The Joy of Singing
Ryan Hopson, 2001–2005

Throughout my life, music has always been an important part of who I am—an expression of my faith, an outlet for my energy and talents, and a great way to relax and relieve stress.

Growing up, I played piano and was very active in the choral program at my high school, Midlothian High School. I was even the male dance captain in our show choir, Just for Show. Oh, how I loved that red sequins vest and the rehearsed choreography! Some friends I made in those years actually helped lead me to Jubilate in college. God moves in mysterious ways, doesn’t He?

I loved being part of the Jubilate family during my undergrad years at UVA. My fondest memories were of our tour to Texas under interim director Jeff Leduc, and of singing with Alba and the group at Ground Zero just months after the terrorist attack on our country. I remember Jeff being moved to tears at the way our group could sing magnificent British anthems like Parry’s I Was Glad or Finzi’s God is Gone Up in 8-part harmony with ease and precision. There was no a cappella Moses Hogan spiritual we could not master, either! God was good to our group and used us in many ways to minister to audiences and congregations in Charlottesville, Virginia, and beyond. During these years, I forged many friendships that God has sustained in the many years now since college. In addition, to this day, much of the Scripture that I have memorized comes from the text of hymns, anthems, and spirituals we sang under the direction of Jeff and Alba. Amazing how putting a text to music makes it much easier to memorize, isn’t it?

Today, I am part of the Chancel Choir at Derbyshire Baptist Church in Richmond, VA, under the direction of our Minister of Music and Composer-in-Residence David Schwoebel. We fill the loft every Sunday and present a contemplative program for Good Friday and a toe-tapping Gospel Sing and Watermelon Cutting during the dog days of summer. At Christmas, our 80-voice choir presents a fully memorized program with narration, audio-visual effects, and 30-piece orchestra. If you are ever in Richmond the second weekend of December, consider joining us for a presentation. You will notice several other Jubilate alumni from over the years in our ranks, too! We Jubilums stick together. I still get just as nervous and excited before these concerts as I did in high school with Just for Show and in college with Jubilate. And, I still feel that sense of awe and satisfaction when we do the best that we can to honor our Lord through music and song.

As I reflect on how Christ-inspired music has shaped my life, I leave you with the text of the hymn “How Can I Keep from Singing:”

My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth’s lamentation,
I hear the sweet, tho’ far-off hymn
That hails a new creation;
Thro’ all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul—
How can I keep from singing?
What tho’ my joys and comforts die?
The Lord my Saviour liveth;
What tho’ the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night he giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging;
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?
I lift my eyes; the cloud grows thin;
I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smooths,
Since first I learned to love it,
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
A fountain ever springing;
All things are mine since I am his—
How can I keep from singing?