My choir rehearsals don't begin until September, but we've entered the season of paying dues and announcing what we will be singing. We're doing a cantata series! Plus one big concert to celebrate Benjamen Britten's 100th Birthday (not on the website yet).

The cantata series is going to be something different - shorter concerts, held on Wednesday nights, and hopefully affordable for many more people. More on that later when I have more official details.

We'll be doing Bach, and also Purcell, whose work I have not sung in a really long time, and some other thematically appropriate stuff, some of it modern. If you're a Philly local, check it out!

Bach! And Cons!

The Bach went beautifully, but it was very tiring - I think our attention span was definitely flagging in the last hour after standing through a lot of solo material, because our conductor had to prod people to watch. But we perked up again for the end, and people clapped, and came to the reception and ate the food we'd brought, and said they'd enjoyed it, so yay!

We'd actually had audience for the dress rehearsal on Friday night. A local arts website was doing a test event for something called "rehearsal club," and asked us if we'd be their guinea pig. They'd expected maybe 20 people, but 40 signed up (I don't think all of them showed, but most did). All but maybe a half-dozen left at the halfway break, but a few diehards remained, some of them regular attendees at our concerts. The idea, if the club continues, is that after seeing "behind the scenes," people would also attend the performance to see how it worked out in the end (i.e., buying a ticket!), but at minimum it would be good publicity for the organizations involved.

Readercon panelist questionnaires have gone out, so I'll be working on that. Goal #1 is always to avoid over-committing myself by not checking the "leader/moderator" boxes too often. Yeah. Laugh it up, fuzzball.

Also, I had a sale! "8:00 P.M.: Appointment TeeVee" has been picked up for the next Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica. Yay reprint! This is the story that has fanfictional geekery mixed in with the sex.

One more rehearsal!

I survived the two straight nights of rehearsals, which weren't as draining as they could have been. The first one was sans orchestra, and we were up in the choir room, which has wood rather than stone floors. We could also occasionally sit. And we got out after a couple of hours, and I got to bed at a reasonable hour.

Last night, we weren't able to be in the performance space, so we worked in the church where we usually perform smaller concerts. The orchestra took the front area, and we sat in the front pews, facing them. We did stand for most of it, but the floor there is wood, and we could get more sitting breaks. We got out maybe fifteen-twenty minutes early, so again I didn't get to bed too awfully late. I'm not sleeping that well this week, thanks to allergies and antihistamine, I think, but it was better than it might have been.

Today is a day off, then Friday night is dress rehearsal in the performance space, which will be the real endurance test for us singers, who stand the whole time. I plan to get to sleep as early as possible tonight, and to sleep late on Saturday as well. The concert is Sunday; I tend to lie around a lot beforehand, napping if I can, listening to music that is not the concert music.

If you're going to the concert, there's a reception afterwards - hope to see you there!

Bach week begins!

I went to the first concert of this year's Bach Festival yesterday - our conductor did a solo organ concert, improvising in the style of Buxtehude, improvising on some Bach chorales, and finishing off with a piece written by Bach. There was a quartet to do the chants and chorales he was working from, and some of our choir scattered throughout the audience. On the second verse of one of the chorales, we did an aleotoric rendering of the first few phrases, getting up one by one and making our way to the front. Then we finished out the verse in slow but normal time. Apparently, it sounded very cool from the organ loft!

This week I have three evening rehearsals, 7:00 - 10:00 pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, and a concert on Sunday. I'd like to attend the two concerts next Saturday, but one conflicts with a book launch party I'm attending, and I will probably nap through the other one. I will need a rest by then!

Matthäus Passion comments

I was asked to write about my experience of the Philadelphia Orchestra's production of Bach's St. Matthew Passion, which I saw and heard on Saturday night. For those keeping track, the participants were the Philadelphia Orchestra; Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor; The American Boychoir; and The Westminster Symphonic Choir (from Westminster Choir College). Soloists: Malin Christensson - Soprano; Karen Cargill - Mezzo-soprano; Andrew Staples - Tenor (Evangelist); Andrew Foster-Williams - Bass-baritone; and Luca Pisaroni - Bass-baritone (Jesus).

This Passion has two choirs and two orchestras, and some smaller groups of instrumentalists who play continuo for the solo pieces. The piece is a mixture of narration (the tenor evangelist); acting out of events by combinations of soloists and choir; choir chorales meditating on the proceedings, which the congregation was intended to sing as well; and choruses, which are the big opening parts, when the choir plays the angry crowd, etc.. St. Matthew in particular starts with Passover and goes through Jesus being entombed.

