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2009 Summer Tour Reflections: The Creation

Below, Dylan Morris '11 shares his memories of performing Haydn's Creation with the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra.

When YGC director Jeff Douma outlined the schedule for our South American tour, I was excited to learn that, in addition to performing our “tour repertoire” of a cappella and choral-piano pieces, we would be reprising all of the large choral-orchestral pieces we had learned and performed during the year: Brahms’s Nänie, two short pieces by Mendelssohn, and Haydn’s Creation oratorio. We would be performing The Creation in Rio de Janeiro with the professional Brazil Symphony Orchestra.

Before a typical tour concert, the YGC will arrive at the venue the afternoon before the show, and rehearse our a cappella repertoire in the space to get a feel for its particular acoustical quirks and challenges. Putting on a large-scale piece like the Creation meant a different kind of tour schedule; in addition to afternoon concerts and outreach, we now had morning rehearsals with the BSO.

At the rehearsals, we worked with the BSO and its conductor, Roberto Minczuk, becoming attuned the orchestra’s playing and Minczuk’s conducting. We also met the soloists for the oratorio, including a jovial bass with an appropriately booming laugh and a young tenor (only a year or two older than some YGCers) whose Met-bound voice left a big impression. By the time we lined up to go on stage for the first of our two performances, I felt confident that we — the YGC, the BSO, and the soloists — had begun to develop a unified sound. The crowd in the Candelaria Church spilled into the aisles, and more listeners stood in rows in the back. The concert went well, and I began thinking ahead to the next night.

We would have had excuses if our energy level had dropped during the second performance. The audience was likely to be smaller, we had lost an usually large number of singers to illness, and the Creation was beginning to feel fairly familiar. Haydn was stuck in everyone’s head. If you listened closely while walking through the hotel, you might have heard a few bars of a movement — “Awake the Harp” or “The Heavens are Telling” — coming through the air ducts of our hotel.

Our energy did not drop. The audience was just as large, several sick YGCers returned to the singing ranks, and we got one last boost in the minutes before the concert. We were assembled in our dressing room getting some last minute tips from Jeff when he said to us: “Maria and the kids from the Cidade de Deus are here.”

Emily Howell has already blogged about our outreach concert with the choir from the “City of God.” Our experience with the choir had been one of the most moving moments of tour. Their unexpected appearance at the Creation concert was equally memorable. As we filed on stage, we could see them sitting on the floor in the aisle, right at the very front. Though some of them were under 10 years old, they happily sat through the nearly three-hour oratorio. Afterward, I thought to myself that the Creation might be a pretty good piece to introduce young children to art music; it is exciting, dramatic, and playful.

After the concert, the kids came to meet us and congratulate us. They had even made us cards. The 13-year-old choir member I’d met at dinner after the outreach concert delivered me a card. I thanked her, and, still worried that the long concert had bored her, asked her in a broken combination of English, Portuguese, and sign language what her favorite part had been. “Tudo” (all of it), she said.

We would have liked to spend even more time with the choir, but we had to return to our hotel. The choir stood on the steps of the church and waved to us as we boarded. Smiling, we waved back through the windows as the bus pulled away from the curb.

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