On 4 December the choir was privileged to be part of the world premiere performance of music from 'Let There Be Joy!' a book of music with scottish connections for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, edited by Dr Raymond White. The book was published earlier this year along with a book of keyboard music 'A Kist o' Whistles.
We were accompanied by a chamber orchestra lead by Dean Hollebon, together with the chamber organ played by Dr White and Gregory Peyroux.
I have to say this would have been one of the more difficult concerts to prepare for, mainly due to the unfamiliarity of some of the words and the way that many words are stressed differently to what we are accustomed. Take the first verse of Rorate, Celi. Desuper! :
Rorate, celi, desuper
Hevins distill your balmy schouris
for now is rissin the brycht day ster
from the ros Mary, flour of flouris
The cleir sone quhome no clud devouris
surminting Phebus in the est
is sumin of his hevinly touris
et nobis puer natus est.
Dr White was very patient with us while we came to grips with pronunciation and style. Unlike our usual sort of music, where we pencil in markings above or below the notes, our books instead had marks over the words which were all written on the facing page. It was neccesary to learn the tune quickly so that you could concentrate on the words. I'm sure in the first few rehearsals we would have looked like a crowd watching a tennis match!
The hard work paid off and I think we gave a creditable performance, with excellent accompaniment provided by a chamber orchestra. We had a gratifyingly large crowd who certainly seemed to appreciate the music.
The writer made her conducting debut which has made her appreciate even more the amazing job done by our musical director Di Lenihan! There is a split-second of terror prior to the first note the choir sings, wondering if you have given them the right signals so that they will come in.
Every week we go to rehearsal and sit or stand in front of the conductor and sing. We know what we want from the conductor, but have you ever thought about what the conductor wants from us?
The following is taken from Breve, the NZ Choral Federation newsletter, from an excerpt on David Squire's Sing Aotearoa 09 workshop: http://www.nzcf.org.nz/assets/SiteEngineManager/breve%20march%202010%20webmail%20version.pdf
• Punctuality! The first commitment at the time of a choir rehearsal is the choir rehearsal – if this is a problem, make sure you let the conductor know.
• Own warm-ups – on the way to rehearsal. Humming, etc.
• Attentiveness! Aim to be the smartest, quickest, most enthusiastic and positive chorister in the choir!
• 2B pencil! Mark your score! Lots! Conductors don’t actually enjoy going over the same mistakes several times.
• Hold music up! Don’t move your head! Avoid a vertical tennis match!
• Sing what’s on the page first (pitch, rhythm, dynamics, articulation, lyrics, etc).
• Let the conductor shape the phrase by watching the gestures in front of you – particularly when you know the piece well enough to get your head out of the score.
• Sing the text! It is often amazing poetry.
• Research! YouTube, Wikipedia, iTunes, borrowed/bought CDs, public library…
• Own sectionals – own volition! Use your initiative!
• Learn to read music! Then learn to sight-read music! You will be a much more useful member of the choir, and the choir will be able to do much more.
• Listen to other choirs. Analyse different choral sounds and develop a more in-depth understanding of your art.
• Make suggestions… at appropriate times!
• Listen when you sing – tuning, blend, balance. What are the other parts doing?How does your line fit the whole?
• Support the vision! Positive attitude, open mind!
I'm a soprano :)