Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Elijah Huge Success!

Gregory Dahl
I have forgotten to post that the Elijah Concert was a huge success!  Sold out house!  The soprano, Tracy Dahl, was sparkling and sang with such drama one felt as though we were in an opera!  The tenor, Kurt Lehmann, sang with such lyricism and strong diction one felt proud to be part of anything he was in, Kirsten Schellenberg, alto, was solid as always, the boy soprano, Anton Sokalski (son of Tracy Dahl) was pure and divine, but the ELIJAH, who I almost forgot was Gregory Dahl, as it seemed the prophet had appeard amongst us - albeit in a tux.   Mr. Dahl was ELIJAH -" Thou art Elijah" I almost shouted at him, and watched him carefully at the post concert reception to see when the fiery chariots would take him away to heaven! 
Our conductor, Yuri Klaz, was so full of passion it was oozing out all over the place.  He did an excellent job at weaving the orchestra, soloists and choir together to tell this very dramatic story.  The venue, was a cathedral, so it offered the audience a much more intimate feeling than had it been performed in a concert hall.  I think this led to the excitement in the air.  As choristers, we could also see the faces of the audience and they fed so much emotion back to us that one could not help but get into the character we were to be playing at any given time.  Yuri Hooker's solo cello line in the "It is enough" bass solo, was so beautiful that I wished I were in the audience and could allow myself to be swallowed up in it instead of having to remain somewhat alert for performance.
A memorable line from our conductor at our last minute rehearsal was, "Altos, you are watching me and yet you are behind the sopranos."    To myself I thought, "Well, obviously the sopranos must be ahead of your beat."  I of course, said nothing, and feeling duly chastised I tried to remember to push the tempo throughout performance and I think all went well.  

Requiems 2013


In the Passion season of 2012 I sang The Brahms Requiem with the WSO and Mozart Requiem with my church choir.   This season it will be the reverse.  Since the church choir is doing the Brahms we have been rehearsing for two months already whereas we have not had one day of Mozart rehearsal.  Both will be performance ready by the Easter weekend.   Since both are so fresh to my voice and brain and so loved by my heart, the rehearsal stage will be easy!  Some unique aspects will be that we will do the 4 hands piano version of the Brahms instead of orchestra.  Although Brahms did transcribe his orchestral version for two pianos it was done mostly for commercial reasons as more and more people were enjoying playing orchestral works on their pianos at home.  Now here, too, I  feel that money is driving this decision: two pianos will be cheaper than the strings to have the pianos will most likely be cheaper - it better be as I can't think of any other reason to remove the strings from this work,  I have performed it with organ one time and it did not satisfy.

I have written about both of these Requiems in previous posts so don't want to repeat myself too much.  For an alto there is no question the Brahms is more enjoyable.  Johannes, as always, celebrates and honours the inner line by giving us beautiful moving and haunting lines to sing.  Mozart uses us as filler and keeps us humble.  Mozart writes for sopranos.

Other differences in the Requiems is that Mozart includes the traditional Dies Irae while Brahms does not even give us a peek of hell.  Brahms is all about comfort, and who better to provide comfort than the alto.  (You know,  I have to speak like this as my blog is "an Alto writes about her choral life.")
The exciting thing about doing the Mozart will be that we will be working with  Jane Glover who is a Mozart expert.  I look forward to hearing her take on a work that she is so intimate with.  I have posted about Ms. Glover earlier on this blog as we sang the St. John's Passion with her two years ago.  She runs a tight ship and I have an appreciation for that trait in a conductor.  She is the British born woman who conducts an accomplished baroque chorus out of Chicago.  She is the author of
Mozart's Women: His Family, His Friends, His Music a book I much enjoyed.
I will write more as rehearsals progress.

