I still have that lovely souvenir I got in Chicago, but I’m well enough to start writing about how ACDA went. It was awesome! First, Chicago is a great city, didn’t have a lot of time to explore the whole thing, but I really enjoyed the parts that I saw. They’ve got some awesome public art.
I got to see a concert session with Fountain Valley High School, Calvin College Alumni Choir, The Singers – Minnesota Choral Artists, and the CCNU TianKong Choir (A women’s chorus from a Chinese University). All were great and had something amazing to offer. Fountain Valley really impressed me by singing Six Chanson by Hindemith. What a feat! That’s no easy set of pieces, especially for a High School choir. I’m glad that some high schools in this nation are still challenging themselves like this and not just singing any old Lauridsen/Whitacre copycat that happens to catch their eye (Please understand that I love Lauridsen and Whitacre, it’s just disappointing to see so many people try and copy them and fail because it’s profitable. Only Lauridsen and Whitacre can write like they do).
Calvin College Alumni Choir did a great job singing “Magnificat” by Alberto Grau. It’s quite a doozy and they really brought the house down with it. Unfortunately they ended with a rather white-bread “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree” and “Gabriel” that just seemed like a much too obvious attempt to get the audience riled up and a standing ovation. Well, it worked, but I wasn’t played that easy. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very good choir, but I can tell when I’m being played. I felt like their goal was to impress rather than express.
Next was a truly wonderful performance by The Singers – Minnesota Choral Artists, directed by Matthew Culloton. This was a fantastic performance from beginning to end. They started with excerpts from Mid-Winter Song by Morten Lauridsen (the real deal), a piece by Libby Larsen that ended a little confusingly, two pieces by Brahms and two original works by their composers-in-residence, Abbie Betinis and Jocelyn Hagen. The highlight of the performance were the pieces by Brahms. They were so beautifully sung and masterfully shaped, it was unbelievable to listen to. It made me so excited that we were doing Brahms in BYU Singers. Some people didn’t like The Singers because they chose the wrong music. I disagree, I thought they made great choices and were seeking to express something rather than impress or manipulating their audience.
After the concert session I visited the exhibits downstairs at the Hilton. I found the Walton Booth and found my piece that they published! I was thrilled to see my piece there rubbing shoulders with some other great pieces. I chatted a bit with some reps. from Hal Leonard who all “welcomed me into the family.” Kind of a cool phrase, and then I remembered that this family included Samuel Barber, Dale Warland, Eric Whitacre, Ola Gjeilo, and Frank Ferko. That’s a pretty awesome family.
I ran around, collected some music, bought some books, met some new people, and got to chat with some members of musica intima who are all awesome (They gave me a free CD!). I got to ask them a bunch of questions about what it’s like singing in a small ensemble with no conductor (good advice to someone in a six voice group). They seem like a really awesome group.
BYU Singers had a great time getting ready, rehearsing, sound-checking and a lot of other great stuff. First we sang in Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Theater. Not my favorite space. They put up a shell to help with sound, but it still wasn’t a good acoustic to sing it. It felt like we were singing into a vacuum (a lovely vacuum at that).
Our program was “Everyone Sang,” by Argento (one of the most difficult pieces I’ve ever had to learn or sing) “I Have Had Singing” by Sametz (much harder than it looks), “Chantez à Dieu,” by Sweelinck, “Wenn wir in hösten Nöten, sein,” by Brahms (one of the greatest of his motets, absolutely rocked!) “There is Sweet Music,” by EJ White, and “Each Day” by Stephan Paulus. The Paulus piece is not very hard to learn or even sing, but it is a beast to tune. Singing each of these pieces is fine and dandy, but we wanted all of them dead in tune and beautifully phrased. It was tough as nails, but we did it.
The better place to sing was Symphony Hall, here it was a much better acoustic to sing in (it only took a few minutes for us to get the hang of the space). It was also gorgeous and a much more rewarding venue to sing in. Our performance there was astounding to be a part of. Sometimes you can tell when it’s going really well, and this was one of those times. There were a few times when we started singing something different to what we had rehearsed and all of us followed without hesitation. This was one of those moments when our minds all fused together and we made decisions without any word passed between us. This was one of those moments we became “an eighty legged animal,” as Gabriel Crouch once put it. It was a truly incredible experience for us. For others it might not have been that big of a deal, but it was a triumph to us.
Anyway, it was awesome. I explored the rest of Chicago with some friends, and then got sick and brought that stupid souvenir home. Gross, traveling while sick is not good, and then I got the rest of BYU Singers sick. After we got back about half of us have been sitting out of rehearsal (including yours truly). This happens every year, but this time it was I who got everyone sick. Whoops.