“…such great conviction…such intense involvement…passed on with all sails set.”
Denmark newspaper quote
Preface to Randolph F. “Casey” Jones: A Biographical Witness
Excellence is first a matter of love. The devotion necessary for artistic genius to flower comes from a profound love of the art form and for those who dare partake in the deep adventure of the spirit. In choral music, the great conductor and leader accepts those seekers and creates of them one body, one spirit, one voice. In concert, he envelops the listeners with the choir in a shared journey of the spirit through performance. Randolph F. “Casey” Jones for decades has been highly regarded throughout the world as one embodiment of these principles.
In the Jones’ choirs, there are a large percentage of highly educated professionals but also many far less fortunate who may fondly remember their public school choral experience and when finding need in their adult lives, come upon my father’s flock. His choirs are a curious global community of Christian, Jew and Buddhist, successful and less so, sick and well, professional and amateur singer, young and old. All find artistic and spiritual nourishment in the choral classics, traditional to contemporary, in every rehearsal. The warm, rich sound of his Colorado Choir comes, in part, from the wellspring of life experience borne of diversity. It was always so, long before global or diverse became popular precepts. “You should have been a preacher, Casey,” a colleague remarked. “But I am,” he muttered in reply.
Excellence is secondly a matter of discipline. The great choral leader sets strong parameters, a firm foundation without which there is no art, only chaos. Every member is brought to the pinnacle of perfection as each is deemed capable and expected to work. At no time is the art form reduced to the lowest common denominator to accommodate mediocrity or worse. All are able and succeed because they are taught. Permeating today’s society is the easy answer – redefining standards to avoid the hard work of teaching and learning. The Colorado Choir perseveres with a road map of commitment and insight and with rest stops of humor, to the final destination of high art.
Finally, excellence is a matter of vision. The great leader knows the mountain peak well and the best way to get there. He has no need to hesitate or hope for a feather of luck. The way is clear. There is an aura and connection among those who have known the moment of high art in any form. It is a spirit that captures and bonds a strong community. It comes from the hard work of climbing the mountain and the breath-taking epiphany when everyone arrives. The individual does not stand in opposition to the vision because he is wholly dedicated to it, a dedication that is due to trust in a leader who has sacrificed himself completely to them and to his vision, laying bare his life. Art is borne of vision, socialism as a lack of it. The social choir, founded on quicksand, compromises art to accommodate the individual. The visionary, art choir raises the individual above his problems to partake in a higher calling. The members return home to address life from a fresh perspective. The art choir inspires while the social one merely entertains. One is life-changing, the other a temporary diversion. The great leader reveals the crest of art to all those who dare seek it and it is a changed soul that finally captures the summit. The cold and timid remain behind, ever redefining the valley.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my father on behalf of his thousands of students, many millions of listeners, those influenced by his work, and his family: for consistently leading us, sometimes carrying, sometimes dragging us, to the wonder and splendour of the view from the crown of the mountain. Here we found the true spirit of God and His spirit in art. For the many among us who keep coming to rehearsals and concerts year after year, our silvering heads pure evidence of a college graduation long since past, the flag is flying high on the mountaintop you chose and your community is thriving there. As we are called to venture forth teaching others these worthy values, we go confidently with conviction, in full faith, profoundly joyful and “with all sails set.”
With love and devotion,
Rebecca A. Jones