We were also trying to observe the symphony conductor's marks for the first time, and there the difficulty is that David had us singing the full value on endings, and Peter wants us to truncate some of them a tiny bit. But hasn't marked what "a tiny bit" means...so suddenly all the sharp-as-knife endings of "potentiam" in "Fecit potentiam" are not clean. And some of us (raises hand guiltily) having been finally taught to sing all the way to the end of the note, forgot partway through that the marking was to apply to *all* the "potentiams", not just the ones Peter actually marked.
As usual--at some point in learning something new, stuff that you've worked on and worked on and had almost perfect comes apart. Karen Pryor, in her books on training techniques, calls this the "pre-learning dip" and explains why it happens and how you just have to keep at it, and then the final learning will be solid. I hit the prelearning dip several times last night; I had hit it in different places Tuesday night. But the places that came unglued Tuesday were solid last night. Today's pre-rehearsal work will concentrate on the remaining places I know I have leftover "mess" (less than twelve measures, two in the first movement and four to six in the last.) Depending on how well I do tonight, I am hoping to skip tomorrow night's rehearsal, because Saturday will be a monster--an hour with David and then at least two with the symphony conductor.
In one place that had gotten "muddy", David had each part sing those two measures three times separately--then two parts together sing them three times--then another two parts, etc., then began "rolling" around the room: the first and second sops together, then the second sops and basses, then the basses and tenors, then the tenors and altos, then the altos and first sops--and then in three-together groups: basses, tenors and altos, then tenors, altos and first sops, then altos, first and second sops, then first and second sops and basses....and finally all together, and guess what? It wasn't muddy anymore.
The bass section got a bit chewed...someone let out with an East Texas vowel and a pure Texas rrrrrr. That is not a rolled r...that is a relaxed, slow, drawling r and it does not belong in Bach. The two together produced a visceral reaction in David, who nearly fell off the little stand he uses when directing a large group. He's from East Texas himself (you can hear that when he talks) so he's really sensitive to any excessive Texasness in the sounds produced. And someone else was braying some notes instead of singing them.
Must go back to work...