We had our first rehearsal for Kepler today, at the Gaillard Exhibition hall. We arrived en mass at 9:50 a.m., ten minutes before the scheduled start time, to find a full mock-up of the stage with many pieces of the actual set in place for our rehearsal. Everyone was wearing comfortable clothes – Dr. Miller told us the night before that the director said we should wear clothes in which we could roll around on the floor. (?!) After a thorough warm-up with Dr. Miller, we sang through almost the entire opera with the musical director, John Kennedy. He was excited by the responsiveness of the choir, and even though each chorister had spent time creating note cards to facilitate memorization, almost nobody looked away from our conductor. I am continuously struck by how quickly and how deeply the Westminster Choir learns music . Not only is the opera memorized, but the spirit of the work in internalized, and our individual and corporate artistry has a voice.
The staging rehearsal was a blast. The choir was focused and attentive, flexible and high-energy. There were funny moments when we laughed together, like when eight people had to squeeze on a bench designed for six (staggering in a choir may refer to breathing, or to placement of posteriors!). There were some laborious moments, like the (valuable) repetition of movement patterns that require fluidity that only comes with familiarity. We did actually roll around on the ground, and since we blocked this scene at about the fifth hour of rehearsal, the choir was amenable to rehearsing the laying-down portion as often as requested. Our director, Sam Helfrich, is creative and calm, flexible and sincere.
One of the highlights of our first day was dinner at Hominy Grill. This is a restaurant that the veterans have talked about since we started rehearsals last August, and it absolutely lived up to all of the expectations. We (24 members of the choir!) were not the only ones who wanted to delve into this particular culinary delight – we saw Dr. Flummerfelt enjoying a lovely meal with the restaurant owner. After dinner, it was back to the dorms to rest up for our first three-a-day rehearsal adventure.