The classical music world lost a bright light on the night of March 1st. Joe Flummerfelt was a renowned choral conductor, teacher, and consummate artist. Leonard Bernstein called him the greatest choral conductor in the world. In his obituary, the New York Times named him the pre-eminent American choral conductor of his generation. For me, Joe was one of my professors in graduate school, and my conductor and mentor as I sang under him for two years in the late 1970s in the world-famous 40-voice Westminster Choir. Then in the early 80s, when I joined the voice faculty of Westminster Choir College, Joe and I became colleagues and friends.
Joe was a man of deep spiritual faith. He and I were raised in the same church tradition, yet then evolved in our own ways into a broader sense of spirituality.
Joe expressed his faith philosophically in a more intellectual or perhaps Unitarian way, and artistically through his masterful interpretation of some of the world’s greatest choral masterpieces.
My path has been more intuitive, expressing my universal beliefs about how life works through my early-career work with performers in New York City, and in the last 20 years, through writing, coaching, mentoring, speaking, and teaching.
That said, the following words from Joe express in his language my own beliefs about why we are here. If words like “Holy Spirit” and “God” don’t resonate with you, it’s OK. Just replace them with whatever works for you. It’s the essence of his words that are important.
As we grow in love for and acceptance
of the life within us,
we will become ever more in tune with
and resonators for the life within us.
We become instruments of the Holy Spirit,
and the music we make touches the hearers
at their own center.
And the people with whom we work
are helped to connect with the source
For me, that is our calling,
as human beings and as musicians.
And if we accept that charge,
then the glory of God will be ever more manifest
in the lives we lead and the music we make.
Is this not our highest calling – to help one another connect with the source within? To touch one another’s hearts? To serve the awakening and full authentic expression of the human spirit that, at its essence, is Love?
There are many ways that you might describe Transformational Presence. Yet in the last few months, one of the ways that is front and center for me is “helping hearts find one another again.”
A broader description is “creating the optimal culture or environment for transformation to occur – a culture where both people and the more-than-human world can thrive.” That can only happen when we tap into the creative and sustaining force within us and encourage others to do the same.
In Donald Nally’s book, Conversations with Joseph Flummerfelt, Joe spoke about those transcendent moments when everything comes together. He was speaking about making music, yet his words also speak to the magical or transcendent moments of life.
I do long for those moments where everything is in place, where everything is flowing, and then the real truth comes from the source – whatever that is: God, the creative impulse, it doesn’t matter what you call it. And suddenly, things happen, which you couldn’t have planned. Real beauty is being created because all of the forces are perfectly lined up and a profound innermost connection is manifested.
Thank you, Joe, for the gifts you shared with me, and for the ways in which you inspired so many people. Thank you for helping all of us who sang with you connect with the source within ourselves. Thank you for making music that touched the hearers at their own center.
And thank you for so many moments in singing with you when, indeed, things happened which we couldn’t have planned – moments when real beauty was created because all of the forces were perfectly lined up and a profound innermost connection was manifested.
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