Judgmental altos and tenors holding the correct rhythm and expressing it with less than delicate precision, the vocal tone expression of "We're right; what's wrong with you?!" But the sopranos and basses are all grouped on one end of the choral space and the altos and tenors are at the other, so all our steadiness could not keep the one from the lagging and the other from rushing. I suspect that hearing the basses lag behind them is what causes the sopranos to lean forward on the time, trying to drag them along.
We got them straightened out in the end because our director made them count-sing again and again--though there's one rather heavy-footed bass that is failing to put his consonant clusters ahead properly. Lovely voice but no dance quality to it. We altos were good until suddenly we weren't, and that would include me. We produced a sectional noise (can't even call it a tone) that we'd never produced before, something rather like a Cuisenart that was given a horse carrot to mince. It was as if we'd all caught a cough-drop fragment in the throat at the same moment. We fixed it, but ye gods it was ugly.
When we got with the orchestra and launched into the first movement, I was singing along happily until I took a breath and inhaled a tiny glob of mucus right onto that spot on your throat that says "cough NOW"...and had to cough. HAD to cough. Had to NOT cough. Had to NOT clear my throat. One does not cough or harrumphingly clear one's throat in the middle of the performance, especially not in something like this. Not even in the dress rehearsal. I didn't cough until the end of the singing bit when the orchestra was making a fair bit of musical noise and I could sort of smother it in my score.
Tonight's the first performance. They corrected Tuesday night's directions on how to enter the hall, since someone caught on that if we come in by the loading dock (stage right) and have to get to the choir rehearsal area (stage left) and the performance has already started by our call time...either we all have to be there an hour earlier, or there would be a file of choristers across the stage during the Beethoven 4th. Someone suggested black monk-style robes with hoods pulled forward and a note in the program to the audience to "ignore those black figures; they don't matter..." but instead they're leaving a door on "our" side open for us.
Peter wants us to stand for the whole program, so it will flow better. The Magnificat lasts only 26 minutes, he says. Well, I knew I should've lost those pounds...my feet are not happy standing in dress shoes, even dress flats, that long. Last night, we got to sit down some, and besides I had my black walking shoes on. (Can't wear them in performance, though, since I"m on the front row and their clunkiness would be entirely too obvious to the upper rows of the auditorium. However, Bach's worth it.)
The music is gorgeous...thanks to Bach. The flautists in the orchestra are brilliant; their duet with the pizzicato lower strings is perfectly sprightly and also meltingly lovely. We could not hear the soloists perfectly as they're way on the other side of the orchestra and singing away from us, but what we could hear suggests that the audience will have a remarkable evening. If, that is, the basses don't drag and the sopranos don't rush. And the tenors don't bray and the altos don't do whatever it was we did in warm-up last night.
I'm taking a break this morning from listening to the work we'll sing; one more round of listening this afternoon, just as a refresher.