There's this theory that doing new, difficult, complicated things is an excellent way to retain your intelligence at you age. I think the hours I spent today in rehearsal are a good way to drive neurons into panicky retreat...but on the other hand it *is* challenging, and challenging is--in the long run--fun. But I'm at the stage musically of being the aging, flabby person standing at the foot of the mountain while the personal trainer is yelling "Get started, get going, uphill NOW!"
Those of you who aren't singers may wonder what's so hard about just singing one note after another, in a choir where, after all, you aren't the only voice. The singers among you are already wincing, probably. French Baroque (one of the directors said cheerfully "You're going to get to learn to do French Baroque ornaments--most people never get to do that" and then we had a lesson on the right way to do French Baroque trills.) The scores...well, there are five or six (it varies) vocal parts, plus the accompaniment, so our parts are small and the lead director's notation isn't always clear..."I only made a C in musical notation in college..." (and I can see why. That squashed-staple looking mark resembles a quarter-rest even less than mine does.)
Both the directors (our choir director is a rehearsal director for this...the other church's choir director is taking lead this time) have this quaint notion that we should all be capable of sight-reading the basic music--the notes, the rhythm--and at the same time managing the Gallic Latin pronunciations, the dynamics, the phrasing, the peculiar squiggles and spots. Right off the bat. In music which none of us have ever heard, in a style we've never sung (some of us have heard *some* French Baroque music before, but not this, and we've never sung any...we've sung a lot of Latin, but only in the Oxford-English church style and the German church style.)
The bat in my belfry was flapping widly by the end of the first hour. If I got the notes right (that "if" is significant) I was messing up the French vowel sounds; if I managed the vowel sounds, I'd miss a tempo change, or an accidental, or something...and we were all in like condition. The long first part of the rehearsal (until lunch) was sectional; we altos and the tenors were paired; the basses and baritones were together, and the sopranos (mostly first, some parts for seconds) were together. Then we had lunch (and a lot of discussion among the sections on how it was going) and then we all came together (in body if not in voice) to attempt to read through a large chunk of it.
As always when you've been doing sectionals, the melding of five or six parts has some problems--the Ford engine with the GM drive train with the wheels off a BMW and...so forth. Measure by measure, we were shoved and prodded into some semblance of musical unity...though the work itself is not about unity exactly. It's not fugal exactly either. It's based on some French Baroque dance forms, we were told...so there are odd little skips and pauses. The pauses caused the most difficulty, because...um...that's where the staple-squiggles were, representing quarter-rests that were hard to see and distinguish from other squiggles. Hard for me, anyway.
So tonight I will mark my score so at least I won't have to quickly count the lines to find out if my part's on the second or third, and you bet I'll spend some time every day on it. Oh--and although there are recordings we're encouraged to obtain, the good recordings of the music are not sung in Gallic Latin and the only recording JB knows of that's in Gallic Latin is a *different* Requiem. We're supposed to get both, and listen to one for the notes and the other for the pronunciation.
Going to be beautiful, though. Oddly enough, though it's hundreds of years earlier, I can feel a kinship to the Durufle Requiem we sang year before last. I like this better. So far. And it will fit with what I'm writing better than the Durufle did.
I was wiped out by the time I drove home, partly because of sinus headache, and opted for the easy way out with supper--defrosting chicken stock and making a chicken/rice/bean soup.