Choir Stories

I'm going to share a couple of stories from Monday night's rehearsal. I sing with UD Schola Cantorum under the direction of Dr Paul D. Head. He is a great music director. Or perhaps I mean a Great music director, we are really lucky to have him.

We are currently rehearsing Beethoven's Ninth symphony, which we will perform with th e Delaware Symphony Orchestra in a month (May 19 & 20) for their centennial celebrations. On Monday night PDH must have been more relaxed than normal; Chorale, his other UD choir, successfully performed their Spring concert on Saturday, so he was really relaxed and happy with life. He usually jokes back and forth with choir members, but this time he was more relaxed and friendly than normal. At one point he is rehearsing a part where the actual speed it is performed at is unclear. Beethoven is usually very clear and precise in his markings but there were so many errors with the printing of the Ninth's score that in the end he throw in the trowel and gave up correcting it.

So PDH is trying to decide at what speed David Amado, the DSO music director, will conduct this part. So he gets us to try singing it very sloooow and then he says "well he is young, so he might conduct it faster" followed, very quickly, as we all chuckled, by "I shouldn't have said it that way, I meant he is young enough to have done the research to decide that it should be played faster" or words to that effect.

Later on, and this is the story I like the most, we are rehearsing a part that is particularly high on the voice (mostly G' and A' with the occassional B') when he turned to us sopranos. [these aren't exact quotes, but near enough]

"Sopranos, what can I say?

"You sang the Mendelsohnn beautifully and with maturity and style three weeks ago "

I'm going "yes!" every one else around me is going "buut?"

"No buts. Let's just assume that you are able to sing the Beethoven with the same excellence. I just want to tell you, that while this music is not choral music. Don't get me wrong, it is a truly wonderful piece, but it wasn't written with a chorus in mind. It doesn't add [I think he said it this way], anything to the choral repetroie, it doesn't teach you anything"

Later on, he has given the others, bass, tenors, and altos advice etc and he turns round to us:

"Sopranos, there is nothing I can say, good luck" as if we are off on a long arduous journey and he wasn't sure he would see us at the other side.

Still later, he is giving us the German pronunciation and he tells sopranos to sing "ah" when the notes are above the stave, which is just about everything in this part.

"Because" he goes on to say, "only a dog could hear anything else!"

Just to let you know that PDH isn't the only person to think this way. The following is quoted from Wikipedia:

"Beethoven's Ninth makes extreme demands on the singers, partly because his vocal writing seems designed to evoke a sense of effort, and partly because concert pitch is higher now than it was in Beethoven’s day. Thus, it is fairly rare to find a performance that is suitably forceful but avoids any hint of shrieking or shouting."

Still it is great to be able to say "I'm singing Beethoven's Ninth" even if it will probably kill my voice after four days of rehearsal and concert, despite having no intention of shrieking or shouting, perish the thought, shudder.

Oh, well what's the summer for if not to recover?