Monday, December 29, 2008


Allow me to pose a question: do people who have lived in essentially one place their whole lives take that place for granted? For me, I think the answer is yes.

I was born in Chicago and lived there until just after my fourth birthday, when my family moved to the Chicago suburb of Oak Park. Oak Park is still my permanent residence, although I currently live on the campus of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois for a little less than two-thirds of the year, but even then I am only twenty miles from home. Thus, I have spent most of my essentially one place. Do I take it for granted? Well, I certainly hope that no one ever has evidence that I take Wheaton College for granted, and I similarly hope that I never forget how fortunate I am to have grown up in such a safe, affluent community as Oak Park.

But I do think I take for granted one specific aspect of my lifelong location: my proximity to the City of Chicago. As I mentioned above, I was born and for four years lived in Chicago. Even after moving into Oak Park, I went into the city with moderate frequency. My dad’s parents’ house is in the far north side community of Forest Glen, and I have been there probably once a month until I started college. During the summer my family made a habit of going to the annual Taste of Chicago, as well as places like Navy Pier and Michigan Avenue. I have been too a few Cubs games and Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts in the city, too. So I am no stranger to the city. But I honestly think that it took going to college and hanging out with people who were not very familiar with the city for me to finally appreciate it.

It is tradition at Wheaton College that all new students take a trip downtown in small groups during Orientation. My class was no exception, and I spent a fun afternoon and evening in Chicago with some new friends last August. Our activity for the afternoon was a scavenger hunt, and I found myself able to use my knowledge of major points of interest to lead my team to victory.

In the first three semesters of college, I have made many more trips into the city from Wheaton. Twice I have been to concerts in Millennium Park, once to the Jazz Festival, once randomly last December with fellow then-freshmen to celebrate the end of our first semester, and most recently this past semester leading my own Big Sibs group and later in the semester for a Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert.

This past weekend, I met a locally living friend from school, Ben Alle, in Chicago, and we wandered around the downtown area for an afternoon. Ben mentioned that he sometimes did not realize it, but he really liked the city. I agreed. As a future professional musician, I know that I will probably spend most of my working life (if not my whole life) in or near a major city, because the major cities have the performing arts organizations that will employ me. And I have no qualms about that whatsoever. I like cities. I like the bustle, the excitement, and just the sheer size. (The chase scene near the beginning of Attack of the Clones is probably one of my favorite scenes from the Star Wars movies).

And Chicago in particular will always have a special place in my heart. I have wild dreams of being a United States Congressman and quite separately retiring in Colorado, so I know I may not always be in Chicago or its surrounding suburbs, but I will always think of the city as my home. It is a wonderful city. Our professional sports teams sometimes disappoint (generally with more frequency near the end of their respective seasons), but I will always be a proud fan of the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago Bears. We have the world-renowned Chicago Symphony Orchestra (I am thoroughly excited that incoming music director Ricardo Muti begins his tenure in my senior year of college and thus I know I will definitely have the chance to see him in concert). Macy’s has unfortunately taken over Marshall Field’s, but we still have the Magnificent Mile and all its wonders. And I cannot imagine tiring of the Cloud Gate (also known as “The Bean”) sculpture in Millennium Park. We are home to President-elect Barack Obama, and, although it is not certain, it is quite possible that the Games of the XXXI Olympiad (the 2016 Summer Olympics) may come to Chicago!

All I have mentioned is only the smallest glimpse of all that makes its home in Chicago. To my fellow students at Wheaton College, I urge you to take advantage of the city’s offerings while you are in the area. And for everyone else, do drop in some time.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Love's Pure Light

I have been home on winter break for three days now, and it was a little unnerving at first to have virtually nothing to do (save Christmas shopping) after a fast-paced, extremely busy last month of the semester at Wheaton College.

But, I have reestablished equilibrium mentally, and I would like to share a little about one highlight from the past month: Love’s Pure Light, the 2008 Wheaton College Christmas Festival. To start, let me note that this year’s festival was the first large-scale Conservatory production in which I have performed, although I was involved in two such productions last year; last year’s Christmas Festival and the Artist Series presentation of Berlioz Requiem.

I know, of course, that the week preceding these productions involves extra extended rehearsals and that a mild hysteria pervades the Conservatory community. During the preparation week itself I did not feel particularly flustered, but I realized when I crashed on Sunday afternoon that that was because I myself had been running on adrenaline all week. But I recovered after finally getting a good night’s sleep.

All the preparations must have gone well, because both performances of the festival that weekend, in my opinion, went well. I really enjoyed performing in such a large production. The house was all but sold out both evenings (if I remember correctly, there were only fifty tickets left when the box office opened for at-the-door sales on Saturday night).

My favorite part of the program was the first number that featured the Symphonic Band when we took the stage after intermission. “Sing Noel, Sing Hallelujah” is a piece for choir, congregation, wind ensemble, and organ. I would like to reprint the words here:

Come behold this Child in the manger
Gift of the Father’s great love
Angels look down as His glory surrounds them
Starlight from heaven above
Sing Noel! Sing Hallelujah!
God with us now come to dwell
Sing Noel, lift high His praises
Christ our Emmanuel
Christ our Emmanuel

Lift up your heads all who wander in darkness
Shine for your light has come
Down through the ages though sin’s battle rages
Christ our Messiah has won
Sing Noel! Sing Hallelujah!
Come adore on bended knee
Sing Noel, lift high his praises
Christ come to set us all free
Christ come to set us all free

Let every daughter and son of the Father
Rise on this Christmas morn
With heaven voicing all praise and rejoicing
Christ our Redeemer is born
Sing Noel! Sing Hallelujah!
All creation great and small
Sing Noel, lift high his praises
Christ come to save us all
Christ come to save us all

[Words by David Hamilton. © 2007 Word Music.]

It is a great piece of Christmas music, in my opinion. Since I began my serious study of music, I have developed a critical ear and taste for music, and I have recently found myself turned off by a small portion of Christmas-themed repertoire (e.g., “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman”). But I really enjoy a well-written and well-orchestrated Christmas anthem such as “Sing Noel.”

The title of this year’s festival, Love’s Pure Light, is taken from the third stanza of the hymn “Silent Night.” I have to admit, this hymn has never been one of my favorites. But I was moved as I sang the last verse a capella with a 2400-member audience, a 200-member choir, and a 60-member band. I want to commend Dr. Mary Hopper, artistic director for the festival, on her work this year. It was a very uplifting experience for me.

Side note: you may be wondering what is my favorite Christmas hymn? Actually, I have two. “Angels from the Realms of Glory” and “O Holy Night.” I also do enjoy a good arrangement of “Carol of the Bells” for brass choir or combined choir and orchestra.

Merry Christmas! May you experience the love of our Lord in a fresh way this week!

This is Rubio, over and out.