Last night’s rehearsal was both narrator chorus and large chorus, for the first time since October. It really made me even more excited about the piece. We’re still fighting through some notes and rhythms here and there, but I think that was to be expected. What’s really exciting to me is that we’re making the emotional connection with the piece, and that’s so very important for what’s essentially an opera rather than a tone poem or some sort of symphonic piece.
Our narrator chorus is particularly impressive. I’m especially pleased with the way the sopranos sound, since they have to achieve these floating high notes with light texture in some places. Some of the crazy lines the narrator chorus has to sing have exquisite ornamentals that really twist and turn, but they’re nailing them. John Oliver joked about the tediousness of their narrator-chorus-only rehearsals: “Can you imagine, line after line of ‘And he said’, ‘And Jesus said,’ ‘And they said’ ?” Putting it all together is a relief for both choruses.
As for memorization, I don’t think I saw anyone without the book in their hand. I tried whenever possible to close the thing so I wouldn’t rely on it — technically it was our “off book” rehearsal, but ever since John Oliver and Sir Colin Davis made the decision to allow us to keep the scores on stage, no one’s been up tight about glances here and there. It’s clear though that for some passages we NEED to be looking up to catch an accelerando or rallentando if we don’t want to get left behind. For instance, at one point some of the women finished a particularly tough passage about 1 bar after the rest of the chorus. John looked at them and said, “Oh, you must have the revised edition.”
Tomorrow we do the remaining movements and see where we’re at. I feel like I have the whole piece down now (sort of), and could perform it shakily from memory at gunpoint if I had to.