Monday, July 6, 2009

1, 2, 3, 4 - We're City Choir, now hear us roar!

I really feel sorry for the poor people in Dunedin who didn't make it to either one of our concerts this weekend. Because they missed a rip snorter of a time. Not just one major work, but four. Not just one Important White Dead Guy, but four! Yeeee haaaaw!

In fact, I was going to title this blog post "Yeeee haaaaw!" but I don't think Purcell, with his very pretty, curly wig, would have approved. Then again, with his lame in-jokes and buckle shoes, maybe he would have. Who knows?

Purcell - Come, Ye Sons Of Art

One thing that is certain is that he would have approved mightily of our rendition of "Come Ye Sons Of Art" with which our "Anniversary Accolades" concert opened. We tuned our voices, our instruments played, and it was all just beautiful. I could see the audience grooving along to the music, bopping their heads in time to the beat, and as I was singing I couldn't help thinking "Yeah, baby! We're rocking this town!"

purcell

Haydn - Seasons (Spring)

On to the next dead white guy, it was time for us to nail Haydn's "Seasons" - the "Spring" part of it anyway! More in-jokes with parts of the score that sounded rather familiar to those of us who know other works by this composer - but hey, what's a bit of self-plagiarism between friends? It's nice to know that these guys weren't as dismally-minded as their rather staid press shots would lead one to suspect:

haydn

Personally, I think Haydn hated sopranos. I mean, anyone who writes top B Nasties for choir sopranos that run on for nearly two full bars is asking for a fight. I'd deck him if he were alive today. Lucky for him he's not. But my fellow sopranos did a magnificent job - page 53 wasn't the first, or the last, point in the night that I was tremendously proud of the women of City Choir. We took that B Nasty and told Haydn exactly what he could do with it!

Not only were we singing well, but the Sinfonia and our soloists were sounding wonderful. In particular, Stephen Chambers, our Tenor soloist, was worth a mention. He sounded glorious, his diction and tuning spot on. While all the soloists were great, I particularly enjoyed his performance.

Two works down, it's half time, we're looking good. Several very snarly passages are under our belts, and it is time to grab a quick gulp of water and do a quick dash to the loo before we're back on stage in our sardine-esque positions.

Handel - My Heart Is Inditing

We're on for Handel with the wonderful Michael Dawson at the helm. And not only does Michael do an incredibly job in his orchestral debut, guiding us through the not-exactly-easy twists and turns of Handel, but he is also obviously completely in control of the excellent Sinfonia.

A few words of thanks

While I'm talking about Michael, I also want to say something about the fact that David has been generous and thoughtful enough to give Michael this opportunity. Few choral directors would have shown the trust and respect that David has in Michael. He has been supportive of Michael not just in City Choir, but also in St Pauls Cathedral Choir.

It is so important not just to direct a Choir and Orchestra well, as David does, but also to raise the next generation to follow in your footsteps. I can't say enough about how important this job is, and how highly I think of David for giving this opportunity to Michael in such a respectful way. Both men were a credit to City Choir and to Dunedin this weekend. I think we are all very fortunate to have them.

Back to the concert

At this point in the concert we were getting our teeth into "My Heart Is Inditing" with Michael. From where I was standing, the diction was good and clear, the notes precise, and the choir and audience attentive. The movements worked well. I'll admit I'm a bit of a fan of Handel - more so than of Purcell especially, or of Haydn. Purcell always sounds a bit wrong to me - like it was written for different tuning, or something. Don't ask me what exactly - I'm no music expert - but know what I hear. The chords don't quite fit together, and the notes somehow don't feel quite confortable with one another. They rub against each other as enemies, not as friends.

Handel, on the other hand, always feels bright and correct to me, and it did last night. It sits well in the voice, and if we had a few issues with pitch, they were not noticed by the audience as far as I could see. Michael had good contact with the choir, and overall the movements came off well.

handel

Mendelssohn - As The Hart Pants

On to the last of our four composers - Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn is often touted as a composer who writes particularly well for the voice, and "As The Hart Pants" is a good example of his work. He works up to the high notes for the sopranos rather than dumping them at you, and the body of the line sits comfortably within your range, so you never feels stressed or strained when singing his work. Maybe this is why I like Mendelssohn, even though I don't much like this particular translation of the biblical text.

