So here we go again, another spring season of choral music…and it’s going to be a whopper. A major work that’s 40 minutes long, an orchestra, holy jumpin’ tenors WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!
No we’re not, chill out. We’re setting up to perform our ninth spring concert (where did the time go?) and the core group of our little band of merry men and women are ready for something big-time. You new kids…fear not. The grizzled vets (and I mean that in the most endearing way) will be right beside you to help you along and the whole thing will be awesome and epic and another milestone in the evolution of our choir.
As I was thinking about that evolution I took a quick trip down memory lane to see if I could trace the “where we started” through the “what we did” to arrive at “where we are” (which is the attacking of the aforementioned major work). It actually tracks pretty well. Y’all follow along and see if you agree.
Fall 2008 (when I was just a lad in short pants) was the first step on the road and, although we got a little tongue-tied with pieces in Hebrew and Swahili (“O Sifuni Mungu” really does sound like something you’d order at some sort of ethnic restaurant, doesn’t it?), the only thing that really stretched us was John McCreary’s “Na Ke Akua ‘Oe i Kia‘I” and we managed to get through it just fine.
Move ahead to the spring of 2010 and things started getting a little more complex. Renee Clausen’s “Kyrie” was HARD, “Riversong” had so many rhythms on top of each other and the words went so fast that it made our tongues sweat and John’s full-on-fugue version of “Rubber Ducky” brought us our first exposure to singing with an orchestra. With one rehearsal. Yikes…but we made it through (reasonably) unscathed.
2012 brought us Ukrainian and French and Hawaiian and Hebrew and Spanish and we just rolled with it and gained confidence as we made it work (or at least fooled our audiences into thinking we got it right; how many of them really knew Ukrainian after all?).
And then came 2013 and Swedish Christmas music (Seriously? Swedish? SWEDISH?) and an 8-minute Appalachian piece with a hammered dulcimer accompanist, the hardest thing we’d done by a whole sleigh-load. If we’d gone into that beastie without some already-in-place confidence we’d have looked like a gymnast who missed the high bar and landed face first on the mat with a “thud” and a cloud of white chalk. Instead, also in the parlance of the sport, we nailed it.
(Side note: Patti is still our most mischievous accompanist ever…you can see it in her eyes.)
By the time Susie smacked us with the “Misa Criolla” in 2014 we were ready for it. Yeah, it was daunting (many, many, many pages of daunting) but it was the next step and we were ready for it. It was the longest effort yet and took up a full half of the program. And is I mentioned above, we absorbed the new folks into that readiness and it was awesome. It was also our first and only show that was performed in a monsoon. Lovely.
Clunk merrily along with songs in Norwegian (Seriously? Norwegian? Okay, sign us up.), Japanese, Swahili, Portugese, Filipino and a whole stack of gospel music and pieces like “Gaudete”, “Carol of Joy” and “Salmo 150” were easily within our grasp. Instead of just surviving, we now had the experience under our belts to take those pieces to new heights and it was a fantastic place to be.
So here we are. “Requiem for the Living”. Forty minutes long, give or take a minute, with a huge orchestra. A REALLY hard piece that goes places that we’ve just never been before. Eight years ago we would have been in that state you find yourself in that split second before you hit the ground after your parachute didn’t open and your new name is about to be “crater”: shock, fear, panic and then >bam<…unconsciousness.
But this isn’t eight years ago, this is 2017 and our parachute is just fine, thank you very much. Bring it:
See you tonight!