Friday, February 22, 2013

First Orchestra Rehearsal

Last night we met with the orchestra for the first time to tackle Mendelssohn's Elijah.  I was surprised by several things:
1.  Several Principal Symphony players were in attendance including Gwen Hoebig, Yuri Hooker, and Daniel Scholz.
2.  My daughter's high school strings instructor was present in the Cello section.
3.  The conductor did not appear stressed and last but not least...
4. That  I was there at all since I spent the day in bed with waves of nausea. 

The reason I hauled myself out of bed to attend was that since I am only an associate member of the choir I am not sure how secure my physical spot in the front row between N and S really is.  I did not want to show up at dress rehearsal on Saturday having lost this spot from which I feel I can do my best singing.  Secondly, I wanted to hear last minute markings first hand.

Being sick and void of any  nourishment I could not stand for much of the rehearsal and when I did stand I felt I would fall on to the horn section directly below me.  Surprisingly, my voice was in okay shape but my timing was somewhat off so I made blunders that I have not made in previous rehearsals.  There are now different voices behind me than in our rehearsal venue so I had a whole new perspective on the pieces; not all of it positive.  In some ways this semi-professional choir is not all that different from the church choir I sing in.  Some sloppy singing still abounds this close to  performance, some markings have still been missed which drives our conductor crazy, and basses are still heard to ask, "What page are we on?"

I am thankful I am not in charge of anything for this event.  I just show up and sit quietly in my chair while the stage manager, a brave woman, has to arrange all of us in the best possible manner as she tried to solve the problems of altos without chairs, two choristers whose chairs fell through the platform leaving them on the floor, first sopranos sitting with the altos and more.  She handled all of this with a smile as I realized she is the right person for the job. 

Tomorrow the soloists will be there and they will certainly add more than enough sparkle to the event to help the choir take it up a notch or two.  By Sunday's performance we will all peak together to provide a magical few hours.  Hopefully, I will feel somewhat better by then.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Rehearsal Week

Now in last rehearsal week for Felix Mendelssohn's Elijah with the Philharmonic Choir and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.  The music has found it's way into my being and I hum it continually.  With 42 movements there is much humming material to choose from.

 The Elijah is a very dramatic piece with raising a boy from the dead, a competition between Baal and Elijah's God, fire falling from heaven and fiery horses driving a fiery chariot into heaven to name but a few.  I have come a long way with this piece; from it all feeling rather cheesy at first rehearsal to now where I am looking forward to telling the story to our audience.  I am also excited  to hearing and seeing the incomparable Tracy Dahl at our dress rehearsal Saturday afternoon.  Having been left breathless by her while watching her on the Opera stage but never having worked with her on an Oratorio. I am thrilled for this opportunity.

Unfortunately I am coming down with a virus of sorts and have had sinus, nose and throat problems for the last few days which I hope will not escalate into something worse.  I need to have a fair bit of energy to perform this thing.   There is much for the chorus to do in this work and so I am left feeling exhausted just turning that many pages at times.  It is exhausting because my score (just like the rest of them) is very shabby and despite my taping efforts can be a struggle to hold. 

Another problem with our scores is that they have both English and German lyrics with extra notes written here and there for each.  This is still confusing for some choristers and can result in sloppy sound coming from various pockets of the choir.  Of course by performance this will be ironed out at the next two rehearsals.

A pleasant surprise is that our conductor is allowing us to sing all the pieces that could be done by smaller groups or soloists like "Lift thine eyes"  "For all the angels"  "Cast they Burden".  These are probably some of the prettiest pieces and so it is nice for us to be allowed to sing them.  Although at last night's rehearsal he did have a smaller group sing the "Lift thine eyes" after a few attempts with all the women.  I don't think he has decided which way he will go on this one.  He gave no indication that the smaller group sounded any better than the whole so we shall see on Thursday.  Lucky for me I am in the smaller group so will get to sing it regardless, still, if we can all sing it I shall be happy! (The link above is a boy's choir; you can rest assured we do not sound as sweet.) 
As in all rehearsal weeks the excitement will build until Saturday, climax during performance and then the inevitable let down.  For now I am in the enjoyable build-up stage!