The semester starts…you blink your eyes…and it’s April. I know that’s how many members of Westminster Choir, including myself, currently feel. The radio silence of this blog over the last two months is certainly an indicator of the number of exciting things going on, as well as the general craziness of the spring semester at this wonderful little school. Here’s a brief recap of some of the things that have happened!
Way back in February we performed our tour program for our homecoming concert at the beautiful Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University — a wonderful culmination of all the learning and growth from tour. We were lucky to have in the audience many choir members who had traveled to Princeton to participate in the Sing ‘n’ Joy Festival and Competition, as well as friends and family. The music and meaning of the program is of course an intrinsic part of all of us now, and we were so happy to share our “Today I will…” journey with the Princeton audience having ruminated on it for several months. For now, that program is tucked away until next month when we’ll perform it for the final time at the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, S.C.
There wasn’t much time to celebrate because the following weekend our beloved GA, Grant Farmer, gave his recital in Bristol Chapel. With limited time, he beautifully prepared us to sing works by Tarik O’Regan, Victoria, John Wykoff, Schubert, and Ted Hearne. Thanks to that final composer, none of us will ever forget how to count syncopated triplet and sixteenth figures again…shukushukushukushuku…Congrats to Grant!
Of course, all of the Westminster community mourned the passing of Prof. Lindsey Christiansen in March. Westminster Choir was asked to sing at her memorial service, and, not having known her personally, it was truly indescribable to see the depth of her impact on the entire Westminster and Princeton community. We were very blessed to have been a part of celebrating her life by singing the Erb’s “Shenandoah” and Brahms’ Geistliches Lied.
Throughout March, the predominating rehearsal focus has been our big project for this semester: the Pulitzer Prize-winning work, Anthracite Fields, by Julia Wolfe. We are performing this work April 21-22 as a part of Westminster’s Transforming Space project at the historically rich Roebling Wire Works in Trenton, NJ.
There are so many elements that make this an intriguing, challenging, and what will ultimately be an extremely rewarding project. One such element is that renowned choreographer Doug Varone is staging the performance. Exciting because that deepens the connection to the work that much more, but also challenging because this means we have to memorize almost the entire work. While Westminster Choir is certainly used to memorizing performance repertoire, this work is simply a different entity than anything we’ve encountered. There are many minimalistic elements, such as fixation on motives/gestures, long periods of repeated material, and sections of music that don’t necessarily have an easy relationship to what has come before it. While the notes and rhythms are not difficult in themselves, having to memorize the exact location of motives, exactly how long to hold things, and when the patterns just change slightly has been tough. That being said, in this past week of rehearsal we took a huge leap forward, and we are now finally starting to see how the final product will fit together. I’d say we are shifting from feeling quasi-overwhelmed to just being excited.
So those performances will happen in two weeks, and then we’ll shift our focus to the Spoleto Festival USA! I won’t go into detail now, but lots of preparation to be done for that as well. Look for Claire’s next post at the end of the semester!
Final personal thought: in this tricky time for the Westminster community, we’ve come together to support one another and have insisted on the excellence of our art more than ever. I can’t put into words how amazing that is. What a crazy, wonderful little place our home in Princeton is!
Today I will honor and love my communities, past and present.