We spent a lot of time last night singing just one word – Amen. Three questions came to mind in the gaps when Carlos was focusing on voices other than the Basses.
Is the libretto of this chorus the shortest in the choral repertoire?
Is this the longest chorus in the choral repertoire with only a single word as the libretto?
How many times is the single word Amen repeated and is this a record for the most times a single word appears in a single chorus?
If anyone out there knows the answers to any of these questions (or is sufficiently Google aware to find the answers), I would be very pleased to know.
Many years ago I was persuaded to join a mass Come and Sing Messiah in Winchester Cathedral in southern England. You know the sort of thing – no rehearsals before the day; a run through in the afternoon; then a performance in the evening. The event was so popular with choirs that there was no room for an audience. Around two and a half thousand singers of varying levels of ability were packed into this vast building.
I had had some reservations. Where would the conductor position himself to be seen by all singers? As Winchester Cathedral has one of the longest naves in England, if not Europe, and enjoys or suffers, depending on your point of view, a reverberation period of over five seconds, how on earth would we all listen to each other and yet all sing in time? It felt like a recipe for disaster.
At the run-through, my fears were dispelled. The conductor stood in the pulpit, positioned high up part way down the nave, and could be seen by all. And we all sang in time, no-one getting in front of or behind the others.
Would this be repeated for the performance? All went well, remarkably well in the circumstances, until the Amen chorus. Maybe we were all tired; maybe we all relaxed as we approached the end of an incident-free performance. Whatever, Amen fell apart. We Basses led the charge and are convinced to this day that it was we who were following the conductor’s beat. The Altos came a close second, Sopranos third, and the Tenors, uncharacteristically, last, almost a complete bar behind. But right at the end, at the highly expectant Amen (on a crunchy inverted dominant seventh chord for anyone who is interested) before the grand pause and the final two Amens, by some miracle it all fell into place again, and we finished, as we should have done, in a dead heat.
Does anyone else have memories of singing Messiah? It would be great to share them.. Either catch me at rehearsal or send a note to me at firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you.