Reflections of the ministers and senior staff.

Finding Your Inner Brunnhilde

Before you know it, the holidays will come and go, leaving us with inevitable resolutions. Whether it’s jettisoning carbohydrates, noticing the key fob which tells you what gym you pay for every month, or finally finishing that great novel, many of us will make and break a great promise to ourselves. If you are still among those who succumb to this annual tradition, I invite you to add to the list a pledge to find your inner Brunnhilde.

This entry isn’t so much about the iconic Wagnerian character, as much as it is about a college classmate who is playing the role to great acclaim. In fact she’s considered possibly the greatest dramatic soprano of our time, and preparing to don the horns and breastplate for her 2019 turn at the Met's production of The Ring. The performance will likely cement her reputation as an all time opera heavyweight, and yet the casual fan will be completely unaware that she almost didn’t go into singing at all.

Christine started off as a woodwind player, with the goal of becoming a high school band director. According to her, she was a pretty bad clarinetist, which the faculty soon discovered. She switched gears and declared to family that she was going to be an opera singer and one day sing at the Met, an aspiration roughly on par with waking up one day and declaring you’re going to play for the Yankees. Problem was, she had never really sung before. Long story short, we all watched her first at chilly SUNY Fredonia, and then at SUNY Stony Brook explode into a dynamic lyric soprano. One tour de force role after another, and here we are.

What is your inner Brunnhilde? Does it exist within you despite a perceived artistic, creative, or even spiritual shortcoming? What if you woke up on January 1 and declared you will win a Pulitzer, a Nobel, or a spot in the Philharmonic? What if you went into it knowing you will probably fail in your resolution, but succeed in voicing it aloud? We can’t all wear a breastplate at the Met, but we can tell ourselves what we want, what we need, and maybe take some baby steps in a way that is healthy and fulfilling. See you at the opera.


 Every summer it was the same. Pack a sleeping bag, and a week’s worth of contraband snacks, and take the seven hour bus ride to Haliburton, Ontario. The attraction was a youth camp for reform Judaism. The Jewish youth circle in my small town never exceeded a handful, so I was always happy to make the trip.

Invariably, by the end of the first evening a guitar would be brought out, and we’d settle in for an hour of singing the common songs we learned in our own congregations. Shaky adult voices from home disappeared from memory and were replaced by a hundred high school singers, all realizing we were experiencing a special sense of belonging.

Looking back, the adults were pretty smart. They provided the foundation of a culture of singing in dozens of small congregations, and only when we came together did we feel the payoff. In talking to a number of church friends who come from various Christian traditions, I learned for them it was the same.

But what of UU? Would two hundred high schoolers at summer con enjoy the rush of familiarity as the first guitar chords of a song special to our tradition rang out? Would they involuntarily flinch toward a hymnal that wasn’t there, vaguely remembering half a verse or a chorus, but not really feeling connected?

This past year, ERUUF received a significant grant from the UUA, augmented by a generous match from the Foundation to support the foundation of a culture of singing among UU youth. We know that the richer the religious experience is for our children, the deeper the connection to UU will be in adulthood, and so we hope ERUUF can be ground zero for something special. We identified 22 songs which reflect our history, our diversity, and our values. We professionally recorded them using the wealth of talent in our fellowship. We created an RE teacher’s guide so that this resource could be used in our classes. By having songs shared throughout the program, we will first capture a little bit of that familiar magic by singing here and there around campus.

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Gospel Workshop

Recently in service we had the opportunity to experience the power of gospel together. Our Eno River Singers and Beloved Community Chorus joined with singers from One Human Family, accompanied by a powerful rhythm section, all under the baton of Dr. Raymond Wise. While not everyone personally espouses the religious traditions at the roots of gospel...
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