I attended the Choral Conducting Academy at BYU last week and it was great fun and a little depressing. The depressing thing to me is that there are soooo many things in which it would help to be an expert and it would sure take time and effort to become one. Singing takes a lot of effort to do it well and there are so many subtlties to being a great conductor, and not to mention analyzing music! I'd rather be the pianist that can transpose at the drop of a hat, but..... that takes so much more time and a different kind of effort.
One very fun highlight of the week was taking a bus (with the other academy attendees) to Salt Lake City to attend a rehearsal of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. But, that was not all, no, we actually got to fill in the empty seats and rehearse with them!!!
I think the excuse was so that we could have a good view of the conductor, Mack Wilberg.
The choir was preparing for a concert coming up that weekend, so we sped through a lot of music.
It was pretty hard for me to follow foreign language words with totally unfamiliar music. I think Hebrew was the hardest to follow, but the Chichester Psalms by Leonard Bernstein, was sure neat music.
The first song we rehearsed was in French, but it was a familiar tune, Habañera, from Carmen by Bizet, so that wasn't too hard to follow, even though I had never sung that arrangement before. (I've only sung the melody with Charlotte Church in my car.)
Then, we sang in Latin. Requiem - Sanctus, by Verdi. It was arranged for 2 choirs, so that was really interesting trying to follow along. The director said that it is an opera without costumes or scenery.
Next up, was the Triumphal Chorus from Aida, also by Verdi. If I remember correctly, this one was in Italian. The director said he was letting the choir get away with a lot tonally, because "It's an opera, it'll sound funny if we sing it too refined. It needs some spa-GHET'ti to it!"
Finally, we sang some in English:
'Going Home' based on Dvorak "New World Symphony" (much easier to sing in English!)
Danny Boy, arr. by Joseph Flemmerfelt (I think they had to memorize this one to sing as an encore)
Shenandoah, arr. by Mack Wilberg
An American Songbook, written for the Tabernacle Choir for the 2002 Winter Olympics
God Bless America (they also had to memorize this for the encore)
All those songs were for the Sun Valley, Idaho, benefit concert ($250-$500/ticket!).
Then, they rehearsed a couple for the Deer Valley concert the same weekend:
Psalm 86, by Gustav Holt
Amazing Grace, arr. by Wilberg
and the Chichester Psalms (that I already mentioned).
On the bus back to Provo, our tour guide, Nathan, told us about the choir.
It was really interesting.
He said that there are currently 397 members and 363 seats in the choir loft at the Conference Center.
There were emptly seats, because there is only a 75% attendance requirement.
Nathan said he goes for 3 weeks and then takes a week off.
I'll write about the audition process in another entry.