I maybe shouldn't care as much as I do, but it's really, really killing me that nobody has been able to get Craig Jessop to tell more of the story. I really am such a huge MOTAB fan, and I have been in awe at all Craig and Mac Wilberg have done. I can understand spending more time with family. But what I can't understand is why someone so high caliber like him would part ways with the choir so abruptly--the shocking way that he did. What's the rest of the story? Speak Craig, speak! Hopefully answers will come out in time. But that's the problem, I'm not that patient!
As I step back and think about it, I can't imagine not having him there. Is this a bad dream? Some sort of practical joke? I keep thinking that it can't be true mostly because it is so, well, not what you'd have expected, especially from Craig Jessop. On a side note, he came to speak at a Tuesday devotional while I was at BYU. I remember being so impressed with him--his energy and the spirit with which he spoke. That same spirit and energy has been evident week in and week out, year in and year out; whether in person at a broadcast or concert while we lived in Utah, or enjoying them via satellite or frequently on CD/DVD. Maybe that's why I'm so bugged--because I really know how great he was. And I can't help but wonder what brought this on right now and in this way.
Mac Wilberg is amazing in and of himself. I sang under his direction during his last year at BYU, when he announced that he was accepting the position with the Tabernacle Choir. I sang in the Men's Chorus my freshman year. He was already a legend then. But he doesn't have the people skills of a Craig Jessop. His choral arrangements are known worldwide. They're wonderful. I have no doubt that he'll be able to carry on without Craig, but the two of them together made such a team. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts. Please share!
Due to the continuous Google searches for "Craig Jessop" coming to this blog post, I thought I'd share an update with some recent thoughts from a close friend of mine who has personally and professionally interacted with Craig Jessop several times in the last year:
"Craig Jessop's work with singers is magical. When he came to [our area] for [a music convention] to conduct the All-State choir, the work he did with those kids was so detailed and so exacting. It showed in the exquisite performance of [a challenging piece] and other very difficult and breathtaking repertoire. You could tell after wards that in just those 3 days he had won the hearts of those 500 kids who had never met him before but were all over him to talk with him and thank him. He has this spirituality, this kindness and graciousness, while at the same time showing you way after way to quickly make very detailed changes that make the difference between excellent and unbelievably beautiful.
"The work he did with our children's choir at their clinic at Utah State University was the same way. As he listened to and worked with excerpts from the Brahms Requiem, Handel, Rutter, and Bach, he not only stopped them by recognizing details and changes that would make such a big difference, but he immediately crafted games and exercises that caused them to be able to understand and make the changes almost in real time. He was as demanding as anyone could possibly be, but his work with them was so exciting that they were eating out of his hand and anxious for more.
"I have never seen anyone who could combine the most exacting demand for change and details, and at the same time do it in such a way that singers felt immediate accomplishment and confidence. After this one session in the morning, the children of the choir sang a concert that evening that was unparalleled in quality their entire preceding 8 years.
"He works to bring concepts from the "intuitive" to the "conscious". He makes it possible for the singers for the first time to feel as if they have control in a conscious way to insure the high quality of pitch is there, breathing, diction, and phrasing.
"I am so glad he made the switch to teaching when he did. He had been anxious to do so. It was hard for everyone to lose him so suddenly, but had they waited to consider a replacement with search committees, etc, he would have continued another 2 years - something he just could not do. Through the understanding of leadership and those who were close to him, I know he must have felt he could make the transition sooner than later.
"The music program at Utah State has already kicked off with a meteoric mushrooming of quality, programs, and performances in every instrumental and choral area. We are all fortunate to have benefited from his longstanding work with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and his profound ongoing work at Utah State. The young children in my children's choir who have a specific interest in pursuing music have already asked about whether they could go to school there. The will certainly benefit from his legacy there - present and future."