PHC sophomore Ezra Huckabee conducts chorale

Posted by Hannah Gaschler on 3/25/24 8:34 AM

Ezra Huckabee conducts the orchestra

Sophomore Ezra Huckabee conducted the PHC chorale through “Love Came Down at Christmas” for last semester’s Lessons and Carols service. “I was very excited about it. It was a good opportunity,” he said. “I think I made a good impact on the chorale. … Through my stumbling, I think people now see the skill and how wonderful Mr. Appleton is.”

Learn more about the PHC chorale

Huckabee became interested in conducting when he sang during high school in a community choir and then a college choir. Last fall, PHC's chorale director Rod Appleton asked him about conducting the chorale for an easier piece, and he took the opportunity.  

“My first choir rehearsal, I made so many mistakes,” Huckabee said. He drilled the easy parts, and he forgot to conduct the meter change. “Conducting is so hard,” he said. “You have better musicians than you in the choir.  … Also, you’re just so exposed. Every motion is completely being watched by everybody.” But, Appleton worked with him after rehearsals, and students also gave him feedback. 

“It was very difficult, very embarrassing, humiliating sometimes,” he said. He didn’t always know how he thought the song should sound, but he realized that it was better to confidently make mistakes than be cautious and not progress. 

“It’s so difficult for me to hear all the different people,” he said. While keeping track of when to cue people or which meter to conduct in, he listened for consonants, vowel shapes, pitch, and tone, and tried to pinpoint which section made an error. “Conducting is the concentration of what most people miss in music,” he said. “It’s truly an exercise in all the things that are so easy to brush over when you’re learning difficult pieces.” ezra huckabee quote
Huckabee explained the conflict between technique and the ear for beauty. “In choral directing, your technique is your using your body and your facial expressions to direct the music, and then [the choir members] are using their technique to follow your instructions,” he said. “It’s taking the music part of music performance and putting it behind one mind.” Each musician in the choir adds beauty, color, and texture, and the conductor draws them together into one voice. 

Before rehearsals, Huckabee planned what the music should sound like and how to communicate it. “You look over the music. You listen to it. You think, ‘I want it to sound like this. I want it to sound like that.’ Then, you get up in front of a mirror,” he said. He demonstrated conducting techniques for sharp staccato versus flowing legato. “You’re representing with your motions-muscles–everything the emotion, the direction of the music,” he said. The mirror helps him know if he’s communicating what he intends.

Another element of conducting is explaining the meaning and emotion behind a piece. Huckabee concentrated more on the technical aspect than the emotion for his piece, but he appreciates Appleton’s ability to bring out those elements. “He would say, ‘Should we change the words here? For example, 'We offer thee everything that ever moves.' Is that biblical?’” Then, the choir discusses it. “Now, people understand what we are saying here. We’re offering everything completely up to God. And that just brings everyone together,” Huckabee said.

Read about the chorale's upcoming ministry tour!

Huckabee doesn’t know if he will conduct any more, but at least he will continue singing with the chorale. “Chorale is less intense than it was back home,” he said. “It’s more low-key than I’m used to. It’s less piercing and exposed, but [Appleton] picks a repertoire just as good.” He appreciates Appleton’s high caliber and spiritual leadership.

“[Appleton’s] ability to spiritually mentor while conducting and while leading a choir is significant,” Huckabee said. “He has a special gift for helping students through difficult periods.” He said that Appleton pushes them hard in rehearsals while emphasizing the primary importance of God’s Word. “Yesterday in chorale, we spent the first 10 minutes praying," he said. "That brings us togetherthe prayer, the gospel, the doctrine.”

PHC chorale


 Patrick Henry College exists to glorify God by challenging the status quo in higher education, lifting high both faith and reason within a rigorous academic environment; thereby preserving for posterity the ideals behind the "noble experiment in ordered liberty" that is the foundation of America.


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