Off the Risers:Life as a Singer (Susanna 10/15/2013)
Well, it’s been a while! Let me bring you up to speed: since I last wrote a post, the Singers have had three rehearsals and sung publicly twice. We have gotten at least acquainted with all of our upcoming concert literature and started to polish a lot of it. We also have received rehearsal visits by friends from VocalEssence (hi Tesfa and Jake!) and by new Executive Director Aaron Wulff. Those are the nutshell facts. When I reflect on what the past three weeks have really meant, though, two complimentary ideas come to mind: ensemble and community.
“Ensemble” is an obvious thought—that what the Singers are, right? But to me, “ensemble” isn’t an automatic result of throwing together a bunch of musicians—no matter how talented those musicians may be. (Second-post me is looking back at first-post me and shaking her head a bit–what a newbie! So much wiser now, eh?) Rather, “ensemble” is an ongoing process, an evolving result of learning how to work as a group toward a common goal. Harmony and unity are essential goals of ensemble. From the first notes we sang as a group, we’ve been listening to each other, figuring out what we sound like together and how to jell into the best permutation of that sound. We’re communicating within our sections to make sure we agree on our musicianship. Section leaders give notes out to their sections during rehearsal or in e-mails. And I can at least speak for my soprano section that we have had extra sectional rehearsals (you know, for fun). We’ve gotten our slaps on the wrist, too. The “five seconds of silence” rule has been established to hear Matt’s immediate comments after cutting the choir off. And we’ve gotten called out on a less-than-ideally-prepared rehearsal. In both cases, we’ve made improvement, and it’s helped us to build respect and trust for each other—other crucial components of ensemble.
“Community” is arguably a macrocosm of “ensemble”, but I’m not going to get into those semantics. Instead, I’m simply thinking of “community” here as the greater music community and the Singers’ place in it. With our first two public performances under our belt, we’ve had a few chances to interact with our supporters and fellow musicians outside of the group. First, our kick-off gala was a big success. I personally enjoyed chatting with some of our supporters and listening to their reasons for being there. Some have family or friends in the Singers; some had been involved in the group in the past; others just have a passion for choral music—and actually, I would assume that most of the people in the room had that passion. Choir nerds are not just the ones in choir, after all!
Our other recent public performance was as part of a concert to benefit the Minnesota Chorale. I’m happy to report the concert was very well-attended and well-received. Several choirs from the Twin Cities were invited to participate in a community choir concert and perform a short selection of their current repertoire. Of those invited, VocalEssence, Kantorei, the Oratorio Society, the National Lutheran Choir, the Minnesota Chorale, and the Singers participated. This made for a fantastic showcase of the diverse choral offerings in the Twin Cities. Each choir had their own focus of literature, their own approach to music, and their own unique sound. It was also a rare opportunity to hear these choirs very early in their seasons—most of the choirs had been together for barely a month and are still in the midst of shaping their ensembles. This “rawness” actually gave the concert an open and honest feel. We all had moments of vulnerability, some from musical error and some from pure emotion. I will refrain from getting political on this blog; suffice it to say that this is a painful time in the Minnesota music community. But the feeling in the Central Lutheran sanctuary was one of overwhelming support. Benjamin Britten said “an artist’s only job is to serve the community.” I feel we all did our job that Sunday afternoon. Here’s to continuing it.