However...we started with a review of the "Kyrie" from the Durufle _Requiem_, newly in our folders. We sang that last October (the whole _Requiem_) but had not looked at it since, and my own score of it, which I'd marked, was at home. This was a church score, mostly unmarked. Nonetheless, a good thing to start on, even though my voice was so tight and dry that I couldn't do anything more than a squeak on a C...ridiculous! Finally it warmed up, relaxed, and I managed the higher Es with--if not ease--at least some tonal quality. The Durufle _Requiem_, for those who don't know it, is on the whole a quiet, meditative work with eerie harmonies...translucent curtains of sound sliding past each other, coloring each other. It's not my favorite _Requiem_, either to listen to or to sing, but it is beautiful in its own way and I'm glad to have had the chance to learn and perform it.
Next came this week's anthem, a sprightly '60s anthem by John Gardner (much better than most of the mid-20th c. anthems I've seen) that is fun to sing but tricky enough rhythmically to stay interesting. David (our director) fiddled with it, and us, until it began to gain some grandeur to go with its sprightliness, and more and more of its musical possibilities came out of the score and into our voices. This is one of his gifts as a director--some of our anthems I've also sung for other directors, who were satisfied if everyone sang the right notes for the right duration at approximately the right volume. With David, that's just the beginning. What he wants is the difference between the average person reading a passage of Shakespeare, and a great actor reading a passage of Shakespeare. Here it was to take an energetic piece and use the energy for more than the bouncy ebullience that was on the surface, infuse it with more spiritual depth and even more of its native joy. I hope we can bring all that out on Sunday. We have a substitute organist who was fumbling a bit at the accompaniment, unlike Austin, our regular organist, who rehearsed with us last week and made no mistakes.
Then we went on to Benjamin Britten's "Jubilate Deo"...a 20th c. *formal* piece, very showy and sophisticated, much more difficult and less intuitive than the Gardner. This is "high church" music, completely different in tone from both the Gardner and the Durufle. Sung in Latin (but this time British church Latin, not the French church Latin we'd learned for Durufle.) We ended by singing it a capella, so that David could go to the back of the church to check our balance--it has accompaniment--it is, as David says, essentially an organ concerto with voices. Singing it "bare" without close direction (with him trusting us to feel the time without help) was an intense experience.
Our reward was about to come...last on the night's rehearsal program was another one of our new assignments, a selection from Brahms' _German Requiem_., "How lovely is Thy dwelling place." This is music I love but have never sung--never seen the score--and I had been to the performance that David conducted some years back when he headed the Civic Chorus. It is as meltingly beautiful as a Mendelssohn, or the "Hostias" from Mozart's _Requiem_. But it is not as simple as it sounds, when you listen to it, and I had never, listening, concentrated on the alto line except where it was exposed. And I don't sight-read as well as many others.
Those who had sung it before wanted to sing it right away, not go through the starting exercises, so we stood up and started in on it...and there I was, the inferior sight-reader, closest to our director, trying to sing music I had heard but never sung...and to my surprise and joy, I was able to do it, not just clicking along the notes mechanically, but--as he keeps telling us to do--reading ahead enough to have the words, the notes, and the expression all together. A few glitches, not many, and the rest of the choir, the ones who'd sung it before, were rolling along as well, so that it sounded--not as it will when it's more fully rehearsed--but like the music, not a tangled mess. It ends, as those of you who know it already remember, on a series of cascades through the various voices, like little waterfalls that end in a quiet pool.
To finish on *that* music, after the music that came before, after the Palestrina on Sunday, was wonderful. Perfect.