It's a "gros truc".

Tomorrow is the concert of the Mass for Rossini, given to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of Rossini and the 30th anniversary of the founding of the choir, Arianna. There's about 130 in the choir, a 50 piece orchestra and 5 soloists. We're doing it in the cathedral and apparently it's close to being a sell-out.

Essentially on Rossini's death Verdi decided it would be a good idea to pay homage to the great composer by getting a gang of Italian romantic opera composers to collaborate on a requiem that would be a tribute from his friends and colleagues. The result is a two-hour extravaganza. We've been learning the piece and practicing for over a year. Here's a couple of remarks.

These are Italian romantic opera composers, so the piece is larger than life. It's full of loud and soft, fast and slow, soaring soloists, a very menacing bass, four trombones, an ophicleide, the kit and the caboodle.

It'll be my swan song with the choir. I've joined another. Arianna's rehearsal place is too hard to get home from late at night by public transport.

Arianna doesn't select its singers by audition. You come along, sing with the choir and if you fancy it then it's OK. Most Arianna regulars can sing pretty well, at least by memory, but for this piece the choir is augmented by many others, and I have found some who really can't sing at all.

At the penultimate rehearsal on Saturday, before we got into position, the conductor Fred said, "Before we start there's one thing... Can Alan please sit in the front row." I did this but all the way through was a bit baffled as to why. Had he spotted me on my mobile phone when the soloists were blasting through their parts? Was it a rerun of when I got thrown out of the school choir for laughing? Afterwards one of the Arianna folk explained that he wanted to get those who have some idea of what they are doing spread out among those who .. well, who don't. I am to serve as a guide for the front row.

The penultimate rehearsal went better than I expected, until the last movement - a Dies Irae composed by Verdi - you get the picture - where there were moments of horse race between the different axes of the choir.  I have to review two movements before the performance tomorrow evening - one where the men sing a capella and the Dies Irae, just so I can sing with minimal dependence on the score and keep my eyes fixed on the conductor.


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