At this point in the rehearsal process--just our fourth time singing together--we're still (understandably) chasing notes around the room. The good news is that we already have sung through the entire work, at our rehearsal retreats last fall. That gave us a good context for individual study, as well as a measure of the musical mountain we're climbing!
Though obviously much learning remains, the singers are doing great. Most problems fix themselves the second time through. It's just a matter of working at a deliberate pace that allows the brain to do its work. My job, therefore, is easy. Sometimes in these early rehearsals I just stand there with my hands in my pockets, staying out of the way of the singers.
We did some woodshedding on the "Et in terra pax." This positively TRANSCENDENT movement gets me every time. Its pulsing plea for peace nudges us forward, while the coloratura passages offer a glimpse of the shimmering beauty of "peace on earth."
My teacher Jan Harrington (Professor Emeritus from the IU Jacobs School of Music) told us years ago that Bach is the best voice teacher. And I had a chat with Michael Davis about that fact last night. To sing Bach, one must be master of his or her own voice. And, in the learning of the super-challenging passages Bach has written for the singers, they come to a point of music making where technique meets aesthetic glory. Truly astounding.
And this is the music we mere mortals get to sing every week!