Vespers II

Well, last night I had my final singing occasion at St Mary's before I cross the ditch. We had a sung Vespers, followed by a short concert which included a big, big solo for me in Mendelssohn's 'Hear My Prayer'.

The Mendelssohn piece was a kind of send-off for me - definitely going out on a high note, hurr hurr. But it really was! It's the longest solo I've ever done. It was great fun to sing, and having a really good accompanist (Tom) made it easy to relax and get into it. I love it when I flick into 'performance mode' and stop feeling self-conscious, and the rhetoric just comes naturally. It was also nice to have Willie and Rowan in the audience for moral support, and the three of us had a good feed afterwards at Satay Palace, one of our old-fave cheap-and-tasty places on Cuba St.

I don't usually listen to recordings of pieces I'm preparing to perform (at least, not too close to the performance), because it makes it harder to come up with my own interpretation. But it's fun to do when the performance is all done and dusted! I found this 1980s recording with Kiri Te Kanawa, a singer who a certain primary-school teacher of mine adored. ;)

It's a very different singing style to mine, but it really brings out the chocolate-box aspect of the music! Good fun.

I'm really going to miss being part of St Mary's Choir. Such a lovely (and interesting) group of people! It's hard to believe, but I joined a whole decade ago, during my honours year at uni. I was attracted by the prospect of singing Medieval and Renaissance music, and I was studying Latin at the time and loving it. I started out in the alto section, with almost no voice - no resonance, dodgy tuning, pretty much bad all round! But I could read music, and I was keen, and over time I got better. ;)

Robert, the choir director, really inspired me with his passion for early music, and when I started having voice lessons with him and working seriously on my singing, it all got easier and easier (and more and more fun). Now, I feel like I'm in a good position to try the waters in a bigger pond - I finally have the confidence to have a go at pretty much anything. As long as I keep practising! And I'm looking forward to joining in with St Mary's choir on my trips back to NZ.

Out of my comfort zone

Yesterday afternoon my choir held an 'open day' - a concert with items from the choir, the kids' choir, and the two young organists, followed by mulled wine in the choir room. The main event for me (other than the really good mulled wine - lots of cinnamon sticks!) was singing the solo in Mendelssohn's "O for the Wings of a Dove". I don't usually tackle 19thC music - in fact I tend to actively avoid it - but the choir director Robert has a soft spot for what he calls 'chocolate box music', so I had to suck it up!

One aspect that differed from my usual Baroque fare was that I had to obey the dynamic and expression markings in the score, instead of making my own decisions about those things. And of course I didn't have to worry about adding trills etc, so it was actually a more straightforward process than I'm used to when I prepare pieces for performance.

In the end, it went really well! Luckily our organist Tom is a very experienced Romantic performer, so it was easy to really get into the music with him accompanying. And the choir sang well too. :)

In other singing news, I'm now on Day 27 of my self-imposed course of sight-singing Bach chorales. And I'm getting better! As with many things, doing a little bit each day does get results. I discussed it with Robert, and he suggested playing the bass line on the keyboard while I sing the other parts, to help give context. I tried it, and it makes the sight-singing so much easier it kind of feels like cheating. :p

I'm still having trouble with some of the larger intervals. It's pretty embarrassing, but I still can't reliably sing 4ths and 5ths! Playing the bass line does help, but I need to have another strategy so I'm not just guessing. I'm going to try 'filling in' the interval with a fast scale, out loud at first, and then in my head. Simple, and hopefully foolproof. We shall see...