What makes a musical performance special?

I asked myself this question last weekend after hearing the Fauré Requiem sung by the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs accompanied by the SSO.  It was a stunning performance, leaving the audience awed and delighted in full measure.  No-one rushed for their bus or ferry at the end – we all applauded for several curtain calls and then chatted to the strangers sat around us, savouring a very special occasion.  A truly wonderful experience.

But how did they do it?  And are there any lessons for community groups such as M W Choir?

The obvious observations include the Choir singing precisely in pitch and time, with consonants synchronised across all 150 choristers; being able to sing loud and especially to sing softly, and to create crescendos and diminuendos, both rapid and gradual.  Lastly, the Choir clearly knew the music well and were able to look up from their scores for much of the time.

That is the technical stuff, but there was more than that.  The choristers clearly understood the spirit of the words of the Requiem, and realized they had a duty to communicate their meaning to the audience.  In this they were ably assisted by the conductor, Donald Runnicles, whose varied gestures and facial expressions brought nuances of expression from choir, soloists and orchestra alike.

M W Choir is fortunate enough to have just such a conductor in Carlos.  As we enter the final weeks of rehearsal for the Mozart Requiem, we can capitalise on his deep understanding of both the words and the music.  If we can link with his vision of the music, so ably portrayed in his conducting, like the Philharmonia Choirs and the SSO last weekend, we will give our audiences another very special experience.