerts of our own. When I told her about the Cherry Hill performance we had just finished, she was disappointed that she hadn't known because, she said, she would've really enjoyed hearing more from us. I only document these comments and compliments...not to brag...but to acknowledge how much they meant to us. That maybe it's a small sign that all of our time, work and sacrifice has not been in vain, and that it is indeed, worth it to continue on.

Doesn't it figure that even with our husbands in the audience, we didn't think to assign one of them to take pictures of us singing? That we didn't even pull out our cameras until after the concert was well underway? Well, regardless....here's a few shots of Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband performing. What a thrill to be able to share the same stage as these talented guys!

-Sarah


Friday, July 20, 2012

Cherry Hill


A couple of weeks ago we performed at Cherry Hill in Fruit Heights as part of their summer weekend concert series. Not only did the hour long show go off without a hitch, but glory be...it was fun!!! Thankfully, because it made all that hard work worth it....oh my, did we spent A LOT of time getting ready for this! We debated long and hard about our song list...and then started searching for accompaniment tracks. The concert being outside meant there was no possibility of any live piano accompaniment. Then, as is our tradition, we got to work on writing harmonies, descants and special arrangements of all of our music. Putting together a theme for the program, writing little segue's in between each number, staging, choreography....we even had specific assignments for who brought which stools, benches and microphones on and offstage for each number. And we practiced...boy did we practice! Even when Catrina went to McCall, Idaho with her family for the summer (she made the long 7 hour drive back specifically for the concert) we rehearsed with her via Skype. All of us singing and dancing on both sides of the computer monitor.


After starting things off with The Star Spangled Banner and then a special version of America the Beautiful and Taps on the trumpet by Stephanie's father in honor of it being Independence Day weekend....our program had to do specifically with American families through the ages. We all came up with little thoughts threading through and connecting our songs together. From tributes to slave and Indian families as we sang Down in the River and Blackbird, to families living through WWII as we performed Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, to wondering when we would find the one, trying to be perfect parents and having confidence in our roles as we raise our families. Other songs included Somewhere Over the Rainbow, I Have Confidence, Practically Perfect, When Will My Life Begin, Take Me As I Am....and ending with I Will Seek Him and I am a Child of God.


We had a pretty good turn out...we were pleased. But mostly, what great fun, what an amazing feeling to be up there on that stage singing together!    


------------
September 2012
Update: Cherry Hill concert organizers have called with the news that not only were we one of their very favorite concerts of the summer, but also one of the highest audience attended. They've asked us if we would please come back next summer and perform TWO different weekends. Well, okay! (See us grinning?)  :)

-Sarah

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Show Layton Your Talent...Broadway Edition

It was a spur of the moment thing, the decision to audition for the Layton city talent show. We had to make the decision AND have a song chosen all within a day and a half. A Broadway themed show meant that we had plenty of music to choose from...but somehow the three of us were drawn to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from Wizard of Oz. Had the show ever even been on Broadway?  We found out later that it had not, somehow...regardless that it is one of the most performed stage shows ever. Interestingly enough, at this very moment this particular song is actually being used in a Broadway show about the life of Judy Garland. Lucky us. So despite the fact that it would only be Julie, Kami and I (Stephanie and Catrina both scheduled to be out of town) we found ourselves a copy of the sheet music and went to work arranging a solo into a trio. And boy howdy, did we do a good job! I'm rather impressed with the arrangement we wrote! The judges must have been impressed too. Because of 60 auditionees, we were one of 15 chosen to go on to the actual Talent Show performance.  
The three of us were blown away from the get-go with our "competition." Through the mandatory meeting and then later, the dress rehearsal we started to get to know the other singers. And wow! Genuinely talented and genuinely nice. And you know what? Not a single one had chosen to sing anything from "Wicked" or "Phantom of the Opera!" I was so proud of us! Not that I don't enjoy those shows. I've seen them both and own each soundtrack. But they are SO popular that they've become kind of...music for the masses, I guess. And maybe that sounds really snobbish of me...but I was really excited that this talent show consisted of 15 Broadway songs that had some real variety. And variety was probably a really good way to describe all the performers themselves. As much fun as it was to perform on stage...I think I enjoyed just as much, if not more so, hanging out in the green room behind the amphitheater with them all throughout the evening. Because though we were all so different, we had one major thing in common. We were all theatre geek performers....which equaled out to a room full of personalities that are big and open, social and not at all shy. It didn't take long for all of us to be swapping stories, sharing performing experiences, rooting for each other, giving hugs and advice....like we had all known each other for years.

We didn't win. But I didn't expect to. The judges from the auditions were being swapped out for audience participation in the winner selection process. Which more or less meant that the evening was a popularity contest. Or whoever gets the most friends and family to come and vote for them, wins. And I was okay with that. Yes, I know this sounds like I'm trying to put a graceful loser spin on the story. But honestly and sincerely, just the fact that we had been chosen to perform at all was enough for me. It was a truly memorable evening.      

-Sarah 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Photo Shoot

You may or may not remember me mentioning that I am singing in a newly formed little women's group.  We call ourselves "Witness."  Our goals mostly revolve around doing performances for and sharing our testimonies with church activities...Relief Society and Young Women events, firesides, etc.  But this summer we have branched out a bit.  Three of the five of us auditioned for a talent contest in a neighboring town.  Of 60 auditionees, we were one of the 15 performers chosen to sing in the official talent show.

All five of us are also scheduled to perform at Cherry Hill next month as part of their weekend summer concert series.  Rather than just one song, we are putting together an hour long concert...which, as you can imagine, has kept us very busy over the past weeks.  Along with choosing and practicing songs we are also busily discussing "costume" choices, choreography/staging and "segues"...as we call them....the little bit of talking we do in between each song to interact with the audience and connect them from one song to the next.

It's a lot of work.  But these 4 other women have lifted me, both spiritually and mentally, in ways that I didn't expect.  They are good, they are kind, they are talented and they honestly care about me.  They allow me to be myself...whether I am giddy and excited or anxious and worried or grumpy and hormonal.  They don't judge me.  I feel safe airing my opinions....even if it is contrary to what someone else's opinion might be.  I can't believe how much fun it is to truly collaborate on a song with these women....taking a solo and writing in harmony parts and making the number uniquely our own.  I sing soprano on some numbers, on others I sing alto, sometimes tenor, sometimes a high descant...all of us taking turns working different parts.  It's a lot of fun. 

Photographs were required by the powers that be at both the talent show and Cherry Hill.  Here is a sampling of what we got.   

-Sarah    

Photography credits go to Kami's brother....the amazingly talented Brady Burrell. 
Thanks, Brady!! You are awesome!       http://bradyburrell.com/