Monday, April 2, 2012

Mickelthwate in Harmony with Brahms

     Yesterday we had our first rehearsal with our performance conductor, Alexander Mickelthwate.  It was a piano rehearsal only so no orchestra to get in the way of the choir and conductor.  In the lead-up to this I tell some new comers to the choir that Alexander does not make too many demands on the choir and will most likely pronounce everything "good, good, good", the Maestro shows up and begins to surprise.
      The first surprise is how excited he is about Brahms!  He said it is in his top 4 favourite list.  The first change he makes is in our opening bars.  He wants it much slower than we have been rehearsing it and with  much more patience and emotion. We repeat the opening bars several times until it is perfected  . He really brings out the romantic elements of the piece, which of course is the whole point of Brahms!!  Brahms is forever yearning and it was nice to have our performance conductor keep reminding us to "be patient, take your time, take lots of time."  Usually conductors are saying "even though you are singing piano you must keep the tempo" or  "don't slow down just because it's a low dynamic"  etc, etc. so we are used to our internal tickers moving us along but here, with Alexander Mickelthwate we were given permission to sink into it and take all the time we need to sing with feeling, "Selig sind die da Leid tragen".
     Another wonderful surprise is that he had us change many of our vowel sounds.  We had rehearsed with a straighter brighter vowel and - hip hip hooray - the Maestro wants us to use a rounder vowel.  Not too much "a" in Selig.  The rounder vowel suits us much better! 
     Surprise number three was that when the Altos sing out the theme, "Herr, du bist Wurdig" he did not ask for a lighter sound as some conductors request.  He wanted a robust, dark alto sound, which of course is what we altos do best so we are in perfect agreement.  He also did not seem surprised that the Altos were given so many themes to sing but conducted us as if it were our natural right to belt out the significant texts!
Alexander gave full permission for the Altos to be Altos and to deliver all that Brahms gives us.  I could feel Brahms smiling too!
Now on to 3 rehearsals with the orchestra and then performance on Saturday Night at the Centennial Concert Hall.


  1. I stumbled across your blog a few days ago . . . I sing in the MFC as well, and have really enjoyed reading your take on our exploits with the symphony!

  2. wish you a good performance this evening
    I watched the last part of Brahm's requiem on tv yesterday morning, a performance in Köln, thinking I wonder if that is how you will be singing?
    I think starting off so " patiently and taking your time" makes a lot of sense... I think the von Karajan conducting performance that I posted on my blog, though not that part of the Requiem, is probably similar to how Mickelthwate wants you to sing it, at least, it sounds like it from what you are describing.