Friday, April 20, 2012

From Mozart to Stravinsky...


Our beloved 2011-2012 manager, Abigail Droge '12, writes about our performance of Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms with the YSO:

From Classical to Neoclassical – as Rachel Glodo ’12 reminded us in her brilliant and witty pre-concert pep talk, within two weeks the Glee Club has embraced both Mozart and Stravinsky.  And what a wonderful journey it has been. 

Of all the pieces that I have sung with the Glee Club, the Symphony of Psalms is perhaps the one that transformed the most for me over the course of the year. When we first began rehearsals, it was difficult to find my notes amongst the dissonance.  But as we became more and more familiar with the piece, and especially when we were able to hear it with the orchestra, I came to appreciate its beauty and emotion on a different level.  The desperation of the opening movement, a setting of Psalm 38 (“Hear my prayer, O Lord … For I am a stranger with Thee”) only increases the monumental power of Psalm 40 in the second movement (“I waited patiently for the Lord: and He inclined unto me, and heard my calling”).  And when the listener (and singer) reach the sheer beauty and resolution of the final movement, the words of Psalm 150 sound the sweeter for having been earned: “Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord.  Alleluia.” 

Singing with the Yale Symphony Orchestra affords not only the privilege of getting to make music with even more of our peers, but also the special joy of being able to work with YSO director Toshi.  His enthusiasm and commitment to the piece imbued the notes I was singing with deeper meaning for me.  One of the things I most look forward to in performing with the YSO is the opportunity of witnessing the collaboration between Jeff and Toshi and having the privilege of combining the genius of two great musical minds in our final performance.  It was also wonderful to be able to hear the YSO from the audience as they performed “Landings” by Stephen Feigenbaum ’12 (last year’s Fenno Heath Award winner for the Glee Club), and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, which captivated the audience from the first note.  It is a testament to the YSO that they can perform both a brand new piece and a piece with such a storied past in the same concert with so much commitment and grace.  

So, we managed to get through the night riot-free, but this was certainly a concert that I will remember for years to come. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mozart Requiem

The concert we'd all been looking forward to since September finally arrived last weekend. We performed the Requiem in Woolsey Hall with a wonderful orchestra of professional musicians, and soloists from the Glee Club. Although we only had a few weeks to practice the chromatic runs in the fugues, debate the contributions of Levin and Sussmayr, agonize over the beauty of the dissonances in the Confutatis, and learn to "call upon deep wells of personal frustration" while singing the Dies Irae, we savored every minute we were able to sing this masterpiece in German Latin. Rachel Protacio '15 writes about her experience:

Mozart.  So much tradition, so much excitement, so much wishing we could sing it again.  For me, Glee Clubbers intrinsically represent a wide range of perspectives when it comes to music, and yet Mozart’s Requiem almost immediately captivated us all, bringing us on a gleefully shared journey of twists and turns, bashings of Süssmayr, a myriad of firsts, and ultimately, a wonderfully-received concert.

After months of rehearsal, the long-anticipated Saturday arrived, and I am completely sure that Mozart was running through the heads and voices of every one of us.  (“Confutatis” during breakfast, the Introitus as we trekked to Woolsey for rehearsal, one or two movements more before we made it on stage.)  More importantly, our first non-stop run-through during morning rehearsal was exhilarating.  In the empty Woolsey, you can hear the music reverberating after the end of each phrase, and hearing the echoing grandness of all our voices singing the Requiem with the accompaniment of the orchestra portended an extraordinary concert.

So began the firsts: all the newbie Gleeple performed for the first time on the stage of Woolsey with an orchestra, a quintessential Glee Club experience; most of us heard the amazing solo quartets of extremely talented members for the first time and were blown away; Abigail our manager gave her first and last pep talk and inspired us to sing knowing that we could make our one performance of the Requiem special and memorable; Jeff told us with fifteen minutes to go before the concert that we would be filmed, which was quite the novelty for those (i.e. all) of us who did not expect it.  I might also add that for me, who entered the Glee Club with perhaps minimal knowledgeability about the Requiem, the experience in general was one of pure excitement.  Many times, I thought about how rehearsal accompanying for part of the work affected my experience of it.  It afforded me the chance to hear every voice part from my seat at the piano.  Even more interesting was my hearing how the reduction was actually divided up among the instruments in the orchestra.  What great music!  No wonder the Glee Club anticipated this one concert all year!  Moreover, nicely tacked onto the beginning of our concert was Ave verum corpus, which is both musically relevant to the Requiem and, as the concert began, was a gorgeous and tranquil way to lead the audience into the evening.

The performance itself was so well attended, and our desire to share our music with everyone surely drove the concert.  It could not have gone better, and the audience graciously showed that they thought so, too.  It was absolutely a concert to remember.  At the end of the day, our experience with the Requiem was one of great enjoyment and accomplishment, and it left each of us with great music that even now is running through my head.