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Chorus makes magic in our nation's capital

Close your eyes and imagine a moment in time when you were completely and blissfully happy. Hold on to that feeling and imagine that instead of experiencing this joy for a moment, you felt this way for five incredible days.

I was privileged to participate as a singer in a choral tour of Washington, D.C., from July 2 to 6. It is difficult to properly express the experience in a way that will allow the reader to embark on this vicarious journey, but I believe that it can be simply summarized in two words: places and people.

I had been to our nation's capital twice before, but never like this. The Washington National Cathedral is on par with most of the grand cathedrals of Europe in majesty, grandeur and size, and appropriately it has played host to many state funerals and national services. Understandably, we felt the awesome responsibility of being the first secular chorus ever to participate in an Evensong service in this grand edifice.

God is present whenever two or more are gathered in his name, but on this day he was surely present and smiling, for our voices had wings that transported our sound to the heavens. No matter who I looked at, their gaze back to me held the same message, "I can't believe this is really happening."

The Kennedy Center has held court for the "stuff of legends" in the entertainment world since 1971 and there we were, on its Millennium Stage. As we sang, we beheld a mass of listeners stretching as far as the eye could see. This was our nation's capital on the Fourth of July, and the possibilities of who might be in this audience seemed endless.

The icing on the cake came on July 5, when we sang for our wounded warriors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. When I was a kid seeing footage of Bob Hope's USO tours, I thought that this would a pretty cool thing to do. Hope, in his own words, wanted to entertain the troops and "remind them what they were fighting for."

I'd like to think that for a couple of hours on that day, we also provided a respite and reminded these brave men and women that it is because of their sacrifices and the sacrifices of those who have gone before them that a community chorus from Buffalo can have a dream and can have the freedom to do whatever it takes to turn that dream into reality.

As our tour progressed, I kept waiting for fatigue to set in, but the adrenaline continued to flow. It occurred to me that while the concert schedule was challenging and exhilarating, there were so many intangible factors at play.

At the helm of our chorus was our fearless leader, whose every direction -- whether it made sense to us or not at the time -- was given in anticipation of the next challenge. Appropriately, her militaristic strategies guided us successfully through more than one unforeseen performance hurdle on this tour.

Above all, there was engrained in myself and my fellow choristers a common love of singing and a common love of each other's company. We reported dutifully at the early morning breakfast calls and spent more than one night negotiating with the hotel to extend our time in the hospitality room because at the end of each day, we simply did not want the day to end.

We made magic together in our nation's capital, proving once again that anything is possible if you have enough determination and enough love.

Christina Reece, who lives in Tonawanda, is a member of the Buffalo Choral Arts Society.

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