Subconscious music – a week later

Not many of my predictions come true.  But my prediction last week that a performance at the Conservatorium of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius would take over my musical subconscious has indeed come about.

Indeed, despite that feast of music on ABC Classic FM over the weekend (Music of Love, Passion and Heartbreak – mind you, some of the connections to the theme were tenuous to say the least, and some of the presenters’ patter was decidedly facile at times); despite working hard last night with Carlos on the quirky rhythms of the Credo in Missa Criolla and the even more quirky rhythms of El Gavilan; and despite my other choir, Cantiamo, preparing for one of our occasional performances this morning, it is moments from Gerontius which keep surfacing in my mind even now, a week later.

The performance was excellent.  The three soloists managed to satisfy Elgar’s extreme demands with fluency and sensitivity.  Choir and orchestra were well drilled; always accurate, always expressive, following the clear direction of the conductor, Neil McEwan.  Their competence and musicality showed a maturity which belied the fact that they are still students.   It is staggering to think that these students mounted a performance worthy of much more experienced musicians.  The future of music in Sydney is in good hands.

Many memories from the performance recur from time to time.  Some are glorious sweeping melodies.  Some are fleeting moments.  The one above all is the moment where Gerontius catches, at last and after much travail, the long promised glimpse of the Almighty.  There is a longish orchestral build up, made up a wave-like phrase which is repeated several times, slightly varied, louder and higher each time to increase its intensity. Then there is a pause.  Complete silence.  And then a huge crash of orchestral sound – every instrument playing, all the percussion from crashing cymbal to tinkling triangle.  The hairs on the back of my neck tingle as I write about it.

It has taken ten years for me to truly appreciate what the Conservatorium does.  What is more, I have discovered that there are loads of concerts put on by the students, at very accessible prices, throughout the year.  Click here to find a concert you might like to go to!.

Subconscious music.

What snippet of music is buzzing around in your head this morning?  Most Friday mornings I find that something from the previous evening’s rehearsal has taken over  my musical subconscious during the night and stays with me until the following Thursday.

Today it’s the bass jazz rhythm in Prende la vela. “Prende la vela, mi negra, mi negra” is bouncing around and I find myself humming it at all sorts of unlikely moments.  I hope I am getting those off-beat stresses in the right spot!  I have just been standing in a queue at the shops and the lady in front of me turned round and asked me if I was humming.  I had not realised it, but indeed I had been.  And she must have wondered what it was!

Last week, unusually, I was caught by something we had not even sung.  It was the running bass octaves played in the left hand of the piano accompaniment during the Credo of the Schubert Mass. (Look at page 25 of the score).  Incidentally, I always marvel at the way Bethany plays them so fluently – they are absolutely unrelenting.

Mind you, today’s subconscious music may not last that long.  Tonight is The Dream of Gerontius at the Conservatorium.  As it one of my favourite works, and as I do not hear it that often, it would not be surprising if one or more of Elgar’s grand melodies were to take over my subconscious completely.

Until next Thursday, that is.

The Dream of Gerontius

If you are looking for something of musical interest this upcoming long weekend, read on.  There is a wonderful opportunity to hear one of the less often heard but truly great pieces of the choral repertoire performed by the combined choirs and orchestra of Sydney University and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

On Friday at 6.30pm and on Saturday at 2.00pm, these up and coming musicians will perform Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius in the Verbruggen Hall at the Conservatorium, conducted by Professor Neil McEwan.   This is Elgar’s most acclaimed work, which he inscribed on the tile page “This is the best of me.”  This musical description of one man’s passage from this life to the next is outstanding – rich, varied and imaginative.

There are lots of good reasons to go to one of these concerts.  One is the ticket price – $25.  This is a major work, normally performed only by the most prestigious choirs – you will not get a chance to hear it at this price again.  The second is that the Concertmaster for these concerts is none other than the grandson, Noam, of our Choir Secretary Naomi Roseth.

As I write (Tuesday morning) there are still some tickets left for both performances.  Make sure you do not miss out!



News from New York…….part 2.

For those of us sitting in Sydney wondering how our colleagues were getting on in New York, here is a report from Naomi, written after, she confesses, too little sleep. 

Well, here we are.  The morning after the Big Event.  There was such a long build up to it.  Then the long flight.  Then the getting together for rehearsals with 300 people from 13 choirs.  The adrenalin shot up instantaneously.

I found the rehearsals exhilarating and exhausting.  I felt somewhat on edge and very aware of the comfort of Carlos’ relaxed and warm style of directing us.  I wondered whether this was taking us to uncomfortable heights.  Are we coping?  How will we measure against some of the big voices around us?

And then the big day came.  In Carnegie Hall, first the general rehearsal with the orchestra, then a short break, then the concert.

Just standing there, soaking up the atmosphere of that beautiful, historic hall and reflecting on the greatest voices and sounds performing on the stage on which I was standing, sent shivers down my back.

And then Maestro Griffith lifted his baton and ‘Selig, Selig ‘ sounded softly through the hall, and I sensed immediately the power and joy of the Manly Warringah Choir.  Yes, it was an amazing experience to sing in that hall. Yes, it was so good to sing that gorgeous Ein Deutsches Requiem again but for sheer enjoyment of singing, being moved by the music and identifying with its meaning, the event in the Cardinal Cerreti Chapel is the winner.  I know from conversations I had that many of us share this view.

So these for me are the two highlights:

First, comments made by members of other choirs in chatting at the post-concert dinner, and I almost quote: “I could feel that you guys were so well prepared” (thank you, Carlos!) and “It was great standing next to people from your choir and being supported!”) And second, the camaraderie amongst us twenty MWCers.  Hugs, laughter, sharing the New York experience, getting to know some folks better – that was precious.

I think I can speak on behalf of all of us in saying: it has been an awesome experience; it will be fabulous to return to Sydney and the MWC.

And those of us in Sydney eagerly await your return, to hear more of this wonderful experience, and, of course, to have you all singing with us again.

Click here for more pictures from New York.

News from New York…part 1

Twenty members of the Choir are in New York to join other choirs in singing Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem at Carnegie Hall.

Friday and Saturday were rehearsal days.  On Saturday, there was an exhilarating but exhausting rehearsal lasting three hours with all choirs – 297 choristers all together.  Naomi reports a good spirit of camaraderie amongst the singers, and says that the MWC contingent are holding their own.  John Beck took this photo after the rehearsal.