Last night Belle Canto sang in the St. Albert Rotary Festival or the St. Albert Sauna as we affectionately deemed it. There was a steamy hot heat that permeated the church where we sang. It always amazes me how long I find these festival classes even after years of competing in them. It is always nice to have the opportunity to perform for some new ears but my patience is wearing thin to have an adjudicator jot down notes in between each song while we stand up on the stage and have nothing to do. In that sense, I really enjoyed the Cork Music Festival since you have a set time frame and you just sang each piece one after the other so you can just stay in the performance zone without having to wait.
We ended up entering in a bunch of classes some with the full choir and some with a smaller ensemble. Many of our songs were quite new and our main frightening moment occurred during Montaverdi's "Surgens Jesu." Early music can be so challenging within a choir since it is so dependent on the fact that we all are keeping the same internal pulse and it really is up to the individual parts to move the line. Each section needs to have an unspoken consensus of where they want their individual line to go. It requires such a great amount of mental effort since you have to continuously feel the movement of the line and provide proper stress while knowing when to retract to let another section express its musical thoughts. It requires such finely tuned sensitivity and we were definitely lacking that respect. There was a tentative fear heard throughout the whole piece and there was so much tension I couldn't even take a full breath. A moment of doubt regarding the pulse caused the soprano section to miss an entry and we ended up singing the end of the piece without them. I remember thinking "maybe I should just jump up onto their line so they know where they should be" but I figured sight reading and coming in on a high F probably wasn't the best thing in case I butchered it. My lack of confidence is also due to the fact that we've just started learning the piece and it has yet to settle into our voices and be comfortable for us to perform. I am still dependent on my music to decipher my own line let alone start singing another part. I'm sure once Belle Canto is in Italy, singing inside beautiful domed cathedrals, this current fear will past.
Our other songs seemed to go smoothly enough. Our "Log Drivers Waltz" was cheeky and light due to Shannon's solo, our madrigal "Aye Me, Alas, Hey Ho" was surprisingly solid for a piece that was new for us as well and I was happy to realize that I had it memorized since I didn't need my music much throughout the performance. I love it when I'm unconsciously memorizing a piece! It really take the cognitive load off! Our French Canadian folksong, "V'la L'Bon Vent," was one of our most solid performances of that piece yet and we got some good tips from the French Canadian adjudicator, Dr. Andrée Dagenais, to ensure that we didn't nasalize the consonant but to nasalize the open vowel. For example, in the word "vent," we needed to remain on the open /e/ vowel and add nasalization rather than holding to the /n/ to provide that nasalization for us. A small detail, but as Dr. Andrée Dagenais said herself, it is all about the details when we are preparing for an international competition.
Overall, the performance definitely had its shaky moments but nothing that I am going to lose sleep over. We have another chance to perform at the Edmonton Kiwanis Festival this upcoming week so hopefully we can work through some more bugs at rehearsal on Monday. If you are in Edmonton and would like to see Belle Canto perform, we will be singing on Friday, April 23 at McDougall United Church probably starting around 7:30pm. The nice thing about festivals is that they're free :)
Hope to see some of you there!
Also, here's a video of the McDades singing V'la L'Bon Vent with Pro Coro. It's not the same arrangement but it has the right French-Canadian folk song feel.