Spoleto Festival USA: May 31, 2013

Today is our rehearsal with Dr. Flummerfelt.  Later this week, we will share rehearsals with the Charleston Symphony Chorus and the Spoleto Festival Orchestra, but today we have him completely to ourselves.  We are working the Verdi Requiem to present as our final choral concert this season, and it is especially meaningful as it will be Dr. Flummerfelt’s final performance in an official capacity at Spoleto.

Dr. Flummerfelt, or Flum, as he is affectionately known, was engaging and was connected to the work.  At one very dramatic moment, when the choir was singing full tilt and had just shouted ‘om-nes!’ , Dr. Flummerfelt cut us off with a flourish and then shouted ‘Nobody move!’ Then, he took a tiny step and said ‘Oops, but I just did, sorry.’  The choir erupted into laughter, and some of the choir members even listed this as one of their favorite Spoleto memories.

After the rehearsal, Drew and I, along with other chamber music devotees headed to the Dock Street Theatre for the day’s selection.  Mary was not with us – she was back at the dorm curled up with a Neti pot and some Zycam, trying to fight off the illness that had quickly descended upon her and other members of the choir.  It was seafood for lunch – more oysters!  – and then Drew walked to Memminger Auditorium to see Le Grand C and the rest were back at Sotille for another run of the Italian double bill.

My call time every night we perform is 5:15 pm, though I do not actually go onto the stage until about 8:00 pm.  The costumes and wigs make scattered call times a necessity, as the make-up/wig crew has to prep 20 female choristers, 12 dancers, a children’s chorus, and all of the principles.  Nearly everyone wears a wig, or multiple wigs, so you can imagine the time and effort required from a full team.  Last year, I made a friend from the crew – sculptor Beckie Kravetz.  I had been in contact with Beckie in hopes that we would reconnect at Spoleto again this year, and it was such a pleasure to chat with her and Leslie, Nisha, Kathleen, Ruth, Austin, Felix, Lauren, Hannah, and the other wonderful individuals backstage.  The production crews at the festival are first-rate, and many come back year after year to reconvene with the Spoleto family.

While we are getting our hair and make-up done, there are usually about 15-20 people packed into the green-room/make-up room.  Some are eating, other playing cards or reading.  There was a moment tonight where altos Gillian Hurst, Katerina Nowik, and Erinn Sensenig had all been wigged (in the Doris Day flip) and were sitting together on a couch, each reading her own book.  It looked like a scene you would see in a 1950 Vassar study lounge. 
Downstairs in the dressing room, we each have a spot marked with our name.  Some women bring along a computer (I do a fair bit of writing here) to listen to music and mess around online.  As the call times get closer (“Ladies and gentlemen, we are 30 minutes to places.  30 minutes to places.”), the costumes are donned and make-up re-touched.  The women in Le Villi have a quick change, where we go from ‘Stepford’ wife to mental patient.  This change starts as soon as we are off stage after the second scene with chorus, but we can’t run down to the dressing rooms because we still have to sing as the off-stage chorus.  So, while we are waiting in the wings, we are helping each other remove the Doris Day wigs, unzipping dresses and petticoats, removing stockings – whatever we can do to facilitate the fastest change possible.  Once we finish the off-stage singing, half the women run downstairs to the dressing room to change clothes first (from dresses into hospital gowns), and half run to the make-up/green room to change wigs (Doris Day flip to crazy).  Then, we swap.  Sometime in this madness, lipstick and blush are removed, replaced by pale lips and blacked-out eyes. 
ImageWhen we have all made the change, we have another off-stage chorus, and this time we are really frightening-looking.  We have more than once collapsed into giggles waiting backstage because of the strange, hilarious things people do when inspired by these scary costumes. 

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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