Photo Above: Amber and Dr. Dan prepare for their first and only take of Be Thou My Vision … first take was a keeper!
My calendar on Tuesday, June 30, indicated a recording session at 3:45pm with Amber. An earlier email from Edie Dutton said, “Amber will sing three selections, accompanying herself with guitar on two of them and, on Be Thou My Vision, she will need you to accompany on piano.”
Amber Bormann, an alumna of the San Antonio Youth Chorale, participated in SAYC for two short seasons. Being highly involved in her high school music program, she was a very busy young lady.
In her first SAYC rehearsal, Amber was seated near the front of the alto section very close to the piano where I was accompanying. Almost immediately, I could tell she had no trouble singing her part with confidence and finesse. Amber intuitively blended well with the rest of the alto section, many of whom had been together for several seasons previously. After that rehearsal, the YouthCUE staff exchanged impressions of the season opener. Amber’s name came up as the first and only student who had submitted an extensive list of her musical and vocal accomplishments attached to her registration form. It was impressive! In subsequent weeks, it became evident that Amber’s training and experience would make her a new pillar in our already-strong alto section. Later that spring, I had the opportunity to accompany Amber in an audition for a summer musical to be performed at the Empire Theater. Since Amber was a senior when she and SAYC discovered each other, we soon realized she would soon be off to SMU after only two seasons with SAYC. Although a little sad, we were also grateful for the two seasons of her participation.
And now, please rewind with me about forty-seven years …
Growing up in Mexico City, I learned to play Be Thou My Vision in the summer of 1973. I found the “new hymn” in a little orange paperback hymnal. From the time I sight-read through it, it was an instant match! Over the next forty-plus years, I played arrangements of this tune for piano and organ solos as well as accompaniments for congregations and choirs.
On June 30, 2020, I was being called upon to accompany the hymn for this young alto soloist. But, wait a second, we are not doing it from a notated arrangement and I have not seen Amber in many months. She went away to SMU, and I cannot recall specifics of her vocal range. So, I now have forty-five minutes to get nervous about a recording session we will hit cold.
A little after 3:30, I arrived, facemask and all, in the Atrium where the recording would happen. Randy and Edie were there ready to begin recording Amber’s two songs with guitar accompaniment. I sat in the back of the room as she sang. Closing my eyes as I listened to Amber’s self-accompanied songs, paying attention to her singing style and range, I was struck again with how refreshing, beautiful, and pleasant her voice is.
I thought to myself, “When it comes to Be Thou My Vision, seems that a light accompaniment in D-flat might work well.” We rehearsed one stanza to verify the appropriateness of the key, checked the tempo and balance between her voice and instrument, exchanged some instructions about intros and interludes, and then we began the video. She sang one single take, and it was done. Beautiful! It was yet another memorable experience with a glorious, ageless, and ever-relevant old hymn. And once again, I am newly grateful to have had a part in passing it along to a new generation of singers!
Thou my best thought, by day or by night; waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Dr. Daniel Zamora, pianist and organist, is Artist in Residence and Coordinator of Finance for YouthCUE. Daniel also accompanies SAYC and often serves as a musical arranger for YouthCUE events, productions, and groups.
- Rewind your life and ministry a few years (or decades). Is there something musical that impacted you as a child or teenager that you have been able to reactivate to minister with today’s students? If so, please be prepared to tell your story.
- What about today’s students do you especially appreciate? In what ways do they seem more aware of the world around them than your generation when you were a teenager?
- As leaders, how can we be prepared to better transform our adolescent memories into blessings for today’s students?