A Choral update

 Choirs, eh?

Anyway at present I am back at Arianna and we are rehearsing a work by James Whitbourn, called Annelies. It’s a kind of cantata or oratorio based on the diary of Anne Frank. It’s not very cheerful, though it has some charming passages. I’m also finding it quite a difficult work to get into. I sing low bass for Arianna, thought I can’t remember why.

The choir continues to rehearse at the Pessac library, which is far easier for me to reach than the old Music School rehearsal room, but I’m not sure what they plan for the future.

Annelies is sung mostly in English. English pronunciation is a minefield for the Gallic mouth. Enough said.

Meanwhile another choir advertised for help from any basses, tenors or high sopranos. I looked into them. They rehearse in a part of Bordeaux which is easy to get to by Tram D. You just sit on the tram for about 30 minutes and then walk 5 and you’re there.

They’re a smaller group and thin in tenors and baritones. They need me in baritone for four works, two of which I kind of know. Firstly Ola Gjeilo’s Northern Lights, which is a setting of a latin text from the Song of Solomon. It’s very nice and not terribly challenging. 

Then two extracts from the choral version of Grieg’s Peer Gynt, which for some reason we’re singing in German.  

Then comes Gjeilo’s Sunrise Mass, again in Latin. This is much harder to read, with lots of changes of time signature, lots of modulation and loads of enharmonic notes where you get for example G# followed by Ab. Strictly speaking they’re not the same note, and they are written differently because of the harmony, but they’re so close in pitch as to make little difference in a 50 person amateur choir. If you’re used to them you just have to look out for them, but they do have a tendency to throw you if you cannot really read music. And most of our basses are not readers. 

Thus Alan’s helpful remarks like ‘you see how that note is HIGHER than that one? That means you go UP, not down. (Ça monte là, et monter, c’est vers le haut). But THOSE two notes are the same. They just LOOK different’. As well as ‘pp, that means pleine puissance (full power) while ff means faible et feignant (weak and lacking)’

I have three weeks to learn Sunrise Mass, and to begin with I thought it would be a tall order. But we sang through it yesterday and there’s only one passage where I struggle, really, so with a bit of effort I should be able to pull my weight. And the end of the piece is breathtakingly beautiful.


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