Ahhhhh. That hit the spot. Thursday evening’s Brahms Requiem was possibly one of our more emotionally fulfilling performances of the piece.
Personally, I felt very connected, in many ways.
I felt connected to my body. My diaphragm and the “front porch” of my mouth and lips and arches were linked up, so I could generate and support the volume of sound I needed. I was struggling in rehearsals to find that connection and it meant a breathy, unsupported sound. I agree whole-heartedly with other choristers who suggested that we had a lot of people trying to save their voices in rehearsals, which may have accounted for the uneven sound then. It felt good to not hold back.
I felt connected to Maestro Tovey as he urged us through each movement. Some conductors are facilitators. Some are all about technical precision. Some are about showmanship. But I think Tovey’s conducting is about leadership. He is constantly encouraging us, with a knowing smile and a wink, even as he waves us onward. (I also felt connected to him when 10 of us grabbed a drink together afterwards!)
I felt connected to the rest of the chorus, who came through brilliantly in all the tough parts that bedeviled us in rehearsals. Sopranos and tenors soared through those tough high passages. Altos were the solid foundation. We basses found levels of expressiveness I didn’t know we had. Even exiled in the upper back corner of the stage, I had no trouble feeling like I was part of every line.
I felt connected to the emotional message of the piece. I found it easy to slip into the roles of comforter, doom-foreteller, patience-counselor, awestruck heaven-gazer, and nose-thumber — you don’t get to taunt Death too often, after all. With the emotional backdrop of the recent tragic death of a chorister’s sister, I think we all had something to sing for, and someone to comfort.
Lastly, I felt connected to the audience. One woman in the front balcony, who clearly knew and loved the piece, was practically slapping her hand on the railing in time to the fast section in the 6th movement. And the moment after the piece was over was amazing. Tovey kept his hands up long after the last notes had died down, and the audience held their applause, not wanting to break the spell.
Was this a technically sound performance? I think any performance will have its share of mistakes. I know I messed up a few words, and I heard a few folks talking about blown or unintentional entrances here and there. And our diction will never be as crisp as it was with Dohnányi. But that was never the point. We needed to connect with the music, with the audience, and with each other, and we succeeded.