This morning, I spent 90 minutes with one of my beloved heroes, Helen Kemp.
Helen and I had been working for over a year to bring this interview to pass. Alas, Sandy the Hurricane changed our plans last fall, and it has taken eight months to get back to the Philadelphia area. I had been looking forward to this interview with great anticipation.
I was not disappointed … nor do I believe you will be disappointed, either, as we begin to write up the interview and also post some short video clips in the coming days and weeks.
This jewel of a woman is 95 years old. Nobody seems more surprised by that than Helen. At one point, I asked her, “What has surprised you the most about life?” to which she shot back, “Oh … that I’ve been here so long!” We shared a good laugh.
And then she paused and continued, quite seriously. “Actually, it HAS been a big surprise that I have been able to watch so many people go through life from beginning to end, and I’ve had the opportunity to glean so much, to learn so much from these friends, students, neighbors, and family. I have been surprised to discover that there is great joy, GREAT joy, love, satisfaction, and happiness to be found in every stage of life.”
When Helen says the word “love,” angels sing. I’ve never heard anyone pronounce “love” with so much … well … LOVE!
She showed me a one-page collection of quotes which her protege, Sue Ellen Page, had put together for Helen’s 95th birthday (March 31, 2013 … more about that later). I studied the page with interest and delight, astonished that so much wisdom could be put onto a single 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper.
Here is the quote from the center of the page:
“Body, mind, spirit, voice. It takes the whole person to sing and rejoice.”
Helen Kemp has built a career, not so much around children’s voices, but around children. She is a world-class specialist in getting the very best choral sound out of those voices, but Helen’s philosophy – indeed her vocation and passion – centers around touching the whole student.
She has done so with such grace and such beauty. And she continues to impart that passion and plant those seeds everywhere she is.
I want to be more like Helen.
How about you?