Since I was a little girl, I've loved singing and performing for other people, but I never imagined that I would make it my career. As a child, my parents always taught me to develop my interests. They continually told me that, if I put my mind to something and worked really hard, I would not be disappointed.
I began with piano lessons when I was six years old. At Tri-Cities Christian Schools I began taking art lessons, joined the choir, joined the band playing the flute, and began competing in the Tennessee Association for Christian Schools in speech and singing competitions. When I was about 13, my choir teacher encouraged me to start taking voice lessons to develop my talent. I began studying with Beth McCoy soon after. It was challenging, but I loved the processes of healthy singing and the repertoire that I was learning. It was then that I truly discovered my passion for the art, but I wasn't quite sure that was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
While I was in high school, I saw my first opera at Bob Jones University, Lucia di Lammermoor. I was overcome with excitement with the story and the artistry of the singers and energy that I could feel from the production. When it came time to select a college, I decided that I would go to King College because I knew that I could choose a major and still be encouraged to do all of the extra-curricular activities that I loved such as the theatre, choir, and continuing my voice lessons. I received a lot of encouragement from the music department to pursue a career in singing, but I was also considering a career as either an engineer or an architect. I spent a lot of time talking to different professors about my options.
It's difficult for me to say why I chose music as my career. I can definitely think of a million reasons why I shouldn't have. The main obstacle was that the life of an opera singer is extremely difficult and ridiculously competitive. I wanted a secure future, but upon talking to one of my music professors, I realized that no one is certain of what their futures contain, no matter what career they may choose. He reminded me of the movie Chariots of Fire, in which Eric Liddell said that when he ran, he felt God's pleasure.
I know that's how I feel when I sing. When I'm on stage singing, I am presenting a true and honest version of myself to the audience. While one would think this would make me feel nervous, for some reason it does not. Everything that I am thinking and feeling at that moment seems to come together and make sense. I feel an energy and passion that is addictive. I may not know where my choice will lead me, but no matter what happens I will have the assurance that I am doing something that I truly love, and am willing to work for the opportunity.
Editor's Note: Rachel Barker is from Bristol. After she graduates from King College, she plans to further her music studies at graduate school in an opera program.
- A German Requiem: On Sunday, April 1 at 3 p.m., the First Presbyterian Church of Bristol continues its Arts Series with a concert featuring the King College Symphonic Chorus and the First Presbyterian Church Sanctuary Choir. Under the direction of Dr. W. Patrick Flannagan, the ensemble will present Johannes Brahms' A German Requiem.
The two soloists will be David Simonson, a graduate of King College and member of the church choir, and Rachel Barker, currently a student at King and a member of both ensembles. Premiered in 1869, Requiem is considered one of the truly great works of Western art music, and certainly one of the most beloved choral works. Rather than a liturgical work, it is a very personal setting of texts from scripture that give comfort and reassurance to those suffering loss, and it is believed that Brahms was moved to write it in response to the death of Robert Schumann, and later that of his mother. In the 19th century, before the days of recordings, it was popular to arrange works for four-hand piano to allow wider dissemination of music. Often these arrangements were not prepared by the composer, but Brahms felt it important to make the arrangement himself of this work.
Steve and Vicki Fey will use this arrangement to accompany the performance. For the past eight years, the Feys have served as Directors of Music Ministries at First Presbyterian Church of Bristol, after having served in a similar capacity in Vero Beach, Florida for 11 years and in Kingwood, Texas for five years. $10 suggested donation ($5 students). 423-764-7176.
- Recital: Rachel Barker also will perform, along with Tim Landis, at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 27 in the King College Chapel.