Sunday, March 27, 2011

Diction Diction Diction

Greetings readers!

I've been busy with consecutive rehearsals and concerts lately so it's been hard to keep up. I suppose the first concert I should mention is the one that wrapped up last weekend with Pro Coro's Founder Concert. We achieved some really nice musical moments during some of the bigger pieces like Josquin's "Ave Maria", the rich-sounding Mendelsson pieces, and Shank's "Musica Animam Tangens". I feel like these are the pieces that Pro Coro should be singing all the time if we want to build up our full-voice body. Pieces with epic sound. Marc Michel Gervais by the end of our rehearsal period, after his initial verbose disgust at our tendency to sing at half voice, said that Pro Coro has a lot of potential and to think of where their next 30 years are going to go. Also, that Pro Coro needs to increase the choir by at least 10 singers to expand the realm of available repertoire.

Nystedt's "Immortal Bach" was our encore piece. I found it very self-indulgent to sing. It begins with a simple Bach chant and then the voice parts begin to deconstruct upon the second repetition, singing at their own pace, and by the third repetition each chorister gets to choose when to change notes. It was lovely since you can bask in the vocal dissonances for 10-15 beats if you'd like before moving notes. Also, there's an magical acoustic lock when everybody eventually settles on the same end vowel. The acoustic ambiance was also aided by the fact that we all stood in the balconies of the church and enveloped the audience in sound.

After Pro Coro's concert it was time to start a new rehearsal cycle for Durufle's "Requiem" with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and Da Camera Singers. The big thing to remember from conductor Bill Eddins was "diction, diction, diction". Fair enough, diction is the acoustic cut the choir needed to use to be heard over the symphony but I felt like our musical sensitivity and phrasing was being lost. There is still a way to give those elements and provide crisp diction, however, I felt like the emphasis on diction prompted some choristers to oversing and be reduced to jolting entities that projected staccato word segments. From what I heard from reports from the audience, they were able to hear us quite well. My main fear-inducing moments during the performance were mostly for the men's parts. It took a while for the tenors and basses to consolidate and I still felt they were unsettled by the days of the performance. The soprano section was absolutely gorgeous. I always looked forward to their beginning solo line at the start of "In Paradisum". They had a soaring and gentle beauty to their sound which suited the transcendental line. The alto section I was a part of felt pretty solid too. It's hard to hear what we sounded like as a group, since all I could hear were the individual voices around me, but hopefully a cohesive blend resulted. There were gorgeous orchestra moments in the Durufle as well. I always loved hearing the lilting melodic bassoon line at the beginning of the "Lux Aeterna" movement.

On the Friday performance I could see that our clean cut-offs and diction was good enough for Eddins to give us a smile at two points during the piece, which I didn't see repeated for the Saturday performance. However, he lingered on the ending during Saturday night's performance when he refrained from putting his baton down at least for a good 10 seconds. A sign that he wanted to hold onto the musical magic in the air? I definitely had moments of "Man, I'm so lucky to sing with the ESO on stage at the Winspear!" during the two nights. I'm glad I signed up to sing the Durufle. It's another beautiful piece to add to the choral repertoire I've learned.

As I move into the next phase of my choral projects Pro Coro's St. John's Passion and Belle Canto's music festival preparation begins. Should be a busy few months!

Until next time, take care!

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