Sunday, October 24, 2004

Brahms Festival

This past weekend was Brahms Festival weekend at Westminster. Lectures and concerts on Brahms took over the campus. I was personally involved with the conducting masterclass on Saturday and the Westminster Choir performance last night.

I didn't go to the student performance on Thursday, but I did make it to the Kantorei debut on Friday night. Kantorei is one of the two new performing groups on campus, and specializes in Renaissance and Baroque literature. This was very impressive, particularly b/c there was a lot of solo work in the pieces sung: Schuetz's Musikalische Exequien, Bach's Cantata 106, and Telemann's Du aber, Daniel, gehe hin. And I think every last person in the group (it's 19 students) had a solo at some point, and they were all fabulous. The arias that several students stepped out to sing in particular were really stunning. I felt very proud to be here! I also discovered that I like Telemann more than I had thought I did.

Saturday morning was a lecture by Dr. Megill on Brahms' Choral Music. One of the recordings he played was a piece for soprano, mezzo, and alto with two French horns and harp. SJ decided that she, A, and I should sing it, and before the lecture was over, she had an entire one-hour program planned out for the spring. All I can say is, we'll see!

After the lecture, SJ, A, and I went on a quick lunch run (sushi for me, of course) and then it was back for the masterclass. Six student conductors each had one of the Brahms' Zigeunerlieder which we taught to the class, and Dr. Flummerfelt made comments. I got through it fine, for which I was very thankful, and A said I made her laugh a few times, which made me happy, and Dr. Flummerfelt praised my German pronunciation, which made me proud. But the thing I need to work on is my ears, I think. I felt like I kept saying, "Well, that sounds fine, why don't we move on?" and Dr. Flummerfelt would say, "Noooooooo," and so then we would fix what he was hearing that was wrong, and then I would say, "Well, that sounds fine, why don't we move on?" and Dr. Flummerfelt would say, "Nooooooo," etc. I think it's just a matter of a.) really, really working on familiarity with the piece, which I did, but could have done more of, and b.) learning to be critical. I think I have the ears...every time Dr. F pointed something out, I felt a recognition of something that I'd been aware of, just not very consciously. I can't really put my finger on any experiences I've had that have encouraged me to be easy-going and uncritical, per se, but I also feel very unused to being critical. Probably because I don't like to let things bother me - the relationship of ducks to water has been something of a guiding principle so far - but now my job calls for letting everything bother me.

Then it was home to crash for a bit, eat dinner, get dressed, and go back over for the Westminster Choir performance. This went quite splendidly, although since it was my first time singing in a group of that caliber I was not as bold as I might otherwise have been during entrances, and feel a little bad about this since it means I'm not taking responsibility for the music-making...but I'll work on that. It was Dr. Flummerfelt's last time conducting us for a while - he's off to Michigan, then Korea, then home for the holidays, then off to Mexico...we'll see him again in the spring when he prepares us for the Spoleto Festival. In the meantime, Dr. Megill will prepare us for the Messiah, a process I'm looking forward to, and various other people will conduct us in the spring, which will be reported on as it happens.

I slept in until 11 am today, which was utterly blissful and much needed, and then had some French toast and puttered around before going over for the last concert, by 3 faculty and an up-and-coming tenor by the name of Matthew Polenzani. Each soloist sang a few short songs, and then they performed the two sets of Brahms' Liebeslieder. Everyone was fabulous. I liked the soprano, faculty member Sally Wolf, especially. And I must say, that although I usually go for baritones and basses (how can you beat those low notes?) every so often a tenor comes along who makes me understand why people swoon over tenors. Which is just another way of saying I greatly enjoyed Polenzani's performance as well. :)

I just talked to my grandfather on the phone, and he asked me what's next. Now that the three big humps are over, namely the AMC performance, the conducting masterclass, and the first Westminster Choir performance, I found out that I'm not quite sure. Aside from the WC performance tomorrow at the Rotary Club...and the Symphonic Choir performance next Saturday...and the Halloween party this weekend...and elections in a week and 2 days...yes, I suppose life does keep barreling along.

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