Ah! Relax – but not too much

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Was it not wonderful to be singing Handel last night?   Preparing for and performing the concert on Sunday had also been wonderful, but we had been stretched beyond our comfort zone and had to focus and concentrate with extra power to sing music which was quite different from our usual fare.

So rehearsal last night felt like settling into the soothing comfort of a warm bath after a strenuous cycle ride or a session at the gym, or after a day in which loads of physical energy had been expended in the backyard.

We could relax.

Handel is the sort of music we are accustomed to.  The harmonies and rhythms are standard stuff.  We know how it is meant to sound.  It pretty much sings itself.  And those of us who have sung Messiah more times than we care to count felt particularly smug, singing sections from memory with only the occasional reference to the score.

We could indeed relax.

I do not remember Carlos actually taking his sweater off, but after a few minutes it seemed as though he might well have done so.  We had sung through all the choruses in Part 1 and were looking forward to Parts 2 and 3 when he returned to the first chorus.

The sense of relaxation evaporated.

This music may be familiar to many of us, but it is not straightforward.  Carlos had us work hard on just two choruses for the remainder of the rehearsal.

There are runs with repeated patters which have to be sung very precisely.  There are entries which depend on successive voices pitching and starting exactly on the note.  There are notes at the ends of phrases which have to be held for exactly the right length.  There are consonants which have to be enunciated by everyone at exactly the same moment.  And much more besides.

Not to mention, of course, the spirit and meaning of the music which Carlos never lets us forget, even on our first run-through.

It was indeed pleasant to relax briefly into the sort of music we know and love.  But it will be even more satisfying to join learn how best to communicate this sublime music and its underlying meaning to our audiences in December.

It will not be a particularly easy journey, but it will be immensely satisfying, and, with Carlos in the driving seat, it will be great fun.