I may be imagining it, but I reckon that it has recently been possible to gauge the state of rehearsals by the state of Carlos’ sweater.
During this cold weather, he has usually come to rehearsal in a dark sweater, very appropriate to the outside temperature. The rehearsal starts, and we sing something reasonably well. Then we make a mess of something. Off comes the sweater, the specs are re-adjusted on the end of his nose, the mobile phone is checked for being turned off, and we can tell that he means business. Then starts a determined process of de-constructing the music phrase by phrase, note by note, and then re-constructing it note by note, phrase by phrase, until it is in good shape.
I did not see Carlos arrive yesterday, but as soon as rehearsal started the sweater was nowhere to be seen. That had to mean that we were about to embark on something tricky. Indeed we were. The song Son de la Loma may be short, but it is fiendish. Why? Maybe because it encapsulates something of all the other pieces we are singing.
For a start it is in Spanish, a language most of us do not understand, and which looks very much like Latin and Italian but is actually pronounced very differently. It is more difficult even than the Hebrew in the Five Love Songs.
Then there is the syncopation, both within bars and across bars, not unlike some of the sections of the Little Jazz Mass. But Son de la Loma takes the technique a stage further in the section where the upper voices sing one syncopated rhythm and the basses sing another, quite unrelated but equally syncopated rhythm, synchronized in alternate bars.
And if that were not enough, just like the otherwise straightforward music of West Side Story, the notes rush on you relentlessly, demanding your complete attention. As we discovered last night, if you drop your concentration for just the smallest fraction of a second, you lose the plot, completely and irretrievably.
So it is indeed fitting that Son de la Loma will be the last item on the program. And, presumably, in performance Carlos will not be wearing his sweater.