Vancouver man raises voice in 9/11 memorial

Musician sang with George Fox University choir in N.Y. concert

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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Not a typical performance a few days ago for James Pick: The Vancouver musician was part of a 150-voice choir that represented a nation.

Pick was a member of the George Fox University choir selected to participate in New York City’s 9/11 memorial concert at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

“A Concert of Commemoration” Sunday was the weekend’s hallmark musical event in the city hit by terrorists 10 years earlier.

“They gave us a standing ovation at the end,” Pick said. “You could tell it was an emotional afternoon.”

The singers didn’t have that luxury during the performance, however, Pick said.

Rene Clausen, who composed “Memorial” to honor the memory of the 9/11 victims and conducted it Sunday, reminded the choir of its role.

“Dr. Clausen talked about it in rehearsal. Get the emotions out then,” Pick said. “If you’re crying during the performance, the audience is concerned about you” and not focusing on the music.

The 40 singers from the Newberg, Ore., university were among nine groups that formed the 150-member choir.

It’s an exciting process to come together in a weekend and produce that quality of music in a 20-minute performance, Pick said.

“It’s pretty spectacular, all those people, breathing together,” said Pick, who also is a composer, pianist and piano teacher.

The George Fox choir received an invitation to New York after concert organizers saw a video of the choir singing “Kyrie,” a five-minute portion of “Memorial,” on YouTube.

Pick graduated in April, but was included in the trip because he sang in the performance that drew the invitation.

“It’s pretty hard to pass up a trip like that,” he said.

In a university news release, choir conductor Loren Wenz said: “It is quite an honor just to be invited to perform in Avery Fisher Hall (at Lincoln Center), especially in light of this important performance. These talented and committed wonderful musicians not only represent a high quality of music and education, but they also become ambassadors for the community.”

They also got to squeeze some tourist activities into the four-day visit. They attended “The Lion King” on Broadway, saw some of the sights, and even went to Juilliard — part of it, anyway.

The school is across the street from Lincoln Center, and “we ate dinner Friday at the Juilliard cafeteria,” Pick said.

They also had a more significant connection with the world-renowned music school. Juilliard musicians formed a big share of the orchestra that accompanied the choir, Pick said.

“That was probably the best orchestra most of us will ever perform with in our lives.”

The performance had another interesting wrinkle. Look through the music book that Pick brought back, and you see the instruction “wail” penciled on a page.

“That was a pretty weird effect,” Pick said. “Dr. Clausen talked about how on 9/11, nobody spoke in complete sentences; they talked in fragments. He wanted to capture that.”

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558 or tom.vogt@columbian.com.