Very short entry right now, as day 7 started with dancing as normal, flew through a pair of rehearsals, two great talks, and a concert, and ended with dancing and progressively scarier and more hilarious karaoke. It is now 2:30 and I’m beat, but it was a very good day all around.
July 30, 2010
This morning I danced The Hustle with a Tallis Scholar. Then she broke out the Scissor Sisters. I’m not sure there’s anything more that can or should be said about that.
Right, so, lots of crazy rehearsing today given that we had small group “sharing” tonight and we have the concert tomorrow. The Aurora lucis rutilat still terrifies me, but the Magnificat is definitely improving. I think this was only the second time we pulled out the Lamentations, but at least that lends an air of excitement and adventure to tomorrow. We did at one point in time frustrate David so much that he actually hopped. I consider this more than a minor accomplishment, especially since his shoes left skid marks on the floor of the chapel when he did so.
Small groups ruled the afternoon. We finally fixed our sharping problem on the Palestrina by the simple – if unusual – expedient of swapping lines between the soprano 2 and myself for the first 6 or so measures of the piece. Magically, that caused everything to lock into place. I don’t understand it, but I’ll take it. We had a small group master class to kick off the afternoon, and my Palestrina SSAA group participated in that. As that’s the group I kept forgetting I’m a part of, this was not necessarily an earth shattering event. The small group auditions for sharing time, on the other hand, were a bit of a different story.
Much to my surprise, Tu es Petrus went quite well. We had one little hiccough, but were able to get back on again without too much trouble and the approved us for performance fairly quickly. O magnum mysterium, which we were able to get through immediately prior to the audition with no trouble, turned in to a bit of a fiasco. People were making mistakes in places they’d never made them before, and the rest of the ensemble as a whole was not aware enough to accommodate most of them. A bit nerve wracking, really. On the other hand, both Deb and David said they really enjoyed our sound, particularly from a balance standpoint and for how light it was, and eventually both groups got passed on.
After that, for some reason, the actual sharing time was even more daunting. My Tu es Petrus group got called up first (and dedicated to our very own Peter in charge), which probably didn’t help. On the other hand, all three of my groups got through their pieces without having to stop and start again, which is more than many others can say. I definitely heard Palestrina’s Sicut Cervus at a faster tempo than I’ve ever heard before, and his Super flumina Babylonis taken slower than ever.
Tu es Petrus went better than I was expecting when I got up this morning, and I don’t think our nerves showed through too horribly. It’s a flashy enough piece that we got a good response to it and it seemed a good choice to get the ball rolling. The women’s piece was the next of my three to come up, and it also went fine (if a bit blurry in spots). The Morales came last, and other than an early entrance by the S2s that we were able to sing over and recover from, I was pretty pleased with it. The high point of that one was definitely not only that Peter enjoyed it, but that it was unfamiliar to him. Points to me for rep choice!
The high point of the day, though, occurred while we were heading downstairs for sharing time. I ended up sharing an elevator with Deb, and so of course she made small talk about the performance we were heading to. She asked the obligatory questions about whether I was going to do a good job, was ready, etc. Then she made some comment about how I had “an awful lot of people to keep in line”, and when I brushed that off (because I was really trying hard not to actively conduct or lead either the Palestrina or the Morales), she asked if I wanted to be a choral conductor. When I agreed that I would enjoy that, she said “Yeah, you’ve got a real feel for it”, and then proceeded to compliment my ability to recognize problems and lead people through them. Needless to say, I kind of floated out of that elevator.
Quotes for the day: You get two, because I missed one earlier in the week involving basses and storm troopers.
“If it’s out of tune, it won’t sound nice. If it’s in tune…it still won’t sound nice, but it’ll sound better.”
“Are there any more splendid virgins down here?”
July 29, 2010
Okay, so all these years of me being an incurable night owl who considers it doing well to make it to bed by 1AM could apparently have been cured by the simple expedient of dragging me out of bed just short of 8:00 and having me sing for a least 6 hours a day. Honestly, I’m only still upright because I’m tired of going to bed with a wet head and waking up looking like I’ve stuck my finger in a socket.
Today was mass participation day. I missed most of the earlier rehearsal session because of a voice lesson (more on that later), which meant I missed most of the effort put toward the pieces we actually performed today. Good thing I spent about an hour on my own on it last night. After the rest of the group ran over the Kyrie and Agnust Dei from the Josqin mass, we moved on to the Gombert Magnificat and Lassus’ Omnes de Saba. I’ve never done much (any?) Gombert in the past, but this Mag is really growing on me. It’s really cool how he just keeps adding voices and thickening the texture, starting with 3 voices after the initial chant melody and gradually expanding to 8 following the final bit of chant. The fact that almost all of those new lines are additional tenor and bass – though we do pick up a Mean 2 about halfway in – just makes it cooler.
