Thursday, April 19, 2012

Navigating the Virtues

Greetings readers,

In addition to general Pro Coro commitments, I have also been singing with The Ordo Collective, which is led by Eva Bostrand. In the fall, they performed Hildegard von Bingen's "Ordo virtutum" (translation: "The Way of the Virtues") and now they have reassembled the collective with some new substitutions (myself included) to perform in Calgary and Edmonton this coming weekend. Hildegard von Bingen was a nun who, in addition to her nunly duties, also happened to compose music and have the occasional divine vision. That's how choir girls used to keep busy in the 1100's.

Hildegard's "Ordo virtutum" is an early morality play which documents the temptation of the female soul (aka: Anima) by the Devil and there are 12 singers to play the "Virtues" (e.g. Chastity, Humility, Innocence etc.) to provide the lady-soul moral back-up. You may be wondering which virtues I get to play, in fact, I am "Charity" and "Modesty". I will leave that up to you, dear readers, to decide if that is fitting or not.

In terms of the rehearsal process, all I can say is that the first rehearsal was intense. Since I was one of the few choral newbies in a group with only 12 singers... I was scrambling to write pronunciation exceptions, breath marks, solo assignments, extra notes etc. as we read through the entire work. Thank goodness for friendly choral neighbours! The sound of my panicked page turns definitely rustled throughout the room. During the first run-through, it felt like every other page I had a surprise solo or I was in charge of leading the chant lines. The unison chant lines are unique in that a specific member vocally leads the group and decides where breaths are taken, how long to hold notes, supply rhythm changes etc. This role within the group is affectionately referred to as "Simon," inspired by the classic "Simon Says." Leading the group was definitely a different and challenging experience. While you don't want to leave people behind, you need to move the line forwards to keep musical momentum going. At one point during the second rehearsal, I was waiting for the line to start before I realized that everybody was looking for me to take the lead. Oops!

I find that the only way to get through slightly intense experiences like this is just to maintain a positive attitude, be open to trying anything (yes, I will sightread that solo for everybody right now!), and put in the time to figure things out at home. I am happy to report that with each rehearsal I feel exponentially more confident. This is a good thing since the next time I'll see everyone will be on performance day in Calgary. The run-through tonight was at the Providence Centre in Edmonton, a gorgeous location tucked away in a lush green pocket of Edmonton. What an appropriate setting for the music! There also are retired nuns living there who contribute to inner-city outreach programs. How cool is that?!? I think Hildegard would approve.

To learn more information about this performance, feel free to view this promotional video:

April 21, 2012 Christ Church, Calgary @730 PM (Tickets available at the door).
April 22, 2012 Providence Centre Chapel, Edmonton @3 PM (Tickets available online and at the door).

Until next time readers, take care!

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