If you have ever doubted the merit of a Viennese orchestral Mass, with its extended solos, as liturgical music, you need to hear Cecilia Nam sing. The clarity of tone, the agility, the precision, the passion and controlled power of her voice is incredibly convincing. As Arlene Oost-Zinner said last year after Nam sang a piece from a Haydn Mass, now I understand when this music works in liturgy: when we are prepared to give God the best art and talent that we have to give.
Nam’s position at the Sacred Music Colloquium is not only as a soloist. She is an extraordinary teacher, providing both voice instruction in a group setting and also director the beginning choir. both are relatively new offerings for the Colloquium, and the extraordinary success is mostly due to Nam’s talents.
In voice class, she works through typical vocal problems and listens to stories with a sympathetic ear, offering great answers along the way. She manages to instill a kind of confidence in everyone who studies under her, helping you to believe that you can do it – which is the first step to actually doing it.
The beginning choir is also hers, and she has turned it into something of an institution. We weren’t sure if the format would work, and worried that by separating out the beginners, we were denying them a chance to sing with more advanced people. It turned out to be the right decision: people who are just starting out with polyphonic singing are more comfortable with others who are at the same level. She walks these new singers through all the steps to make sure that they develop an excellent foundation in theory and technique.
She has a very flattering way of being sincerely interested in all your musical problems — kind of like a great therapist. She ends up being a tremendous resource for all attendees, like having the bonus of a great vocal teacher tutor you personally in the context of what is otherwise a liturgical colloquium. Private lessons from her would cost more than the entire colloquium, so this is a great value as well.
Finally, there is her own beautiful voice. Even if she never spoke a word, just listening to her sing is a rare learning experience of its own.