First Spoleto Festival USA Rehearsals

Our first almost-week at Spoleto has primarily been centered on bringing our performance of Daughter to life via the combined staging prowess of Dr. Miller (for Jephte) and Pontus Lidberg (for The Little Match Girl Passion.) While we performed this program in March, we have added to the program greatly over the past few days. So often, we have such a rapid turn-around rate from rehearsal to performance, we don’t get to sink as deeply into a work as we might wish to before sharing it. This week’s detailed rehearsals (and being removed from the day-to-day busyness of the school environment) have given us a chance to grow deeper roots into both the musical and thematic matter of both pieces. Additionally, we’ve all had a chance to revisit our childhood triumph of learning how to walk as we learn how to walk (again), this time for an audience. Oddly enough, it seems that as soon as we are in a performance setting, we all start instantaneously walking both in an overly performative manner in time to the music. As such, Dr. Miller began yesterday’s rehearsal by making each of us walk across the imaginary stage in our rehearsal room and greet him. You’ll be happy to know that all of us passed this arduous test. Or at least, no one has been removed from the choir under mysterious circumstances. Yet.

The festival began yesterday with the opening ceremony at City Hall. As befits a festival of its ilk, this ceremony is filled with a pomp, biodegradable confetti, a surprise performance, and an always-stunning rendition of the national anthem. The Westminster Choir contingent that attended was particularly delighted by the festival’s recognition of conductor emeritus Joseph Flummerfelt. Our cheering (which artfully demonstrated our superior resonance) enticed him to our gathering place, and we then had a chance to chat with him briefly before our afternoon rehearsal. The Westminster Choir’s legacy is, in ways, deeply intermingled with that of the Spoleto Festival. Our time with Dr. Flummerfelt and the gracious reception we have received from the festival prove this to us each year.

After spending some glorious time savoring the culinary delights of Charleston with friends and family, I attended the opening jazz performance at the Cistern along with several other choristers. Musica Nuda, the ensemble for the evening, wowed us all with their ability to make a string bass, human voice, and microphone resonate with more complexity than we ever could have imagined. The duo’s unexpected programming of songs including “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Lascia ch’io Pianga,” and “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” alongside original songs was surprisingly cohesive. Their jocular stage manner and vocal pyrotechnics left us amazed. Following the performance, we had a chance to get our programs signed by the duo. Upon finding out that we were members of the choir, singer Petra Magoni shared with us her philosophy that performance is a collaboration between the audience and the performer. After she then impressed upon us the importance of creating music as a way of bettering the world, we prepared for said mission by eating ramen noodles and sleeping.

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A few of us with Petra Magoni after the Musica Nuda performance.

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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