Friday, May 27, 2005

It's nice to be surprised

I got in touch with a new choir, after a long battle to find correct contact information, among other things, a short while ago. I have been following the choir for a while, partly because of my research, and partly just because they are an interesting group. Well, last night, I finally got an opportunity to spend time with them. I was thrilled at what I discovered. This in a predominantly white, Afrikaans choir, with an extremely difficult repertoire, and a very high level of discipline. They are lively and enthusiastic, and there were plently of jokes flying about, and a lot of socialising, but when they were working on the music, the focus was tangible. There are two other choirs on this campus, that I am aware of, though I haven't yet made contact with either of the others, but it will be great to see how the atmosphere in rehearsals differs. And perhaps the most exciting thing is that this is the first of the choirs I have spoken to thus far who refers to Afrikaans music as "South African." Even the first choir I began researching, who do more Afrikaans music than the second one, suggested that the Afrikaans music was closer to European than African.

I got a little lost on my way to this rehearsal, and so was much later than I usually like to be. Still, I went in, and introduced myself to the conductor, who introduced me to the choir, and gave me an opportunity to explain my project to them. I was then invited to join in the rehearsal. At first, I sat off to the side, on the extreme right, in the front, where I was relatively inconspicuous, but at the suggestion of the choristers around me, I moved a few places over, so I was, unfortunately, sitting in a rather more conspicuous position. Still, I could hear better, and that should be more important (shouldn't it?). I found the whole experience rather taxing on my nerves, as My sight-singing was tested in action on some of the most difficult music I have ever sung. Talk about concentration! This choir doesn't sit in voice groups, like most of the others with which I am familiar. In stead, everyone is between members of different voice groups, and so not only do you have to be rock-solid on your own music, but you also have to have the most amazing blend. Also, these singers put their hands up when they make mistakes, to acknowledge them so that the director doesn't have to work on them. It makes a lot of sense, but is terribly daunting. I just sang really quietly so that I could avoid exposing myself like that.
This is a very energetic, lively choir, with a lot of good humour and enthusiasm, but absolute spot on focus when they are working on the music. That is always nice to see. The piece they were working on is called "Cloudburst", and is not easy. I look forward to hearing a performance of it.

I'll admit that I was very pleasantly surprised by this encounter. I was expecting a slightly staid, old-fashioned choir, with little of real interest. What I got was a really vibrant, exciting adition to my research. I can't wait to get going properly with the interviews, but those will have to wait till after my exams!

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