There are a few things that I look forward to at the beginning of the new performance season. One is the first rehearsal at the beginning of September. I love it because we go insane and sight read the new piece from beginning to end, rarely stopping to correct errors. Our director does it to get a feel for how much work we’ll need to do over the next couple months, but it’s also a nice refresher for the singers who’ve sung it before. It’s fun for me because in the last seven years I’ve probably sight read most of the pieces we’ve done. Sight reading music for some may be the most excruciating thing ever, but I find it wonderfully challenging. I’ve since added a lot of large choral works to my repertoire in these last few years thanks to this chorus.
We’re doing J. S. Bach‘s Christmas Oratorio, by the way.
Fast forward a few weeks. I’ve learned my notes, learned how to pronounce the words (it’s usually a language other than English), and 4 weeks out from our first concert we’re finally starting to put it all together. At this point in the process I’m loving it.
Let me give you a peek into what goes in rehearsals. I sit smack dab in the middle of the soprano section but our seating arrangement presents all of the sections to face the conductor. This allows me to see the alto section directly in front of me, and the Tenor and Bass sections to my left. Can I tell you a secret? I love to watch other people sing. I like to study the characteristics of peoples’ facial expressions when they sing. The way their mouths form around pronunciations of vowels, how they may raise their eyebrows as way of emphasizing the high notes they’re singing, a slight smile as to really paint the happy tone of the music, there’s so much I could learn from another singer in terms of techniques that I could implement for myself. At one my last rehearsals, it was awesome because we were all working together and you can tell how much effort was being put in to make our sound sound good. We were sitting up in our seats, holding our music up, watching the conductor (with a few reminders from him to do so), writing notes in our scores, and just making music. I mean if I was enjoying myself in the soprano section, I hope that the conductor was really being energized by what he was hearing.
Can I tell you another (quite obvious by now) secret? I might actually like the process before the performance more than the actual performance itself. It’s the period of time where you do a lot of the nitty gritty work. The performance is the beautiful, polished, beauty queen contestant but she didn’t get there without a lot of learning, shaping, and molding first.
So yeah, we’re just now starting to polish things up. We’re working on creating phrasing, making sure we’re taking breaths at appropriate spots, saying those closing consonants at the same time, basically paying attention to any and all dynamic and expression marks in the music. Last night we had to repeat a certain passage of music until we got it the way our conductor wants it. If we stumbled over the words which in turn messed up the notes, he had us do it again with using single syllable (“doo doo” or “ha ha” or “loo”) until we “got it”, and then put the text back in. We also began speeding up the music to a tempo that our conductor wants to perform it in. It’s very fast and there’s a lot of sixteenth note runs for each of the voice parts which make it especially challenging. Here’s an example:
Doesn’t it give you anxiety just listening to it? Well, we’re doing it. No turning back! NO REGERTS!
This is our conductor, Andrew, and our resident voice teacher, Eden, who recorded a video of warm ups you can do yourself.
Resources for singers
Cyberbass is a great resource for any choral singer trying to learn notes in a major classical work. It’s only midi sounds in a Quicktime player, but you can hear all parts together or individual parts according to what voice part you sing. It’s very helpful if you don’t have access to a keyboard to bang out the notes for yourself.
Hey! Thanks for reading. I’m going to post updates and behind the scenes stuff throughout the season. If you like this peek into the life of a music nerd, holla at a sista!