After lunch we had a bit of free time, and then it was off to St. James to hear one of the Scholars give an organ recital. David played one of the sets of Psalm preludes by Howells, which was very nice, and then we had last minute rehearsal/triage prior to the mass. I think the service went fairly well. In addition to the two movements from the Missa Ave Maris Stella and the Lassus listed above, we also performed Clemens non Papa’s Ego flos campi. Beyond being a very satisfying piece to sing, I got particular enjoyment out of that as it allowed me to atone somewhat for royally screwing up the performance of the same piece Vespers gave in service a few months ago. We seemed to stay together fairly well for most of the service. It wasn’t flawless by any means, but there were no disasters in my immediate vicinity and we managed to start and end together and generally landed in the same key (though I make no promises as to whether that was the key in which we started). The organ postlude, Liszt’s Fugue on B.A.C.H, was lovely, if loud, and the only thing I would change (other than the cell phone that went off in the middle of it) was that we only got to hear the new organ. I would have very much liked to hear the Hastings instrument that was installed when the cathedral was built in 1907.
At any rate, we escaped the service relatively unscathed and headed off for the bbq planned for this evening and more small group rehearsals. My Palestrina group continues to sharp, and I’m not sure if we’re going to be up to scratch to make it past the “audition” and into the sharing time scheduled for tomorrow evening. We’re improving and have managed to isolate some problem areas, but it’s still largely out of control. Pity. Meanwhile, the Morales group is actually in pretty good shape. I’m fighting a losing battle not to do any more conducting from within the group beyond giving a good cue breath and a nod to cut us off at the end. It’s such a neat – if underappreciated – little piece and it just begs to be pushed and pulled in all sorts of expressive, wallow worthy ways. Trying to be good, though.
The men sang Compline tonight, which gave all of us a little break. They’ll be reprising the piece they sang in service tonight in the concert on Friday, just like we’ll be offering up the Josquin piece we sang earlier in the week. Theirs is really new, just unearthed, so I don’t know it at all. It’s got a really great low bass line, though, and I’m looking forward to a second listen.
The voice lesson today went all right. I went in with specific mechanical things I wanted to work on, which seemed to please my instructor. She offered some very helpful tips on breathing and was generally far less scary than I expected her to be. I only feared for life and limb once, and that was when she hooked a resistance band around the back of my neck and pulled the ends towards her. This did not do wonders for the relaxed and loose singing posture I was going for, but in the end, I am happy to report, I did not loose either eye. She also said I have “lovely shoulders”, a “lovely clear voice”, and suspects that I would be able to comfortably and reliably get well beyond a high C if I got everything all lined up in good working order. Allan, if you’re reading this, don’t get any ideas.
Bed now. Hard to believe there are only two more days.
July 28, 2010
Only a half day today so we could have a little time to rest our voices. This morning started with 2 dances instead of one as part of our warm up. I never knew that Medieval and Renaissance exco class I took one semester would come in so handy. We had our usual two rehearsals before lunch, doing some serious woodshedding on the Aurora, running through Clemens’ Ego flos campi, and spending some quality time with the Gombert Magnificat. We’re still sort of chronically flatting in rehearsals, which makes the sharping in the small group setting even more fun. We even did it this morning during a pick up rehearsal at 7:30. No one should sharp at 7:30 AM.
With free time all afternoon and evening, a friend and I decided to walk down to the water front. We browsed Pike Street Market – where I bought a suitably fishy souvenir -, visited the aquarium, and had ice cream for dinner. Now I’m back in the dorm and think I may try to find a free keyboard to help me bond with dear Orlando. I can’t believe we have our first performance tomorrow.
Best quote of the day: “Where is he going next, Choir 2? Well, you’re going back to Hell.”
July 27, 2010
Today we had two large group rehearsal in the morning, one lecture on singing in the 16th century, several hours of small group rehearsal, Compline sung by only the women, and one session of waltzing. In the morning sessions we did battle with Aurora Lucis Rutilat and Omnes de Saba, by Lassus, and the Kyrie and Agnus Dei from Josquin’s Missa Ave Maris Stella. I feel comfortable saying they are kicking our butts at this point in time, particularly the Aurora, which is for 10 voices and seems to be eluding most of us for some reason. Great text, though. Also, the 2nd portion of the Agnus is a lovely S/A duet that I would very much like to take a crack at some time.
