Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Reporting from the Westminster Choir Festival

I don't have much time to blog right now, because I'm being kept very busy participating in the Westminster Choir Festival, which I wrote about in my previous post.

I am enjoying myself immensely. There is so much singing and so much talk about music. For a person with a music degree, who studied in music school, this might be all "ho-hum" and "yawn." But for an avocational singer who has not experienced this level of choral study, it is dreamy.

Now, the description of this festival did not indicate that one had to have any particular credentials. It is, of course, considered "adult continuing education," so there may have been a presumption that applicants to the festival work in the field of music and desire further knowledge and study within their fields. However, although I didn't really have an idea who to expect would be at this festival, I had not quite realized that I would be the least credentialed person in the choir.

I am surrounded by music teachers of all level from primary school to university level, and by many people who conduct their own choirs and who have come to learn from our conductor, Joe Miller.

Whether I "belong" here or not, I am having the time of my life and learning gobs and gobs, just soaking it all in. I am getting to observe and hear the intricacies of choir directing and conducting on a deep level. There are conducting master classes and discussions about choices made in assembling and working with a choir. Today we had a fantastic explanation of how Mr. Miller voices a choir, complete with examples -- provided by the members of the Westminster Chamber Choir -- of how he "hears" voices and seats the choir into a formation where the overtones and undertones, partials and various other whats-its -- the many frequencies produced by the human singing voice -- are enhanced and complemented and reinforced in a way that optimizes the sound.

This is very exciting for me, and, although I had doubts in the beginning about my ability to keep up with the intense pace, it seems I've reached just a good enough level to stay in the race, if barely. But enough so that I can enjoy the experience and feel relatively competent while participating.

At the end of this exciting week, we are having a concert. The Westminster Chamber Choir will perform an intense work by David Lang, "The Little Match Girl Passion" and the festival choir will perform Mozart's Requiem.

If you are in the Princeton, NJ area you can hear this wonderful concert. It will be performed Friday, July 23 from 7:30 - 10:30 pm at Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall on the Princeton University campus. (Wow, a 3-hour concert. That's a big one!)

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