Spoleto Festival USA Day 4

We had the morning off! It was glorious. Since we didn’t have a morning rehearsal, a lot of us spent the night exploring and having fun. A group of us choristers went to the Kickin’ Chicken for trivia night. They conveniently serve you delectable, fried foods while you attempt to answer trivia whilst competing against neighboring tables. It’s a game of who-can-remember-things-without-using-Google. It’s pretty legendary.

(Speaking of Google, Dave proved that he rightfully won the Passion Flower contest with a selfie.)

Our first rehearsal of the day was at the St. Johannes Lutheran Church with Lachenmann. Hilariously enough, before Lachenmann arrived, one of the members of the parish heard us practicing. She came out of the office chuckling because out of context, it sounded like we were passing gas. Helmut Lachenmann came halfway through our rehearsal to help us understand a few more of our score markings (most of the notation he invented himself).

We had a dinner break and then were scheduled to meet in the Gaillard Ballroom for a night rehearsal with the full orchestra. Let me reiterate the breadth of this performance. The orchestra is 140 instrumentalists strong including instruments like electric guitar and sound engineers who distort sound bites. Westminster Choir is 40 vocalists; there are 2 soprano soloists, a German text speaker, and John Kennedy as conductor. This was the first rehearsal of us putting it all together. There were puppeteers from all over the world sitting in the rehearsal, who’ll be telling the story using shadow puppets as we perform. Apparently they’ve been planning the puppet show using a recording of a previous production of the opera, so hearing it in real time must have been really new.

Honestly, this whole thing seemed to be very new for all of us. Having never heard the orchestral part before we were stunned by the inventive score writing Lachenmann had done for the instrumentalists. They had never heard us “sing” our part either so they were giving us as many confused looks as we were giving them. John Kennedy was conducting the heck out of everything, cueing everywhere that he could, subdividing everything with precision, and only stopping when necessary. Despite his superb conducting and all of our prior preparation, we got lost a million times. The score is just so insanely intricate that it was impossible to stay with it the whole time. It was both exhilarating and anxiety-inducing.

By the end of the three-hour rehearsal, the whole choir looked in dire need of rest. We trudged back to the dorm and conked out for the night.

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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