Our first rehearsal was at a reasonable 9:00 a.m. in the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul. Even though we had several rehearsals (and a very emotional alumni concert) the week before leaving for Charleston, it was interesting getting back into the groove of rehearsal. The first thing on our agenda? The Little Match Girl opera by Helmut Lachenmann.
To those of y’all unfamiliar with the Little Match Girl story by Hans Christian Anderson, it’s a tale about a poor beggar girl who goes to sell matches in the freezing cold on New Year’s Eve. Unable to sell any matches and afraid of going home to her abusive father empty-handed, she freezes to death in the cold. It is a chillingly raw tale that Westminster Choir also performed a setting of at last year’s Spoleto Festival, composed by David Lang. However, Helmut Lachenmann’s opera tells the tale in a unique, unconventional way. With an orchestra of 140 instrumentalists, 2 amazingly talented soprano soloists, a German speaker, and our own choir of 40, Lachenmann illustrates the story of the Little Match Girl. The piece is in 24 movements and changes time signature almost every bar. The choir part is mostly vocalized German text that tells the story with very few sung notes. It is nothing like we’ve ever done or heard before, to say the least.
With a double rehearsal slightly wearing us down, the choir needed to wind down for the evening, some of us gathering to watch the season finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race and others hitting local dinner places before crashing for the night.