I just received word today of the death of someone I haven’t had much contact with for a number of years…but who had a significant impact on my life.
Millicent Daugherty was active in the fine arts for many years in my hometown. She sang the soprano solos in Handel’s Messiah for the Independence Messiah Choir eight years, and that is where she impacted me.
One of those years, the choir–or a small portion of it (that could fit in a TV studio)–sang a number of pieces for a combination promo / community services program. I was accompanying them at the time, and among the pieces selected were a few of the favorite solos.
I don’t remember who the other soloists were. I suppose that’s because we practiced their pieces a couple of times and they were satisfied that we were ready and would do a good job.
But that wasn’t Millicent’s way. She was going to be singing “I Know that My Redeemer Lives”–and we practiced it until I was about ready to scream! She had it down by heart…I knew it well…why did we have to keep going over it?
I discovered part of the reason why when we began the filming. Everyone was a bit nervous…unsure of what was going to be going on–and there a number of distractions with all the cameras. I don’t remember any problems with the other soloists–I guess it went well.
What I do remember with Millicent’s solo, though, was that because of the hours of practice we had put in, we both knew it so well that nothing could distract us. We were perfectly together–I knew what she was going to do! We were in tune!
And for Millicent, that solo wasn’t just words. It was her statement of faith. There was no doubt in her mind that her Redeemer lives.
She taught me a lot in that experience. I’m not a vocal soloist–my area of music is keyboard playing. But she reminded me of the importance of knowing something so well that you can be right with someone, making changes if necessary without anyone being any wiser. She helped me understand that music can be a witness of what you believe–it’s more than just words and / or notes on a page. She taught me the importance of practice, even if I’ve done something many times before–each performance is new to those who hear it, and I need to make it the best I can.
Her music, as Bach’s, could indeed be prefaced by “Soli del Gloria”–“to God alone the glory.” And I will never forget her testimony–“I know that my redeemer lives!”