Monday, February 21, 2011

BACK to the BACH!

After a great weekend singing CREATION with the ISO (see the review in the STAR online edition--"ISO, Symphonic Choir Give Robust Performance of Haydn's CREATION"

Tonight we'll focus on the "Cum sancto spiritu," one of the most challenging and beautiful works in the setting. It's like the Energizer just keeps going and going.

Last night, the Symphonic Choir hosted the first of a series of dinners/encounters with Mass in B minor. Held at the beautiful home of ISC board member Martha Schmidt and her husband Paul, a group of about 30 church friends and neighbors gathered to listen to excerpts of the work. We also read a short excerpt from Bach's (in-) famous letter to the Leipzig Town Council in which he bemoans the musical shortcomings of his situation (check it out: "SHORT BUT MOST NECESSARY DRAFT FOR A WELL-APPOINTED MUSICIAN'S HIGH COUNCIL ; WITH CERTAIN MODEST REFLECTIONS ON THE DECLINE OF THE SAME"). We also considered the performance history of this work, likely not receiving its first full performance until more than 100 years after Bach's death. In all, it was a great evening of friends and music.

We're now less than 2 months from our performances...and best of all, I finished all my bowings in the wee hours last night!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

CREATION This Friday and Saturday at ISO!

Though written in the very early 19th century, Haydn's magnificent CREATION pays homage to the monuments of Baroque choral-orchestral masterworks that came before it. Through such might choruses as "Awake the Harp," "The Heavens Are Telling" and "Fulfilled At Last the Glorious Work," Haydn creates a hybrid mix of ebullient melodic panache and a sturdy contrapuntal framework.

With texts drawn from the book of Genesis and fragments of Milton's Paradise Lost, Haydn's masterpiece is a tour de force of programmatic writing ("The Representation of Chaos" which opens the work, the positively radiant orchestral "sunrise," or the bass recitative which catalogs the creation of living beings...down to the lowly worm). Coupled with one joyous chorus after the next, it's a work that sets the stage for beloved works of Mendelssohn, Brahms and others that were to follow.

Friday Feb 18 and Saturday Feb 19 at Hilbert Circle Theater, with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Snow, Ice...and Bowings

We lost two rehearsals last week (one on Bach, one on Creation) and Butler was closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, so that gave me a chance to try to catch up on some of my own score prep work.

Thanks to my grad student Leeann Ashby, markings for the chorus are complete and have been posted online for all choral movements (thus saving us precious rehearsal time!).

Marks for the instruments, however, are another matter. I'm behind schedule to be sure. Had hoped to have the orchestra parts complete and to the librarians by now. I might actually finish in a week or so.

In addition to putting in articulations and dynamics (Bach, like all the Baroque and even Classical composers) put in only a scant few dynamic instructions. Any conductor doing works like this has to make his or her own decisions, and then figure out a way to communicate that to the musicians. So, I put the marks in my full score, then transfer them to the instrumental parts.

Same with the bowings for the strings (see photo above). It's a time consuming process, but one that ultimately saves time, and makes the rehearsal process more efficient. So it must be done.

This week, though it's still pretty cold, at least we're able to get around. We had a great Bach rehearsal on Monday...started with the Sanctus. I'll post more about that movement later, but that may be one of my favorites in the whole work (I know, I seem to say that about EVERY movement in the B minor mass).

Back to it...