frenchpony (frenchpony) wrote,

  • Music:

The Big Sing

One of the things that I loved about living in the Midwest was that, every so often, there were these pickup choir events. I got to go to the singalong Messiah at the Lyric Opera once, and to KAMII's singalong Judas Maccabaeus the last year that they did it. lcohen and rhobike and I had many lovely June evenings in Oak Park tearing through their pickup choir offerings.

And it turns out that I can still sometimes do the same in England! One of the basses in the Jewish choir that I've joined told people about The Big Sing, which is a pickup choir for charity event. I think it's once every two years, so I'll get at least one more chance to do this before my fellowship is up. There's a core choir and orchestra that sponsors the event, and other people can just sort of show up and sing. You have to buy a ticket, because the whole event supports a cause, but it's totally worth it.

This year, the piece was Mozart's Requiem, which I last sang in the spring of 1998 as the big chorus/orchestra concert of junior year at The Fairest College. Seventeen years later, it all came right back to me. In fact, I'm a better singer now than I was at age twenty-one, I understand music better, and it was just pure fun to pick up my old score and sing through it.

The event was at Great St. Mary's Church, which is a big church right smack in the middle of downtown Cambridge. Altos and sopranos sat in the balcony, right opposite each other, tenors and basses in the main body of the church. There were four soloists, a small orchestra, and the conductor was the guy who usually conducts the host choir. We had an afternoon rehearsal, and then an hour's break where we flooded the local cafes for tea, and then we reconvened at Great St. Mary's and performed our pickup choir singing for an audience, which is a new twist on the type of pickup choir singing I did in Chicago.

I loved it! You always remember the fun of singing Requiem, with the "et lux perpetua" and the really neat double canon of the "Kyrie eleison" (fun fact: that canon is in the key of D. Not D major or d minor. Mozart never pins down which one it actually is, and it ends on an open fifth, without the third that tells you whether you've been hearing major or minor.), and the Dies Irae is really exciting. But I'd forgotten just how neat it is to sing Rex Tremendae because that bit has actual honest-to-God swagger. And I'd completely forgotten about a little canon part in the Domine Jesu, the part that begins at about 0:59 here, "ne absorbeat eas tartarus, ne cadant in obscurum." It's fun and tumble-y, and I guess it must have been a major pain in the butt to learn back in the day, but last night, it just felt like playing pinball, except with my voice.

Plus, I got to revisit my old score, which had all sorts of convenient notes and pronunciations already penciled in. And some more obscure markings as well. What is 209X? Who are Andrea and Isabel? What took place on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 7 - 10? Why is the name of a Yiddish film written on the cover? The answers are lost to history, but the singing remains.
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