tonight was the first rehearsal of a new choir. And how different from the last time I saw one of those. This was a really small group. The last one was huge. certainly they had a fairly solid grounding, and a lot of advance planning. This group is quite a mixture from all over, and there was a lot of disorganization before. This afternoon I was still sending messages and making phone calls to get as many people together as possible. We've had a few false starts, and there was a lot of negativity before this choir was formed, and so I expected a small group. What I didn't expect, but got tonight, was enthusiasm and energy. We laughed a lot. Walter and our fellow choristers were full of jokes, and people were eager to sing.
Tonight was one of those wonderfully warm, still, clear nights you get occasionally at this time of the year. More late summer than early autumn. I saw the lights of the city from a distance on my way in tonight, with a clear sky overhead, and the leafy suburbs between me and my glowing destination. At wits, I stopped to look at the stars, slightly blurred by a haze, but bright and glowing. The South West engineering building, which contains the Atrium where we were practicing, is pale stone, fronted by tall pillars. It would be imposing were in not next to the bigger, grander central block. On a night like tonight, the buildings are tinged blue by the starlight, and the deep purple sky. I walked gingerly up the stairs (I was wearing new shoes, and my feet were a little tender), and in through the tall entrance doors. The foyer was lit by a gentle glow from the office on the one end, and the atrium to the right, and I could hear hushed voices from both rooms. Turn left into the atrium. Walter was standing beside a table that stands against the one wall, talking in German to a friend of his. He was wearing a dark shirt, open at the neck, and pale coloured pants. He often wears similar. Walter once commented to a friend of ours that he wore his blond hair long for a while in his twenties. Now it's cut short, and always combed neatly to the side. I got my permission to film, and began setting up my camera. I had to crawl under a table to plug in. The atrium was dimly, and cozily lit, and from under the table, Walter's already soft voice was further muted. He always sounds like he's telling a dramatic story, and even more when I can just listen to the sound of his voice, and can't understand his words. I was on my knees under the table when my friends Sean and Nicole arrived. It was the first time I saw them since they returned from a holiday in the Cape, and I hugged Nicole, and squeezed Sean's hand as I asked them about their holiday. Lots of smiles all around. Sean in particular has been eagerly anticipating tonight. Gradually, other choristers arrived, and we made our way to the chairs. Walter passed around two bits of paper to collect contact details, and we chatted about future concert plans, and attracting new members. Walter wants a minimum of 40, but the rest of us think we can get started with fewer. I caught the end of a conversation between Sean and Walter about another choir Sean thought we could sing with. We mentioned other people who could perhaps join, and I got really excited when Walter suggested that a friend of mine, previously mentioned on this blog as the conductor of the African section of the National Youth choir course program, should be invited. There are a few students who will only be returning to varsity tomorrow, and so will be joining our new choir next week. Walter and I have spent hours on the phone over the last few weeks trying to come up with a name for the choir, but no mention was made of it tonight.
Walter handed our some music (cartuli Carmina) and invited us to bring our chairs around the piano. No move was made at first, so I got up and went and stood beside Walter. I didn't worry with a chair, and the others soon joined me, standing around. We gathered in our voice groups, which I guess is to be expected. I have always considered myself a fairly good sight-reader, once I have my note, but I sometimes battle to find the first note. With me standing so close to Walter, he could hear where I was battling, and help me. It made me feel more secure, but also, in some ways, more exposed. I could hear the individual voices around me, and I knew they could hear me. It's one of the advantages, and disadvantages, of a small choir. We laughed lots about the meanings of the words we were singing, and at Walter when he played new music too fast. It was fun, light-hearted and energizing. The rehearsal ended early, but the timing was perfect. the energy was still high, and people were enthusiastic.
As we were packing up, I chatted with Ewan, an ex-Drakie, and a friend from NYC, and we decided to exchange contact details so that I could keep him up to date about events at Wits. I then followed Walter out, and he asked me how I thought it had gone. I expressed enthusiasm, and he, as usual, expressed some doubt and uncertainty. I reassured him, and he still sounded up-beat. Ewan, his mother and I piled into the car so that Walter could drive us to our respective cars, and we chatted enthusiastically. We dropped Ewan and his mother off first, and then on to my car. I was reluctant to leave. I was eager to get home, but I was having fun, and didn't want it to end. I drove home singing all the way.