This week marked Higher Ground’s first rehearsal after the summer break. Returning after a few months away from choir, I felt a renewed appreciation for the fact that I get to spend my Tuesday evenings with this wonderful group of people. And as our accompanist Julian Pattison began to play the first few notes of our warm-up on the piano, I thought about the important role an accompanist plays in a choir and specifically the important role Julian plays in Higher Ground.
Anyone who has sung in a choir appreciates the value of a good accompanist. Julian plays a crucial role not only in performances but also in rehearsals. He assists us in learning the music by playing our parts or a modified accompaniment. Hearing the piano part that accompanies the vocal score while we learn the music can help the singers understand and internalize the feel of a piece.
In Higher Ground, we sing a wide range of music. Fortunately for us, Julian is a talented and versatile musician. He has accompanied the choir on everything from vocal jazz to classical pieces to spirituals, skilfully capturing the distinct feel of each genre. Julian comes to every rehearsal prepared not only to play our repertoire but also to begin the rehearsal with an instrumental piece to accompany our physical warm-up. He plays a different piece each week from memory, often improvising to customize the song to what we are doing. His thoughtfully chosen pieces always set a positive tone for the rehearsal.
It is a treat to observe the collaboration between our director Janet and Julian. After working together for a number of years, they have learned to read each other’s cues and have developed a trust and mutual respect such that at times their communication does not require words. As a choral singer, there is a comfort in singing with an accompanist who knows your director and the choir so well. This familiarity means we can remain flexible during performances and adapt to the unexpected.
Being the lone man in a room of women each week takes patience and a good sense of humour, but luckily for us, Julian has both of those qualities. Julian is a quiet but integral presence at each Higher Ground rehearsal and we really miss him when he’s not there! Julian is a part of our group not only musically but socially. During our break, he mingles with all of the singers as we chat and catch up on each other’s lives.
Being a choral accompanist can be a somewhat egoless position by nature and Julian is also very modest. However, I think it is important that he knows how integral he is to our group and that he is deeply appreciated
by all of us. We look forward to starting another season with him and we hope he will be with the choir for many more years to come!
Mika asked her parents to sign her up for a community choir when she was 10 years old and she hasn’t taken a year off from choral singing since! When she’s not at choir or at work, Mika enjoys hiking, walking the seawall, and finding new places to go for brunch.