I just got back from our piano rehearsal with David Amado. Wow! We sound amazing; both Schola and UD chorale were together – must be about 200 voices. It's amazing. Working with David was great too. Not only musically, but he gave us some more of the background and history of the piece. I think this is something our music director assumes we will find ourselves if we are interested enough.
So from Dr Head we know that this piece was written at the cusp of the Renaissance; from Maestro Amado we were reminded that the piece is now sung at least a half note higher than it was first written, that some people think that the last movement is a sketch of a symphony in itself; that it is incomprehensible (if the Maestro thinks that, what are we meant to think!).
Fortunately both Dr Head and Maestro Amado are very patient conductors and had the same ideas for most of the piece. They are both good at thinking of new ways for us to attempt at what they want. For example, at one point David wanted us to sing the duplets (two quavers slurred together) coupled in groups, as we should. First time after he mentioned it we obviously didn't quite get there so he asked us to do it again emphasizing the differences between the coupled notes. Not to worry as no one would hear us sounding odd; we were all in a rehearsal together. That was how he got it the way he wanted it.
I got to chat with David on the way back to our cars; we talked about Peter Ustinov – as I mentioned that I had seen PU's play about Beethoven*. This is when Beethoven comes back from the dead in 1980 (that's when the play was written) and is given a hearing aid. He listens to his own music, including the Ninth and obviously finds it brilliant. He also treats women badly and is basically Beethoven enjoying the advantages of the twentieth century.
*As I saw this at the Birmingham Rep**; I must have seen it before the US opening. I'm not sure if the Rep had the premiere or if it had come from somewhere else first.
**I can't believe I found that link.