And rising, phoenix-like, from the ashes of last year’s Chamber Choir is the new ensemble, which met tonight for the first time.
First meetings are always tentative, with new members suddenly thrown into the fray alongside returning singers from the previous year. It’s difficult to sing confidently amongst strangers, especially when grappling with new pieces to sight-read and sometimes different languages in which to sing, in an unfamiliar venue on a campus at which you might only have arrived a few weeks previously.
And the group rose to the occasion splendidly.
After some tricksy warm-ups from Steph Richardson, this year’s student conductor, it was straight to work, looking at four pieces for the Crypt Concert in February of next year. First up, Dawn by the American composer Eric Barnum, a Whitacre-esque meditation on the rising day. We followed this with Vaughan Williams’ Sweet Day, a mock-Elisabethan part-song.
A sojourn in Italy next, with Lassus’ Tutto lo di, a deft villanelle which trips through various metric values, full of life and vigour. Some might consider not introducing the challenge of singing in a foreign language at a first rehearsal – all those tricky vowel-shapes and the minefield of pronunciation – but the group rose to the challenge with spirit.
We finished by looking at some genuine Whitacre, Sleep, his profound and beautiful piece to a poem by Charles Anthony Silvestri. Some astonishing chords here, with consonant sonorities supporting semitone clashes that give a real piquancy to the music, some rich colours and breath-taking sonorities – we’ve begun building certain passages chord-by-chord, and the choir have taken to it straight away.
All in all, a terrific first rehearsal: well done to all the choir for their work, to Steph for leading the group through the warm-up exercises: more next week. It’s time to start getting excited about the year ahead…