How is it that music knits us together, erasing barriers between souls, easing tensions, restructuring minds and emotions? How could a man, old enough to be my father, as tough as nails, bull-doggish in his approach to life, “untrained” in the fine art of music, a master in the world of banking and finance … how could such a soul bring me to my knees when he leaves this world? How is it that he made me feel the passion in each piece of music? How is it that he kept me rehearsing and performing for 15 years when I was exhausted with the tasks of teaching music to elementary school children…?
I lost a good friend just yesterday. He was not a “bosom buddy” to whom I would pour out my soul, yet I will mourn his loss for years to come. By trade, he was a banker, a loan officer who appeared, sobering and formal, when we applied for a new car loan years ago. I could not know, when I met him in his office at the bank that day, that our lives were to be entwined in ways that only fellow musicians understand.
He did not have the formal training in music that many of us who sang under his direction had enjoyed. At times, his “amateur” musical language and odd directing patterns drove us crazy! Yet, like a magician, he pulled from us much of the best music we have ever made. How did he do that?!
Ran listened to, and knew well, the very best choral literature the world has to offer. He memorized scores of it! And then, he found ways to get the printed editions of that best music into the hands of a diverse group of local musicians, some professional and some amateur… and he knit us together into a choir known as “Gaudete.” He rehearsed us for hours, for weeks, insisting that each note, each phrase, each instruction in the printed music be followed to the letter. We were never allowed to slide on anything!! Like the proverbial crusty schoolteacher, he kept our noses to the grindstone until he had pulled the very best possible from each of us.
It was his attention to detail. His understanding of the music. His preparation (Did I mention that he had every score we sang memorized. He always conducted from memory….. ) It was his vigilant, thoughtful preparation. It was his passion!!
And so, he instilled in each of us, and then called forth from each of us the passion written into the best choral music the world has ever produced. Did we sing every note perfectly? Rarely! Did Ran notice? Always! Did Ran make us go back and work those sections incessantly? Every time! … Did he understand that the best music is made in the heat of passion, when all the work and rehearsing is done, and musicians stand before an audience to offer their very souls through the medium of music? Absolutely!!
Ran got it! The best music arises from deep within the musician, from the places where we are the most human, and often, the most vulnerable. Such music often speaks far more deeply and truthfully than the spoken word. The best music is made when we sing “for ourselves,” and allow others entrance into the experience. As with all the creative arts, one must begin with those things that feed his/her own soul. The best artists focus on their passion, regardless of “the market.” The artists who really touch us are those who let us see their very souls.
Ran Minter was an astounding artist. Ran Minter let us see his soul. A man of few words, he spoke to us of things eternal, of realities that we might have missed, had we not been in Gaudete. And, he continued with that transparency until the moment when death opened the door to the next part of his journey … his last breath was drawn on the wings of his favorite anthem, “Sing Me to Heaven.”
Thank you, Ran, for the gift of music, for showing us how to do it, for leading the way. Save us a place in the choir!