Have you ever put every ounce of your being, your craft, and your dedication into a project? I can safely speak for every Westminster Choir member when I say that learning and memorizing John Adams’ El Niño has been one of the most difficult musical experiences I’ve ever participated in. When we were told about the production in January, Dr. Miller warned that this would be incredibly difficult. He wasn’t lying…every one of us has been pouring his or her soul into this production.
What makes this difficult? This minimalist work uses many repeated patterns with very little help from the orchestral texture. The majority of us are literally counting measures and rests before certain entrances. I’ve never been more mathematically driven when it comes to learning music. Several chorus members, during rehearsals of certain movements, counted the number of beats until the next entrance – comparable to memorizing mathematical equations for a test. It took a long time for our memory to “gel” into performance, but it came together for yesterday’s opening night performance.
The energy that brimmed from every member of the production – stage management, principal singer, even Dr. Miller – seethed throughout every aspect of the production. We’ve been waiting for this moment since rehearsals began two weeks ago. The fruit of our labors was to be presented to the Spoleto Festival USA audience. We gathered as an ensemble for a group warm-up and “sing-together” – something we haven’t done since we left for Charleston! Warm-ups were a part of every morning call, but, due to the intensity of the staging rehearsals, our musical contribution took the back burner to the staging process. When we sang together, our collective energies were finally focused into one performing ensemble. There couldn’t have been more excitement in the room!
After our warm-up, we donned our costumes and make-up and took to the stage. We delivered the story and musical ideas to the best of our abilities. To celebrate our opening night performance, the choir went to a nearby club for a social gathering of epic proportions. A much needed relaxation after weeks of laborious rehearsals.
The sense of accomplishment came this morning from a wonderful review in the Charleston Post and Courier. Here’s the link to the review, as well as a link to an article including pictures of the production.
Tomorrow brings another opening performance of the Czech opera