April 4, 2012
Today was an exciting day. Within it was a dress rehearsal and a performance, but within that was a series of thrilling musical moments, great times with new musical colleagues, and new memories with longtime friends.
Yesterday was the first orchestra rehearsal with the Filharmonie Hradec Kralóvé and its conductor, Andreas Sebastian Weiser. He is a tremendous pleasure to work with, and his orchestra, equally so.The rehearsal was held at Orchestra Hall, which is in a former movie theatre that was heavily renovated. It now has an orchestra pit, and seating for 500.
The acoustics are quite dry; that’s perfect for rehearsing! We had a richly interesting exchange of traditions, in that Maestro Weiser, a native of Stuttgart and a former boy choir singer, shared some of his insights on the Matthäus Passionwith me. I shared with them some of the traditions of Messiah, since “Comfort ye” and “Ev’ry Valley” were not familiar to this ensemble. While in North America we listen toMessiahat Christmas, Czechs most often listen to Jakub Jan Ryba’s Czech Christmas Mass.
“Rehearsals are for rehearsing and performances are for performing,” and I used the rehearsal time to gather the tempo, style and pacing information I needed to know for the performance. It ultimately made such a difference for me; I could zero in on what would actually happen.
The dress rehearsal and performance were in the Church of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary(1658). It’s considered the “new” church in the old town square, since the “Cathedral of the Holy Ghost” was built in the early 1300’s. As you can imagine, the acoustics were heavenly. I mostly sang in front of the orchestra, but also from the choir loft with its historical baroque organ. The conductor took slightly slower tempos to adjust to the generous acoustics. The Czech Boys Choir brought its “A game” to this concert, and unbeknownst to their conductor, for their first-ever performances of the choruses “And the Glory of the Lord” and “Lift Up Your Heads,” they sang it from memory.
They had used their music in the dress rehearsal, and the boys decided amongst themselves that they would go on stage without music.
This was a bold and potentially disastrous decision, but it had a superbly happy ending, thank goodness! The choir will sing its first SATBMessiahlater this season, and its a big undertaking. I felt terrific about my performance. I dared myself to sing a few ornaments I had never done before, and felt good about the style-tone switch needed between Bach, Gounod, Handel and Franck within a short amount of time. The audience gave us two enthusiastic standing ovations, and we had three “curtain calls” if that’s what you would call them in a church. The audience was very kind, and yet, very cold, since out of necessity, everyone needed to wear a coat! Interestingly, Christmas concerts arenotheld in churches, because in December the buildings are so frigid, no can sit for that length of time in an unheated stone church.
The post-concert reception was held in the church courtyard, where I was given a formal thank-you, and signed picture post-cards the Czech Boys Choir Administrator, Martin Sedlacek had made for me to autograph for each of the members of the choir. It’s a concert tradition for the choir and its soloists, and a very gracious one, too. The city newspaper did an interview with me that appeared in today’s paper. Within the interview, I was asked about the kind of music I enjoy listening to. I gave a long list that included Baroque orchestral and keyboard works, Mozart, Beethoven, etc. I also included British brass band music, Scottish pipes and drums, and added, “By the way, I also like Oktoberfest music, too.” Of course, that became the title of the article!
I close my account of today with gratitude for this tremendous opportunity and experience. To Jakub Martinets, (actually spelled Martinec) and Jennifer Beynon-Martinets, who invited me to do this concert, it will remain richly memorable, for all the best reasons!