"As The Hart Pants" started off beautifully with the alto entry, and the altos entered so well that I really wished I was back singing alto again, like when I first started singing in choirs! They just sounded so smooth, so rich, and so beautifully in tune. It was a pleasure to listen to. The first movement in particular was performed well overall, especially in the second concert, when I think we peformed it better than in any rehearsal. Which is as it should be.

I am also really pleased to say that our men nailed No 6 "The Lord Hath Commanded". They really did well, and I know this had been particularly difficult for them in rehearsal, requiring a four part split. They did so well in both concerts. Yay us!

The Mendelssohn ends with my favourite of all choral playtimes - a fugue. Yeee haaaaw! I love fugues! Just the way all the lines deviate and fit together and pull apart, then come back together again, translating the melody in different ways and recreating the theme in each choral line. A good fugue is musical magic. I'm not a music theorist, who could no doubt tell you about contrapuntal composition and fugal subjects, and all that highfalutin stuff. Not me. Instead I'll just tell you it was great fun to sing, and I'd love to do it all again today, and tomorrow, and the next day, because fugues are just awesome. Brain food for the soul.

mendelssohn

Handel - The King Shall Rejoice

Finally, to end the concert, it was back to Handel with David conducting "The King Shall Rejoice", which includes my favourite movement - No. 2 "Exceeding Glad Shall He Be", which is Handel trying his hand at Bluegrass music. It really is - I'm not joking! My only grumble is I was a little disappointed that of the Coronation Anthems we weren't doing "Zadok The Priest", which is a fabulous piece and a great sing - maybe next time!

The "Alleluia" was our closing movement, and it did stay together, despite worries in rehearsal. All eyes were on the conductor - I was too nervous to even look down on my score in some moments! We followed closely and tightly, and the piece worked. Friends in the audience told me the work was wonderful, and that they enjoyed it thoroughly, as they had enjoyed the works of the other composers.

In conclusion...

Four Important Dead Guys. Four major works. Four anniversaries. Four accolades. We came, we sang, we did them justice. City Choir once again proved that we can take on a huge amount of music and make it work. I think my extra work outside of rehearsal paid off - I know that others in the choir studied the music at home too, and their work paid off too.

Now we have a week of doing nothing. No music for a week, and I'm off on holiday next weekend up to the north island for a few days, for a well-deserved rest.

Next concert isn't until September, with Haydn's Nelson Mass. It seems so long away, but right now all I can think is, Bring it on!

3 comments:

Rosi Crane said...

And roar we did! You have encapsulated the feelings exactly. Thanks for your lovely comments about us altos, we do rich warm tones well - just trying to emulate the lovely Claire Barton. You guys emulated the lovely Lois too, with her beautiful soaring clear tones.
Our boys did do us proudn too - they generally seem to come up trumps - remember Dream of Gerontius with their 'low born clods of brute earth' bit?
Yip you are right we do rock. YEEEE HAAH

Leta said...

If the roof was not so high already it would have lifted! Very well said Leanne.

Rosi, our Chinese friend (you spotted Bei in the Saturday audience) says she was so surprised at the length of the concert and also the passion (her word) with which we sang. She loved it and can't wait for our next concert!

daharja said...

Rosi - the altos were meltworthy in that entry - it was divine! Extreme choral scrumminess.

As for me, I loathe people like Lois, because she makes me want to hang up my choral cape and fangs and go try cowpat collecting instead! Some people have too much talent, it's not fair! But she did sound beautiful.

I can't think of the Gerontial "Low Born Clods" segment without thinking of a revue item some guys I know put together on that text yonks ago: Low born clods of goldfish / they aspire, they aspire to become cods! Cods! ;-) That's undergrad humour for you.

The weekend was thoroughly enjoyable. I love City Choir!

Leta - I think the Cathedral can expect a few more leaks in the roof from now on - we got it lifted all right! There's nothing to compare to singing with a big choir in full voice. Choral orgasm is a glorious thing! :-)

I'm looking forward to our next concert, and I think the audience will be too!