First off – I will admit that this post shares the title of two (spectacular) How I Met Your Mother episodes, as well as an Old English rhyme-turned wedding tradition; but I prefer these words in the context of their straightforward definitions. I find that “Something Old and Something New” accurately describes my experience with Essence of Joy over the past two semesters.
The “Something Old” was and is singing. I sang in middle and high school in various groups and productions, and grew in many ways through the experiences and opportunities that I was given. Its a passion of mine, and one of my major tools for being successful in other aspects of my life. But I’ve talked about that before.
Conversely, the “Something New” was just about everything else. As freshmen, were were all inundated with “new,” and I’m sure that we could all compose a very thorough list of the aspects of college that took us by surprise.
The people that I met in Essence are some of the most talented people I have encountered at Penn State, and they all have absolutely enormous hearts as well as a bizarre and unnatural amount of energy that doesn’t seem to run out. As I have mentioned in previous posts, they are all wildly different, but yet ardently support each other in their out-of-choir endeavors.
Although I mentioned music as the “Something Old,” I had not been exposed to such inspiring diversity. African-American spiritual and gospel music has an indescribable soul to it that is naturally lacking in other genres of music. Beyond that, the vast majority of our performances took place at all-black places of worship, which showed me yet another community with their own traditions and ways of worship.
I’ve mentioned before that I don’t consider myself to be as religious as a majority of the choir, nor as I may seem in writing a blog about a gospel choir. I often struggle with where to draw the line between religion (in my case Christianity) and science/the world as it is. Essence has proven to me that there is to be no line in reference to certain aspects of religion, aspects that I am now convinced transcend any barriers that you try to put in place.
Paramount among these are happiness and hope. In singing with this choir, I have seen that what we convey to audiences through our encounters with them can bring people joy and hope, and that is what truly matters to me. We were in New Jersey last weekend, and as I was carrying equipment out to our bus a man stopped me and said, “You guys are changing lives – please, don’t stop.” Being a part of something that has this sort of effect on people has been a whopping “Something New” for me, but has given me many opportunities to listen, learn, and grow.