March 27, 2013

I’m on the bus, riding home from the Kimmel Center (Verizon Hall), and feeling the effects of a six-hour rehearsal (we did have breaks!).  Bach’s St. Matthew Passion is monumental, to say the least, and preparing a work of this magnitude exposes the soft underbellies of the musicians involved and also highlights the enormous talent on the stage.   Our Symphonic Choir is split in two, as is the Philadelphia Orchestra.  The stage is visually split by a T-shaped stage, and the soloists are gently staged throughout the work.  It is far from theatrical and extremely effective.  All of the movements from the principals and the choir are motivated by the music and are almost like clarifying punctuation. 

We had a piano dress rehearsal last night in The Playhouse, and Maestro Nézet-Séguin was greeted with love in the form of a huge round of applause.   The rehearsal was lengthy and fun.  The Maestro kept us laughing and engaged throughout the four hours, and he often sang the solo parts in the transition measures before choral entrances.  Toward the end of the evening, his voice was quite tired and he made an interesting vocal sound on a soprano solo entrance.  He laughed and suggested that someone make a goat version (referencing the screaming goat videos all over YouTube).  He was very attuned to the choir – he recognized when we fatigued and helped us maintain engagement with laughter and energized musicality.  

ImageAs soon as the rehearsal ended (10 p.m.), the line formed to shake his hand and maybe have him autograph our performance scores.  I approached the Maestro to say hello, and not only did he remember my name, when I showed my surprise he remarked, ‘Well, of course.  We are like family.’   There is no reason he ought to remember me, or any single individual in the choir and yet he does.  He calls us by name, and he maintains this connection from the podium when we are making music together.  He has charisma and an open heart directly connected to the humanity around him.  His skill and public persona is akin to Leonard Bernstein, and I know that far into the future I will say with pride that I performed under his baton. 

Today we rehearsed at the Kimmel Center, in Verizon Hall with the orchestra.  Call was early – 7:30 a.m. –  to the bus.  Kyle, Mary and I spent the ride asking each other questions about vocal pedagogy to practice for our upcoming oral exams, which was helpful and stimulating.  It was easier to forget about the early hour with brains so engaged. 

Tomorrow is a full day – 7:30 a.m. to the bus once again – and open rehearsal in the morning (the donors for the orchestra are invited to attend), time off in the afternoon to relax and study, and our first performance in the evening! 

About Westminster Choir

Westminster Choir is composed of students at Westminster Choir College of Rider University, a center for music study in Princeton, N.J.
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