In September of 2004, I encountered my first rehearsal as a young chorister in the St. Paul’s Choir of Men and Boys. I remember scurrying down the basement steps with my brother just in time for the head chorister to ring the starting bell, and trying to stand erect while my brother, Ben helped me follow the variety of canticles and anthems. As I was proud of my brother and thankful for his help on my first day, I was just a little jealous, because I was not tall enough to reach the top of the music stand, resulting in my inability to see Mr. Dwyer’s conducting, but rather only have the stunning perspective of his balding head!
As I look back on making the transition from being a normal, yet sometimes difficult and temper-tantrum-prone six-year-old, to a responsible chorister, I am instantly mesmerized by all of the qualities of this program including the variety of music, many services, the fabulous organ, suiting-up every week, friends, our relationship and service to God, and of course, the music directors. Throughout my eight years in the choir, I was able to learn from a smorgasbord of the most inspiring, creative, and quirky people I have ever known.
Mark Dwyer was my first choir director. Not only did he master the art of training twenty rowdy, smelly boys, but he also united all of the treble choristers socially and made us a true family. This was the most important mark on this choir that he left, in my mind. We were able to make music with people we knew so well, and who would be learning together for years to come. Also, I fondly remember Mr. Dwyer conducting with his well used and weathered pencil!
Giles Brightwell was instrumental in instilling discipline (with a very British flair!), strong commitment, along with brilliant energy and enthusiasm to our music making. He was an effective teacher and adored by the boys and girls. But most importantly for me, he has become a profound mentor and friend in all of my musical endeavors including piano, organ, theory, and composition. Even though he has moved on to other opportunities and places, today he still remains a significant person in my life who helps guide me through this influential time of decision-making toward my musical future.
The current music director, Robert McCormick is one of my greatest friends and role model. I have had the pleasure of learning from him for almost six years, and even though I am no longer a chorister, I am thrilled to be able to work with him in training the choristers and assisting on Sunday mornings. He inspires me to continue to learn and to do my best in supporting him and the music program in any way I can. The most important element of our relationship is his trust he has given me. From tutoring choristers, to providing support during services, improvising postludes periodically, and helping with various tasks needed for the music program, Robert has endowed responsibilities to me that I would expect an adult to have and I am so grateful for all the opportunities he and this music program he has given me.
The St. Paul’s music program has provided me a unique and exceptional foundation as a musician. But beyond that, the choir program has brought much more. Although the relationships that I have been privileged to experience with each of these amazing human beings have been incredibly profound in terms of my musical training and growth, it has been their teaching, care and support of me that have had a tremendous impact on my personal development. Finally, being in the choir at St. Paul’s has brought the strongest connection – my relationship with God. Singing every week has brought me closer to God and in turn has inspired me to pursue my future as a musician. I have decided to pursue music, and I give my most heartfelt gratitude to St. Paul’s, our music directors, friends, and all the people of the parish who support me, who with God’s guidance, help me pave the way to my future.
Alistair is a former Head Boy Chorister at St. Paul's, K Street.