Each week, I have four rehearsals. I’ve been off from most of the them for the summer, so this was the first week that I’ve been back on that schedule, and the differences among them really struck me.
Master Chorale is singing the Fauré Requiem, and if you click here you can see and hear the “Pié Jesu,” one of the most familiar bits of it. It’s all over YouTube as well, if you wanted to hear it performed. And why wouldn’t you? It’s got to be one of the most lovely pieces of music ever written. #1 son is also preparing for it, but #2 son says it’s “too epic.” It is epic, can’t deny it, but there are sections of this that just make me feel that life is worth living because it exists.
Admittedly, I’ve never felt that life wasn’t worth living, but if I ever did, I bet this would fix me right up.
Anyway, in Master Chorale we have no problem with working on an entrance for ten minutes, or considering the imagery of a passage at great length. We work hard, we don’t fool around except during the cookie break (well, yes, we do have a cookie break; I don’t know whose idea it was, but it usually involves grapes and water as well as cookies), and we sound fantastic when we perform.
Bell choir is of course quite different, because I am so bad at it. Oddly enough, we also worked on something from the Requiem: the “Pié Jesu.” I am playing the low B, B flat, and C. I am, I am pleased to say, a lot better than I was last year. This is not that good, since I was phenomenally bad last year.
We lost three of our ringers, so BigSax has to play, which essentially means that we have no director. At a fermata, we look up and gaze around wildly to get a clue, and often the director stops the whole rehearsal entirely and counts us back in for the note after the fermata. This is okay, since by this time we are normally completely snarled up.
We are doing “Nearer My God to Thee” with a combination of plucking and malleting and ringing that is supposed to remind the listener of a tenor banjo.
“I can’t get the idea of what we’re aiming at,” I complained. Complaining is de rigeur in bells.
“Do you know the song?” asked BigSax, frowning.
“Yes,” said I. “I think that’s part of the problem.”
The experienced ringers say just to count, ignoring the fact that there may appear to be too many notes in a measure. Ignore everything else, they say, count steadily, keep your eyes only on your own notes, and ring when you think you should. I think this is why our rehearsals are a terrible cacophony. However, there is also the fact that sometimes they have turned the page before me and I have to cry out, “Where are we?” in a plaintive voice.
That probably doesn’t help.
Directly after bells, and also with BigSax, is choir. The organist had a piece of music for me on Wednesday. He was arranging three part harmony and accompaniment. I was going to take it at the beginning of the rehearsal, but he was still working on it.
“There’s so much talking,” he explained, “that I figure I can finish it up.”
I am putting that into words for him. Actually, he only said the first half and then gestured the second half, but I knew what he meant.
It’s true about the talking. About 40% of the rehearsal is composed of bickering. Then the basses talk absolutely all the way through the entire thing, unless they are actually singing. For example, if the sopranos are singing in one section and the basses are not, they talk.
My theory is that they are all a bit deaf, and they think they are whispering.
The bickering consists of things like this:
“I have ‘me’ written in over the B.”
“Yes. Since the note is tied, it makes more sense to have the new word there, instead of on the C.”
“Just the sopranos?”
“I have it written in for everyone.”
“Well, only the sopranos have that tied note.”
“So they’re going to do that and the rest of us aren’t? It should have been written that way.”
“Well, I’m going to. That’s what I have written.”
“No, see the sopranos have a tied note.”
“So what? They could just sing ‘me’ on the C.”
“You can’t sing a new word in the middle of a slur.”
“That’s not what I have written. I don’t think this was my music.”
“Let me see it. No, that’s Suwanda’s music.”
“Is that my music? Well, I want that one then.”
“Not you, the other Suwanda. The one who moved to Hot Springs.”
“No, it can’t have been her. She wasn’t a soprano.”
“That’s what I’m telling you. We all should sing the ‘me’ together.”
Yes, well. You can see why we don’t always get a whole lot of fine-tuning done. The goal in this choir is to sing the notes and words at roughly the right moments, and more or less together. That’s all. It has always reminded me of singing around a campfire, or on a tour bus.
The fourth rehearsal of the week is the choirlet on Thursday evening. We have a mix of people who care what we sound like and people who don’t give a flip, and no director. We sit around on LL’s porch singing in close harmony. It sometimes happens that no one chooses to sing melody, and then I make us stop and hash out who’s going to sing what. Otherwise, it’s just lots of singing. Last night, I broached the subject of Advent carols and we hauled out some songbooks and sang through a bunch with enthusiasm, calling out numbers when we found a really cool one. It’s all women, and we have sung together enough that it’s almost like family singing.
At some point, someone will say, “I’m all sung out” or “Are we through?” and then we adjourn for tea and cake and conversation.
Having all these rehearsals every week means that I am frequently emailing clients, “I have a rehearsal, but I’ll have that for you in the morning.”
Today I have a writer, a subliminal MP3 manufacturer, and several blogs to do. I also have lunch with Janalisa, which will make a nice break in the middle of things.