With yesterday morning’s rehearsal behind us, and tonight’s performance coming, I’m left feeling a little anxious, a little frustrated, and yet hopeful and optimistic.
I’m anxious because this performance will still be more of a balancing act than usual. We go into it confident in our abilities and knowledge of the piece, but not confident in having a shared vision with Maestro Montanero. His tempo still feels like a music box to me, and to many others in the chorus — sometimes wound too tight and racing ahead, then suddenly winding down without warning. (However fast we imagine the final fugue in our heads, it’s always faster. I swear he speeds up immediately after introducing the tempo just to whip the racehorse that is the chorus into a stampeding frenzy.) While these sudden tempo changes are less of a surprise than from the first rehearsal, it does mean we’ll need extra concentration on his cues to follow him. This may distract us from the musicality we’re bringing to the performance, just so we can stretch to reach his.So that’s why I’m a little frustrated, because this isn’t the way I personally enjoy making music. Granted, my personality energy is normally very sunshine yellow, preferring outward expression of emotion and never afraid of a little improvisation. But I’m finding that my music-making is cool blue, unusually so given my energy tends to shy away from that more calculating, precise, give-me-all-the-details approach. I want to be in control, I want to know what’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen, and I want our group of some 120 singers to succeed in projecting a uniformity of sound. That uniformity will not be uniformly achieved tonight. There will be moments where we are off. And frankly, that’s probably what Maestro Montanero wants, given his emphasis on us earnestly believing and communicating the terror our souls feel when faced with Judgment Day. I’m guessing that the end of the world won’t come about measured in perfectly kept 4/4 time.
All that said, just like in my previous post, I remain pretty hopeful and optimistic that this is going to be a stellar performance, specifically because of that wildness. In the Master Class that John Oliver ran today — a topic for another post, I’m sure — John emphasized proper technique first and foremost, especially for younger singers still trying to find the best way to use their instrument. But he also spent time convincing some more experienced singers, singers who had proper technique, to let go of that control. He asked them to open up, to loosen tension or constrictions they had formed, to give up control in order to achieve a more powerful sound. And sure enough, those singers achieved back-of-the-concert-hall power by making their well-honed technique the slave, not the master. We have to let Montanero be the master, we have to let passion drive our performance tonight, and use that to propel us through the piece.
My family and I listened to an excerpt from the Gatti performance, side by side with my wife’s Dies Irae snippet recorded from rehearsal. What had sounded majestic, noble, and inexorable for Gatti now sounds pale, languid, and lugubrious. Montanero’s interpretation is just that much more exciting. Anyone who hears it is going to be captivated by its energy and momentum. We’re going down a double-black-diamond hill and we’ve only been on the greens and blues… but we have the talent as an ensemble to do it, however reckless it may feel (oh my god, the Sanctus…. the Libera me … holy crap!) If we can avoid any train wrecks along the way, we should have a performance to be proud of.