October 5, 2012
The weather is changing, and our pace at Westminster is as brisk as the fall mornings. The Symphonic Choir is 11 days from a rehearsal with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and 13 days from opening night of Verdi’s Requiem with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Most of the members of Westminster Choir are also in Symphonic, and so have been busy preparing for memory checks and quartet hearings in both ensembles. These hearings can be stressful, but mostly it is really awesome to see group after group nail the music and really lay it down.
One of my classes was cancelled on Tuesday, which provided me with a nice chunk of time in the middle of the day to work on some score study. I was sitting out in the foyer of Talbott Library, diligently working, when I was joined at the table by some fellow second-year graduate students. We each had work to do and settled into the familiar flow of working independently together. These simple, ordinary encounters will be something I will miss, though they are not exclusive to Westminster by any means. There is something very special, though, when the jokes that you crack with one another from across piles of homework are about how Sir Simon Rattle suggested in rehearsal that there was a monster hiding in your Playstation.
The memory checks for Westminster Choir this week were quite challenging – the second fugue in a Bach motet and a brutally rhythmic arrangement of Kalinda that really gets the choir moving. The best part of memory checks happens in the last few moments before rehearsal begins, when people get together and sing for joy, for fun, and to test and help each other. We fail or succeed together, so it is not a competition to see who knows the music the best. Everyone wants everyone to do well, and we support each other through the process to make sure we can all be great.
I am excited for Monday, when I will have my first rehearsal with Master Singers (the main recital choir on campus). I am paired with a colleague, John, who is not only an excellent teammate but also a very good friend. We are each preparing a recital of early music (Thomas Luis Victoria, Carlo Gesualdo, Giovanni Palestrina, and Claudio Monteverdi), and are both excited to begin. It is an ensemble of remarkable musicians who are our classmates and friends, and preparing music in that environment is so rewarding.
We will also have Dr. André Thomas from Florida State University as an artist-in- residence next week. He will present workshops and master classes throughout his time at Westminster, and we will have the opportunity to get to know him as an educator and as an artist (an artistic educator? Most likely.)