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BTW, The Philadelphia Bach Festival begins soon! B Minor Mass on May 5th!
EASTER MESSIAH BROADCASTS of HANDEL'S MESSIAH, performed live in Philadelphia, March 17, 2013

Choral Arts Philadelphia in collaboration with Tempesta di Mare, the Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra

Ah Young Hong, soprano
Jennifer Lane, alto
Aaron Sheehan, tenor
William Sharp, bass

Good Friday, MARCH 29 @ 8 PM
WKYL and

Easter Sunday, MARCH 31 @ 3 PM
WWFM and

Easter Sunday, MARCH 31 @ 8 PM
WEKU and


Tuesday - 5 Things

1. I went back to the gym last night, after a week of mostly being off for concert week rehearsals. I lifted many weights. I found that it still drives me into a rage when all the equipment is in use, and if some people (almost always men, in the weight room) are loitering on it rather than giving others a turn. By "loitering" I mean leaving their stuff on the bench and wandering off to talk to their friends for 10-15 minutes, coming back, lifting a barbell a couple of times, wandering off get the idea. Anyway, I need to find a way to not be enraged that does not involve Giving In To My Anger and Going to the Side That Has Cookies. Mostly, I've been trying to go do other things when all the equipment I want is in use. Which is fine, except when I start running out of other things. I ended up doing my chest press/triceps thing while lying on the floor, because the single unoccupied bench was "claimed" in such a manner. If I could go during the day, it might be less crowded, but my dayjob doesn't really allow for that. Suggestions?

2. Perhaps my concept of "sharing" is not part of the college-aged male gym culture. Women are rare in the big weight room. I do not know if other women feel the same way as I do - I saw two last night, who were sort of hiding in the corner. They tend to use the machines much more than the free weights. I wonder if there would be more women if the men weren't so territorial about the space. And they are territorial. They will pounce if you approach "their" space, even if they are not using it, as if when someone else interrupts their 20-minute break, their penis will snap off. *ahem* /rant

3. My luggage is fixed! New wheels!

4. I'm reading a book that is perhaps too dark for my current state of mind. Not that it's particularly dark, it's just resonating too much with other things. I need to pick something else, but am not sure what.

5. My brain is still singing "Messiah" to me, though the concert was over on Sunday. It was a really good performance, I think - there's a sort of shared high still going on, based on comments I've seen from others. Tonight, we're moving on to Bach's B minor Mass, so I wil move on to a different high all together.


The Messiah has been sung.

It was an excellent performance of "The Messiah," I think. It's supposed to be on the radio on Easter Sunday, but I don't have details yet.

There's some video on Tempesta di Mare's Facebook page from rehearsals, i.e., How I Spent My Saturday.

We're starting rehearsals for Bach's B Minor Mass on Tuesday night. That performance is May 5.



On the second night of "Messiah" rehearsal, we sang "Worthy is the Lamb," which includes the big "Amen" fugue. Whee! It was still as much fun as I remembered. Then we learned that two of the choruses we had been told were cut were now back in, so we did those, and reviewed some of what we'd done the first week.

It's lovely doing a piece that most people not only know, but know well; everything sounds good even the first time, and the style is already partially gelled. To use a writing metaphor, we're polishing and proofreading rather than drafting or doing a first edit. It's the kind of singing I can easily lose myself in; not lost in a vague way, but lost in a highly concentrated, focused way.

In keeping with the period practices, we're singing sans conductor. Matt will be playing continuo on organ, and giving us the occasional head nod or maybe a cutoff now and again if his hand is free. We've been joking that no one ever looks at him anyway, so it's a piece of cake. Actually, it is pretty easy, because this is a small ensemble and almost all of us have been singing together for a long time. Since we know the piece well, it's easy to feel it. Will be interesting to see how it goes with the orchestra. Hopefully, we'll be able to adjust quickly.

I can already tell this is going to be a magical performance.

It's the "swallow a frog" technique.

In the last couple of weeks I've started trying this thing where you work on the most complicated "to do" item first.

I've seen this advice over and over, but this time it finally stuck, because whatever advice column it was in gave a logical reason for it to work: if you do the small things first, as the day progresses you use up energy and willpower, so by the time you get to the big thing you are already too tired and sapped to concentrate on it. Or care about it. It just lies there like a big, irritating stone you can't move.

So this morning I actually phoned up the luggage repair place (remember them?) and got the specifics. I will have to bring the suitcase in and, most likely, leave it there for later pickup. They do replace both wheels at once, not just the broken one (I wanted this, figuring the other would go soon), and the price ranges depending on the type of wheel and if the housing must also be repaired. He gave me an upper limit of maybe $60 if it was really complex, which is much, much less than a new suitcase and much less than I had feared. A thing done! Next up, arranging a time with friend to drop off said suitcase. ...I know the phone call sounds like a small thing, but I hate phoning up to ask about things, so it loomed large.

We started rehearsing for the March 17th "Messiah" performance last night. Aside from a few moments checking things that were different in the various editions (our standard is the Barenreiter scores), it went fast and smooth; all but one or two of us have done the piece in various iterations (differing cuts), and of course we've done so much Baroque in the last few years that we've developed a baseline competence in the appropriate styles. We were able to spend a lot of time on seemingly tiny things that will have large results in the overall sound. We ran our bits of the second part (minus "Hallelujah"), and I was excited to learn we're doing a couple of the choruses I've never done before, while cutting one that I don't like that much. Also, since it will be pitched for baroque instruments, the alto range is really comfortable and restful to sing. A more science-y article about modern vs. baroque pitch.


oracne - Victoria Janssen
Victoria Janssen

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