Saturday, April 18, 2009

It's Like Driving a Mercedes

I don't know what it was about tonight's festival performance.....but I was tired! It may be due in part to the fact that I am in the middle of writing finals but usually adrenaline gets me buzzed enough to pull off a performance. Didn't seem like that was the case tonight with Belle Canto.

The Rotary Music festival was held at the North Pointe Community Church out in the middle of nowhere. Somewhere in an area between St. Albert and Edmonton. It's a massive church filled with preschool rooms, leather couches, classrooms, gift shop, administration office, a huge gymnasium, a commercial kitchen and there's even a coffee shop near the entrance to the worship sanctuary. Very modern indeed...

Anyway, the sanctuary space, where the festival singing took place, was one of the most difficult acoustics I have ever sung in. I still think the worse one was the lecture theatre I sang in with Belle Canto at the University of Victoria. That room was truly disgusting. One of those steep amphitheater style lecture theaters with the fold-out desk chairs. If any of you UofA students remember lecture room P126 before Physics and V-wing was destroyed...imagine singing in that room. Yeah, gross, I know. There was no feedback and everything was exposed and dry. I tried to sing better to make up for it but it didn't seem like there was much of a difference. It just felt like we were all randomly singing and we all happened to be standing next to each other. There was no cohesive choir sound. At least not from where I was standing. It is unfair to critique our performance as a whole since I know that what I heard tonight is not what Belle Canto sounds like.

One of the most painful sets was one with the Ensemble Class. This was a smaller group with about half the singers of Belle Canto and I was picked to be 1 out of 2 second sopranos. It was o.k. for the first set but there was one song in the second set, If Ye Love Me by Eleanor Daley, that seemed to kill me slowly. I kept on taking huge gaping breaths with my fellow mezzo (the whole song is full of sustained phrases) and there was just no support or beneficial singing relationship between us. It was not her fault but I blame it on the acoustics and the fact that there was only 2 of us. A breath in a bad spot cannot be disguised with 2 people and we didn't really make a breathing plan of action before we went in. Also, we both wanted to take a breath and brace ourselves before a solo entry and what happened was that there was no second soprano note at the chord we were supposed to hold. Oops!

At this point we had already sung about 8 songs and hadn't had the opportunity to sit so we were all uber tired. I also forgot that during festivals the adjudicator,
George Evelyn, wanted to say something or work with us. This takes even more time! After every 2 or 3 songs he would come up and drill a few lines with us. Since there wasn't too much to perfect other than demanding more dynamic variation and suggesting that we should sing in straight tone to correct vibrato problems (which Heather promptly shut down) he was just mentioning nitpicky things that wouldn't radically change our performance. I kind of wished I could just sing and a concert! I sound like choral diva! I know a music festival is not designed this way but I've just been doing this for so long that I kind of don't really feel the desire to hear what they have to say. Of course, there are some illuminating points which you can take away but, overall, I know what I'm supposed to be doing or how a piece should's all about the execution. I also trust Heather's opinion and rehearsing with her is like having an prestigious adjudicator every week.

One thing the adjudicator mentioned that I found funny was when he compared Belle Canto to a Mercedes Benz. Not everybody gets to drive one but it's extremely luxurious when you get the chance. It's smooth, responds quickly to your commands and is a sleek performance machine. If I had to think of a Belle Canto analogy that men could identity with...a Mercedes Benz is a pretty good one.

Until next time, take care everybody!


Leonard Ratzlaff said...

Very entertaining column! I was there in Victoria so I totally know what you are talking about. To extend the Mercedez analogy, it must have felt like driving it on a dirt road, or like one of Edmonton's side streets with all the potholes just now.

misssable said...

Singing in that church was exactly like taking the mercedes in an off-road situation! I agree completely Len!

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