The Power of Music

About 5 years ago, a friend of mine invited me to her church where she was singing in the choir. I went with her a few times to choir rehearsals, during week nights. I was impressed by both the choir’s dedication, volunteering their time, and their sound. I watched and listened as the music director would break a piece apart, work through each section, with the basses, the tenors, the altos and the sopranos until everyone’s delivery was perfected and then brought it all together. Their choir had never been seriously recorded, at least not professionally and I became very enthusiastic about actually recording the choir, getting it on CD and letting them hear themselves the way I was hearing it.

I told my friend how twenty years before, I had arrived in Taiwan from the US as a recording engineer. I had been working in the Hollywood area, in recording studios as a freelance engineer and also doing club mixing for a number of bands in the Los Angeles area. I was contracted for six months to do a recording project in Taiwan to record the second album basic tracks for LoTaYu (羅大佑) and to handle the front of house (FOH) mixing for his live island tour. During this time I came to love the slow pace and the friendly people of Taiwan and eventually settled here.

When my friend told the choir of my idea of recording them professionally, they reacted I think with both skepticism and a little fear. But I told them, they really did sound good and the acoustics of the church would make for a very rich sound. (This was the landmark church on Nanking East Road that has since been torn down to make way for an MRT station.) I knew the reason for skepticism was that no one expected the quality of sound that I knew I could capture. We did our first recording at one of the choir’s live performances. After doing my post production magic, a few CDs were passed around and the jaws started to drop. Every bit of the performance and energy was there on the CD and for once, everyone in the choir knew how good they sounded.

From that time on, I’ve worked on one or two recording projects a year, each time resulting in commercially molded and packaged CDs. It was around 4 years ago that I started to collaborate with Professor Chen. One of those memorable projects was the “Winter Rose” CD. I never ask for money to record, but I do insist on getting ten or fifteen of the finished CDs that I can keep and give to friends.

One of those CDs was given to my assistant at work. She later left our company but we still remained in touch. Two years ago, her father passed away after a battle with cancer. When I saw her last, this year, I mentioned that I was still doing some recording. It was then that she told me this very touching story.

She gave the CD I had given her to her father, during his battle with cancer. She told me that it became her father’s favorite music and that he listened to it almost everyday. She said the music brought her father “comfort” during his last days. When I heard this, the hair stood up on my arms and neck and it hit me all at once the amazing power of the recording arts. I had always known the power to capture a performance, to preserve it over time and to spread the sound to many different ears. But now I also realized the profound effect this music could have on the listener. I just wish that everyone that sang on that CD could have heard those words of thanks and gratitude from my friend for her dying father.

I wanted to share this story for two reasons: One is to let those of us already involved in these projects, the choir singers, the pianists, the music directors and others, to know that this is really a very noble cause; the power of music. We have all spent many hours, whether in rehearsal or performing or recording. I myself spend countless hours in post production, going over track by track, editing, mixing and mastering. Never become frustrated, because the results are worth it, even if the reward is not immediate.

The second reason I share this story is to try to inspire others, that they may find a way to contribute, by joining a choir if you think you have the voice, by joining in with your instrument if you are a player, by doing CD cover artwork or layout if you have the artistic ability or by contributing financially by purchasing these CDs when they are available. Most of us volunteer our own time, but there are definite expenses that are incurred, lunch boxes, transportation, recording equipment and even CD manufacturing itself. For myself, I’m not doing it to make money, if anything it is quite the reverse as I have invested nearly NT100K in state-of-the-art mobile recording equipment. For me, it is my small way to leave a mark and maybe there are others, like my friend’s father, who will be inspired to find God or be comforted in their pain by listening to this music.

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