Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Singing for our Supper

On Saturday night I had the pleasure of singing for a Ladies Appreciation Night for Wives and Widows of the Masonic order at the San Remo Restaurant. I signed up for the gig for two reasons:

1. I would raise money for my fundraising account
2. I would be fed

You can probably ask any musician this (or any person really) but being paid and fed is the sign of a very good gig. However, I also knew that our gig would be stressful since we would have limited time to run through songs together. There were 6 of us and we were singing songs we usually sing with the whole choir. Some pieces were spread a bit thin with all the split voice parts and sometimes impromptu solos where necessary...but we survived :)

We knew we had to run through pieces before we began to sing so we went to the most private place we could find....the bathroom. When we began to realize that people needed to use the bathroom we moved to the next best space....the handicap cubicle. It comfortably fit 6 people! It was here that we ran through the pieces that worried us the most and we also decided last minute to sing Frobisher Bay. We didn't have music but it was fine since we knew most of the melody and that song is ingrained into my choral being. I know all the words and I can sing any part. That training is from my good ol' Con Fuoco days. It was in the bathroom stall that we gave Erin time to run her "Shall we Gather at the River" solo (which she graciously volunteered to sing last minute) and we cut some instrumental pages out of Tell me Ma and figured out how we were going to split the chords of some songs that needed 9 voices. Soon after,
somebody came in to alert us to the fact that dinner was being served so we processed out to our spots at the end of the table where everybody else was sitting.

We began to organize our music and decide our set list as bruschetta, salad and pasta were being passed around to us. Once we were organized and had everything figured out I could tell there was less stress in the air. Dinner was delicious and it was fun to unwind with my fellow choristers. We normally don't get the time to chat to one another even with rehearsal breaks and it's really through doing gigs and touring that we get to bond.

We began singing our first set after the entrees and the audience chuckled when we confessed that we were now going to sing for our supper. We decided to sing two musical sets. We started off with a light madrigal and one thing which is really nice about singing in a small group is how responsive we were to dynamics and musical interpretation. The only song which sounded a bit off to me in the first set was a Finnish song we had called On Suuri Sun Rantas. We decided to all sing unison at the beginning instead of having a solo but then, all of a sudden, I totally forgot that the solo continues and the choir starts humming. I had about a 1/2 second blip in my brain when I heard others switch down to the choir part and realized we didn't designate someone to sing the solo. Anyway, I sang it along with Kirsten and we survived.

The most integral skill in these gigs is winging it. You have to be aware at all times if musical parts are missing and you have to be ready to jump around to different lines to help your fellow choristers out. It requires a lot of brain power but you just have to keep your ears open since we don't want to leave anybody hanging. After this set we were served dessert and got to listen to some Masonic toasts.

Afterwards, we popped outside on the restaurant to run through more songs before our second set. It kind of looked like we were all smokers since we all processed out together and huddled together (it was chilly!) over by the smokers corner...

In our second set, we there was a slight panic moment in "Queen Jane" when the altos each came in on a different note on one line but I wasn't paying enough attention to jump down and help them out. We finished off the piece with some strange chords and a few confused looks from audience members but I think they just thought the weird chords were a part of the piece.

The ending of the second set was nice since it was just two folk songs, Shall We Gather at the River and Tell My Ma, where the melodies were just the same but there were different words. Even though we didn't discuss dynamics beforehand we created our own on-the-spot dynamics to give our song some variety since there were 5+ lines of text. That's another thing you can't do in a choir. In a small group it is much easier to be receptive to those around you so you can hear and sense when there is a consensus to do something different with the text. Tell My Ma was fun as always and it was just nice to get the audience clapping along and end the evening with something catchy and pleasant. We had some standing ovations and it was a lovely gig to sing overall since the atmosphere was warm and intimate and the acoustic actually wasn't that shoddy either.

We ended the gig by talking to our audience members and we all received red roses as we went out the door. An excellent gig overall!

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