Messa per Rossini at the Cathedral

Well we did it. It was nuts. It was crazy. It was mad, but we did it, and we pulled it off!

Something like 13 or 14 hyperactive italian romantic composers recruited by Verdi to write a requiem in honour of Rossini.

Arianna, a choir of some 30 to 40 voices, augmented to 130 or more by a collection of choristers from all around.

A 50 piece orchestra including an ophicleide.

Five awesome soloists. All were great, the contralto and the bass were outstanding - and the bass used to be a maths teacher!

Two hours of music ranging from sweet unaccompanied melodies ("think gondolas", said our choirmaster) to wild frantic blasts ("look terrified", he said). Verdi did the dies irae. Enough said.

Some of the choir couldn't sing. I know, because I stood next to two of them at different times.

I watched the player tuning his ophicleide. He blew a test note, shrugged and crossed himself.

The piece was well-written. Here's an example. The first half ends with a speedy fugue on Amen, with the theme introduced by the basses. The inevitable happened. At one point there was a race between the four voices of the choir. "We won", said my friend, Guy. At another moment a group of separatist basses decided to do their own thing (Basques? Corsicans?). But every so often the whole thing stops and the basses reintroduce the theme.
We could all muster at the next bass entry.

The cathedral was absolutely full, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to hear this crazy, unique piece of music.


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