Off the Risers – Life as a Singer: Susanna 3/10/14

It’s been over a week, but the our last notes in the Basilica are still ringing in my memory. Who knows, maybe there are still some residual overtones ringing in the sanctuary itself.*

What am I talking about exactly? Well, a couple weekends ago we had the fortunate opportunity to perform in the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis, a space renowned for its acoustics and beauty. It is a space made for singing Tavener and Pärt. Mozart sounds pretty great in there, too, but the first two works of the program, Funeral Ikos and Berliner Messe have chant-like quality that works so well in a lofty sacred room. We even got fancy and took some choreography to the Tavener, singing in a quasi-surround formation and processing around the audience. I have to say this seemed a little out of the comfort zone in rehearsal, but the people I talked to after the concert loved it. So I guess the lesson is, try new things!

Pärt’s Berliner Messe was another one I wished I could have experienced outside of the choir as well as in it. As a soprano, my part consisted almost entirely of tintinnabulation—which in musical terms means that the lines I sang basically consisted of Do, Mi and Sol. It’s deceptively difficult—both concentrating on how the line forms with only those degrees of the scale, but also singing such a line musically. Early rehearsals had me feeling like a Sing-a-Ma-Jig. The harmonies are so exposed in the Pärt that it’s a tiny bit scary to sing, but also easy to be entranced. And in the Basilica, it’s hard to tell exactly how well it comes across to the audience. But again, I only heard enthusiastic feedback from friends who got to hear the sound melt together in the sanctuary.

Our last concert was particularly special because we had an anniversary chorus of Singers alumni and friends join us for the Mozart Coronation Mass. The guest singers practically doubled our number, and it was a lot of fun to sing with such a big group of very talented musicians. I love singing Mozart in general, but I think the larger size of the choir encouraged a healthy, robust sound from everyone. Nothing like 20 basses singing full out—I think the risers even vibrated at one point! Let’s do this again, okay?

Now, we’ve just started rehearsals for our next project, My Soul’s Repose: Lamento. It will be a concert full of literature meditating on beauty, sorrow, loss, God, anger, death. . . obviously it’s going to be a riot! Seriously, though, I am super pumped for this project. The music is incredibly beautiful and “delightfully challenging” as Matt put it. We’re doing a lot of literature from composers of the choral canon, including Mendelssohn, Tallis, Howells, and Durufle, as well as “new canon” composers Tavener and Whitacre. This is also my first time singing Alberto Ginastera’s Lamentations of Jeremiah, or as I’m going to refer to it, “music to wail and gnash teeth by”. It’s a very cool piece that swings from visceral to mournful and back. Between this concert and our last, it’s been a departure from our concerts last year and on tour, which have been heavy on more locally and recently composed works. Variety is the spice of life, I say. No doubt I’ll be looking forward to our all new works concert in May after this!

*Physics would probably say no.

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