In two days we will be leaving for Newfoundland and Festival 500. A few from the choir are already there, vacationing before the Festival begins. We have had a marvelous adventure preparing for this festival. We do theme concerts, with a variety of themes each season. In fact, our performance mandate states that we do one classical, one populist and one concert ‘especially expressive of the human condition’ each season. That keeps our seasons balanced for our audiences and our repertoire varied for the singers and myself. We repeat music whenever we can, but it is not very often, and certainly rare within one season. The music for our festival performances we performed at our April Going to the Rock! concert.
After an intensely busy spring with two invitations in addition to our final concert of the season, the ‘Small Choir’, as we call the group going to Festival 500 (about 2/3 of the whole choir, since not all were able to commit to the nine-day trip), started rehearsing in earnest to prepare for the three concerts we are to perform while in St. John’s. I knew the high level of quality expected at these events from attending choral conventions. My job was to make that level clear for the choir, who had just come off the busiest spring we ever had and were very happy to slide into summer mode, to set that bar, and in the few rehearsals we had left, to get them singing music they already know at a level they’ve never done before.
The biggest surprise for them has been the fact that they sound much different without the whole choir. The level of individual responsibility and care of tone and tuning go up markedly in a small group and they have to change everything about how they listen and how they sing.
What a joy it has been. Through recording the rehearsals, individual work, voice matching, and meticulous attention to the finest details, they sound great. From my background in music performance, I know that the best you can do is get the music up to the highest level of which you are capable, then let the inspiration and excitement of the moment take you the rest of the way. With part of your brain, you keep track of the details and the musical information rushing past you and with the other part you let go to let the text and the story come alive. It’s a thrill.
Finishing rehearsals with a short concert for friends and family to give us a dry run before the event and put it all together. The couple of surprises that cropped up (there are always surprises that never happened before—that’s part of the excitement of live performance) were enough to keep them focused for the twelve days we will be apart before gathering in St. John’s on Wednesday. Our friends and family said, “You sound wonderful, now go have fun!”, which is exactly what we intend to do!
This trip has been three years in the making for us and I have to say that we are surprised how truly excited we are to go. Our cohesion and musical beauty as the Small Choir has been a reward in itself. The Festival will just be the icing on the cake. Look out Newfoundland!
Categories Behind-the-Scenes, Choral Festivals, Concerts, Karen's Blog Posts | Tags: choral festivals, Going to the Rock, Karen Schuessler, London Ontario, London Ontario choir, St. John's Newfoundland
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