Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dream of Gerontius in Christchurch

(I intended this post to be all about the concert, but it has ended up being more a diary entry on what the weekend in Christchurch was like for me. Nevertheless, I will post it as it may be of interest, and I'll stick a few photos in for those who may find it tedious and dull. For larger versions of the photos, click on them).

Last weekend a busload of City Choir choristers were shuffled up to Christchurch to sing Elgar's Dream of Gerontius. We were gone from noon on Friday through to Sunday afternoon, and I think I would be fair in saying that all involved had a wonderful time.

For those who don't know much about the work, Dream of Gerontius is an oratorio composed in 1900, based on some of the text from a poem by one Cardinal Newman. Newman's poem is rather odd, in that the first half of the work is about a dying man, and the second half is about what he gets up to after he's dead. In the end, Gerontius manages to - well, I won't post spoilers!

I found the work a little challenging, as I'd last encountered it in 1994 as an alto (I'm a mezzo by voice). I had to do some quick catch-up work to be up to scratch, but that was all part of the fun, and Elgar does at least write well for the voice.

On the bus trip up I spent most of my time listening to my Ipod and discussing subjects as varied the pitfalls of monoculture and the differences between alpacas (they hum and are cute and profitable) and llamas (they spit and are ugly and unprofitable).

Upon arriving it was a quick dash to our digs (the YMCA, no Village People in evidence), before a very, Very, VERY looooong rehearsal in which I hope no-one noticed I started to snooooore...

We were so completely brilliant (and clearly my snoring was in key) that Saturday morning's rehearsal was called off, leaving us all an entire day to prowl around Christchurch before our call in the evening.

I started my day off with an hour or two in the beautiful Botanic Gardens. The Daffodil Glade was a-flower, and if you're that way inclined (I am) you can check out photos of the daffs at my blog. After my dose of nature worship, I scooted up through to the city, and found a lovely little breakfast place where fresh bagels were on the menu (yum).

Then it was off to the Cathedral, where I played a couple of chess games on the giant chess set, watched some street theatre, bought a huge handmade lollypop (yum!) as my jelly snake population was looking scandalously low, and visited the open air markets. I enjoy being one of life's spectators, and people can be so interesting - especially when they've no idea they're being watched!

Then it was a spicy lunch at a Thai place (loads of chilli, but no garlic as I did not want to kill off my fellow choristers), before an afternoon at the Art Gallery and the COCA (Centre of Contemporary Art). I also visited the museum, walked along the river, and wondered how difficult punting might be. There is so much to do in a city like Christchurch, especially if you avoid the horrible shopping strips.

All in all, eight hours of solid walking, and almost the same number of blisters on my feet.

The concert in the evening - the bit you're actually wanting to read about in this post - was wonderful. I got those glorious bumpy thrills up and down my spine that can only be got in few instances, great choral music being one of the publicly discussable options. That's what we travelled all this distance for!

There is nothing like singing a great choral work with 200 other like souls. Nothing. A friend of mine dubbed it 'choral orgasm' a long time ago, and the phrase has stuck in one of my longtime social networks. Some people may say that they enjoy rock concerts and raves and foam parties and stuff. Yeah, right. Been there, done that - and it's fun but it's all rubbish next to singing Elgar, baby. Elgar rocks.

the art galleryAfter the concert there was a bit of a get-together with members of the participant choirs, and it was nice to have a bit of a chat and unwind a little, although I didn't get to talk to all the people I wanted to speak with.

I also realised the dangers involved in getting rather giggly with a group consisting of a person who has known you since you were very much younger and more stupid than now (Alan, who has known me over 15 years) and people you hope don't think you are as young and stupid as is currently the case (Polly and Tree). Naturally, Alan was keen to divulge all my worst stories and secrets, and the ladies were happy to hear them and thoroughly embarrass me.

I'd like to say I slept really soundly when our small and happy group of "Y" lodgers made it tipsily back to our bedding, but I didn't. The dratted birds in the park had well and truly remembered it is spring, and were clearly making beady eyes at one another under an almost full moon, singing their raucous songs of love and doing anything but give me spine tingles. *sigh*

I finally got to sleep about four in the morning, and was up again at eight, ready to pack, check out, then board the bus for the long journey home. I once again managed to snag the front seat (mountain view side, naturally), and got an absolutely stunning view of the mountains on the way home. I wish I'd been thoughtful enough to take photos, but I was too busy looking and appreciating. Sorry.

Leta's post can, no doubt, fill you in on some of the more entertaining conversation that occurred during the trip home, so I will not repeat her, except to say that David did not look at all embarrassed, although he may not have heard the suggestion that he might wish to be the pole!

All in all, we did have a huge amount of fun, and I think not only did I snag the best seat on the bus, but also some of the most entertaining bus companions! There is talk of us doing Beethoven in December, and all I can say is - Bring it on!


Leta said...

Thanks Leanne, that was very entertaining. Yes, I'd forgotten about David posing as the pole when I wrote my post - thanks for the reminder! I like your pics of the rehearsal night - it adds much to portray the atmosphere.

daharja said...



I'm finally getting around to uploading my photos and video footage. Once it's done, I'll post a link for people so they can check out the rest of the shots.

Of course, now I'm back I wish I'd taken more photos, but at the time I was too busy enjoying myself.

However, I think the success of the trip has made it clear that more social events and similar ventures would be welcome.