Back in January I reported that I had decided to participate in my church's choral society, sort of a 'plus' addition to fill out a choir that defines really, flipping good. As my singing experience consists of one open stage night and a brief stint as rhythm guitarist for the world's worst garage band. Honestly, I expected the choir director would at some point take me aside and say, ‘Well, Dave we really appreciate your participation but . . . .”
That never happened. Instead they fitted me with a robe. In the process those funny squiggles on the page they call ‘notes’ are starting to make sense. I’ve discovered I’m a baritone, maybe even a full-fledged bass. And at times I don’t sound half-bad.
What’s really scary is the program. This is not music heard every day, or possibly ever year. William Mathias has precisely one recording out, and after trying to sing his Missa Brevis I know why. It’s like he can’t decide wether he wants to do a medieval mass or a twelve tone tone row. It’s the musical equivalent of The Naked Lunch, and despite some cool moments I can’t really say I like it. The rest of the program is hardly easier, with some measures looking like Chinese characters. As our Minister of Music warned us, “Some pieces aren’t performed very often because they’re bad, others because they’re really hard. This is one the hard ones.” The truth is these pieces are rarely attempted even by professional ensembles.
Last week's practice left me wondering if we’d ever get it together. But after a really hard week, and a really long practice I’m beginning to think we amateurs can pull this off.
But the Palestrina, Faure, Kodaly and Durufle selections, those I like. Durufle’s Messe ‘Cum Jublio is absolutely gorgeous, even if it has some high notes that turn my voice into a strangled chicken. The women are singing Gabriel Faure’s Messe Basse and I"m glad I just get to sit back an listen. Zoltan Kodaly's Missa Brevis has some moments of unearthly beauty.
The musical program:
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina Missa Brevis
Charles Villiers Stanford Communion Service in G major
Maurice Durufle Messe 'Cum Jublio sung by the choir's men
Gerre Hancock Music for Antiphonal Organs will premiere with Timothy Edward Smith playing our Kimball organ and G. Dene Bernard playing the von Beckerath
Ten Minute Break Take me out to the bathroom . . .
Gabriel Faure Messe basse(ladies only)
Wiliam Mathias Missa Brevis
Zoltan Kodaly Missa Brevis