Monday, April 11, 2011

When Disaster Strikes

This is the time of year that is insanely busy for me, particularly at Ye Olde Church Job. It pretty much just sucks the life right out of me, as a matter of fact. Don't get me wrong, I love the music and the opportunity to sing! But .... Lent is the time of year when lots of things are happening in the music program all at once.

The children's choir musical was last weekend. The big slog up to the show is always a difficult one. It's hard to keep the attention of 30+ 5-10 year olds, particularly for two hours at a time! I can (and will) write a whole other post about the frustrations with working with kids these days. But after all of the frustration and feelings of "we're aren't gonna be able to do this," the musical was a tremendous success. And if you ask me how, I still can't tell you!

At the same time, the adult choir is preparing for Holy Week activities, which kicks off with Palm Sunday. In particular, we have been working on a new piece. Not only is it new to us, it is actually hot off the presses. Last year, Preston Hollow Presbyterian premiered Bob Chilcott's Requiem. We are fortunate enough to be among the first Dallas-area churches to perform this work since the premiere. To my knowledge, we will be precisely the third choir (stateside anyway) to sing it. It's a beautiful work written for orchestra, soloists, and chorus with soaring melodies and intricate, dissonant harmonies. It truly is a masterpiece!

I actually convinced our director to tackle this work. The sanctuary at our facility is just perfect for it, and this group of singers is certainly capable of performing such a difficult work. Since I'm "out in the music community" more than our director, she charged me with finding our tenor soloist. This actually turned out to be far more challenging than I had anticipated. Holy Week is an extremely busy time in the life of any musician for hire. Oftentimes, we are contracted far in advance.

After months of searching and many referrals from singers already booked, I finally found a terrific singer who is a doctoral student at UNT. We rehearsed two weeks ago (I'm the soprano soloist), and our voices blended beautifully. Ideally, we were an excellent match for this piece. Not to mention, he has to be just about the nicest guy you could ever meet. In the course of our rehearsal and visit, we learned that he had recently had surgery to correct a severe reflux problem and actually had just been released to begin singing again in late January. (Reflux is a singer's absolute worst nightmare as it does immense damage to the vocal cords and, quite honestly, to the entire phonation structure.) For him to be in such fine voice so quickly after surgery is quite miraculous.

Unfortunately, on Saturday, we received an email from our contracted soloist saying that he would be unable to sing the piece for us. This last week, he went for a post-op check-up for his reflux correction surgery, and the doctor informed him that he had a vocal fold hemmorhage. And it was apparent that he had had it for several weeks and had clearly been singing on it. The doctor was puzzled by the fact that this singer still had a speaking voice, much less a singing voice, with such a sizable hemmorhage. And the doctor placed him on immediate vocal rest - no talking or singing for a minimum of two weeks.

For us, this spelled disaster for the Chilcott piece. The director was at her wit's end. How could we find a substitute at such late notice? Keep in mind that whomever we might find would have just one week to learn the piece. I put out feelers with my contacts in the local music scene. Within about an hour of receiving the phone call that the Chilcott might not be possible, I had found someone who was both free and interested in tackling this difficult work.

The director and I devised a plan to simplify the Requiem, omitting several movements, in the event our replacement tenor found the difficult movements too challenging to perfect in just a week's time. I met him yesterday afternoon with a score and a recording for his review, and he texted me not too long after to say that he did not think he would have any difficulty learning the entire piece! We have several rehearsals scheduled for this week. I want to do everything I can to ease the stress of learning this work on such short notice. To give a little perspective, I've spent the last three and a half months working on it!

If you're free this coming weekend, I invite you to come hear this stunningly beautiful work.

Sunday, April 17, 2011 - 7:00 p.m.
FREE performance of
Bob Chilcott's Requiem
performed with
chamber orchestra, organ, choir, tenor and soprano soloists
Lake Highlands UMC (Map)

We will also be singing the Wilburg arrangement of "Come Thou Fount," and I will be performing the commissioned piece "Little Lamb, Who Made Thee" that I premiered at our Advent service this past year.

1 comment:

CGeary said...

Happy you are back to blogging!