An Ode to Dr. Haecker

Upon arriving at Emory & Henry College, I rejoiced at the idea that I could possibly stay in a choir for a whole year. Not that I had never done so, but since I am an undergraduate, I have always joined choirs in the spring and never in the fall.

In addition, the choral director I was referred to at E&H, Dr. Allyss Haecker, was a professor. Exeter, in contrast, has shed its music department away, sadly, and although we still have a few Steinway & Sons pianos remaining, our music groups are all student-led barring the Choral Society. This is the largest choir, the only one that sings with an orchestra, with whom I had the privilege of performing Elgar’s “The Music Makers” last March.

Auditioning for the E&H choral groups meant I would be in a choir led by an expert. I already rejoiced at that idea. When I met Dr. Haecker, she gave me such enthusiastic energy that I suddenly looked forward to the audition with no fright. Come what may, I thought. I have been rejected from a few other a cappella groups back in Exeter. This is just another one I might not stand a chance in. Just don’t get your hopes up too soon, mate.
I had a mitigated feeling about my audition since I had done the bare minimum for my standards, but a few days later I received an email saying I was admitted.

As rehearsals unfolded, I witnessed what I had never before seen in the UK. My past choral directors had always been rather dull and seemingly emphasizing form rather than content. This made it hard to understand what their directions were, since they hardly showed any feelings to relate to what we sang.

Dr. Haecker quickly revealed herself not only to pay attention, but also to trust us on understanding the depths of every piece we sing in Chamber Choir. Her confident, exuberant personality freely draws the music’s inner feelings from the written notes and words. Her everlasting enthusiasm inspires me in every moment of music I discover. In poor moments, she tackles the difficulties by dialogue with us. In the best moments, her face lights up whenever we perceive the innermost beauty of the music, she tells us what she felt; she shares moments with each of us, individually and collectively.

She often gives us analogies as vocal directions: the otter and the narwhal for resonance and the triceratops for phrasing are only a few.

In those friendly and entertaining ways she covers both, vocal technique through analogy, and musicality through feeling. Yet what never leaves her is her smile. With her words and with her voice she smiles, always rejoiced to make music.
You might have had such choral directors in the past, but to me this method of teaching is radically new and helps a huge deal to live the music. You may have seen such personalities as choral directors, but did any of them exhort you to feel emotions in order to perform well? Her warm, lively and friendly character makes singing under her direction an exquisite memory. Each of our rehearsals is a journey through a unique musical odyssey I shall always remember.

– Noe Amellal

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