Small groups, and the organization thereof, took up most of the later half of the day. I’m in three; two that I either initiated or chose on my own and one that I was assigned to and didn’t realize was going to live past yesterday. This third group is 14 or so women doing an SSAA piece of Palestrina’s called Adoramus te, Christe. It’s lovely because it’s Palestrina, but it’s not all that exciting. I’m singing alto 1, though, so at least that’s a bit of a change. The small group that I’m organizing is doing another Palestrina piece, Tu es Petrus. We’re tackling this one one on a part, and it seems to be going well except for the fact that we keep sharping. A lot. Like, a whole step or more. I suspect it’s just from being carelessly wide with the half-steps between E and F, but that’s little comfort when my top Gs are Gs no longer. The third and final group was supposed to be a piece that I missed during ice breakers that’s SSAATB (I think), but as of the beginning of our session we had no altos or basses. We found an SSAT arrangement of Morales’ O Magnum Mysterium in the library box, though, which I suggested as a back up. It was fairly well received, and so that’s on the docket now too.
After all of that, it seemed we couldn’t possibly have to do any more sight singing – let alone rehearsing – today, but that was all basically before dinner. After we ate it was off to a women only rehearsal to learn an Alma Redemptoris mater of Josquin’s. This is a really great piece. Three equal soprano lines with an alto anchoring it all that fully affords all of the typical auditory wallowing that one associates with Josquin. It went well enough that they’ve decided to add it to our concert rep (I suspect possibly as a replacement for some of the other pieces that we either haven’t gotten to and/or aren’t making much head way with), and I think it will sound quite nice in St. James come Friday.
We have the afternoon off tomorrow, so all that remains to be done today is figuring out what I’m going to do with that lovely block of time. Any suggestions?
July 26, 2010
Short entry tonight because I’m totally exhausted after 4 or so rehearsals, a concert, and Compline. Got to hear the Tallis Scholars perform over at St. James cathedral tonight, which was pretty cool. They did a pair of Magnificats by Praetorius that were completely mad. They had a nice – I think- Resonet in Laudibus for an encore, too.
Tomorrow small group work starts in earnest. I brought copies of Palestrina’s Tu es Petrus that I got off of cpdl, but now I suspect they are not the edition with which I am familiar. That’ll teach me only to look at the first page of a pdf score. Anyway, we’ll see.
Important lesson of the day: I may be in dire need of Fingers Warren.
July 26, 2010
Not off to the snappiest of starts. After maybe an hour of sleep Friday night, 4AM found me heading to RDU for a 6:20 flight. I originally thought this was a non-stop bit of travel, but it turned out to merely be a “through” flight where I just didn’t have to change planes. Fine. Bring on Dallas-Fort Worth.
I was half asleep and waiting to pull back from the gate when a very distraught young woman decided to take on the flight crew regarding the “carry on-ability” a piece of luggage. Over the course of her (completely legit) meltdown, it came out that the DFW -> Seattle leg of my flight had been canceled. No reason given. This was even news to the pilot.
The man sitting next to me was very nice about giving me phone numbers and lending me his laptop so I could try to figure out what – if anything – had become of my reservation. Long story short (and one very surly and unhelpful gate agent later – my ‘non-stop, gets you in with 2 hours to spare’ flight had turned into ‘stop in DFW, rebook, reissue tickets, re-run security gauntlet, stop in San Jose, reissue ticket, cool heels for over 3 hours, arrive in Seattle 6 hours late for class’. Oh, and pay $40 for a cab instead of $4 for a bus. Whoo!
Operating on little sleep and no dinner, I was far from the life of the party, but I do have a few thoughts and observations after one rehearsal and one compline service.
1) I am probably not the strongest chorister here, but I am definitely not the weakest.
2) If you(and your director) note that you can comfortably function in the S1-A1 range, you will be labeled an S2.
3) I find it very comforting that some of the biggest names in choral music also cannot get their ensemble to take the tempo they set.
4)I’ve been horribly spoiled by Vespers. Getting a choir of 60 to respond is like trying to get a cargo ship to change direction.
And lastly, a surprise appearance of scales of the more piscine persuasion. There are fish in the San Jose airport! In a weird tank with a bunch of cameras! I was dragging Gimpy the 8th suitcase along the concourse in search of sustenance and there they were, one plecostomus, several bala sharks, and I think a bunch of rainbow fish, though they might have been giant danios. It was hard to tell because their colors were so washed out. Then again, living in an airport would probably stress me into monochromaticism, too.
Best rule of the day: When we stop singing for the day, we stop singing. That means no hanging from the chandelier at 2 AM singing Victoria Requiem.
Best pleasant discovery of the day: Cleverly hidden though it may be, the new phone DOES have an alarm clock feature after all.
Best quote of the day: “This is not a 19th century piece of slush!” (speaking of Lassus’ Alma Redemptoris and our inability to hold tempo or line)