Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mostly concert and singing

So we had a concert on Saturday.

First time I remember doing a concert where I felt prepared and relaxed, and like we weren't struggling to get everything together during the last rehearsal Saturday afternoon. I guess this was due to our hard work over the previous weeks, and the amazing organisation of the committee. Go us!

And it all went well - about half of the concert was the main chorus, and half Socii Cantorum (the chamber choir), along with some solos. So I sang in everything apart from the solos.

I noticed a couple of things.

I'm definitely getting better, in terms of concentration and memory and confidence and stamina. Singing's hard work mentally and physically, and sometimes I can struggle with it, but there's an improvement. I think a fair bit of it is being confident in myself and my ability, particularly when it comes to sightreading. I don't pretend to be great at it, but I'm happy to sing out now, because I'm no longer scared that people will think I'm stupid. They don't. Jenny told me last night that she'd noticed a massive improvement in me since I first joined SingSoc 2 years ago. A fair chunk of what I sing when I'm sightreading is actually right, or at least if it isn't I'm wrong in a sensible sort of way, if that makes sense.

It's not just me that's improved. Several people (including Pete who conducts the main chorus, and Robert, director of music at St John's and a conductor himself) have commented on how good Socii sounded, so I'm rather proud of us. Especially as a good proportion of Socii members are new this year, so we've essentially only been singing together for seven weeks. I've posted this before, but I might as well put it here as well. This is us last year.

Harriet, who conducts Socii, has been particularly mean this year. I mentioned last year that we weren't allowed to stand with other people in our parts - well she's gone one step further. As well as that, we had to do five of our eight of our pieces from memory, which is surprisingly difficult when there's no-one in your part close enough for you to hear. It's definitely stopped me being so lazy, I have to concentrate and learn everything properly and not just rely on listening to the other altos. I was worried that we'd miss Liz this year (she's working in Edinburgh) because she's been singing forever and she always does everything perfectly and I used to just follow what she was doing - but we're managing fine by ourselves! Anyway, mixing us up and stopping us from hiding in our scores is one of the things that's made a difference to us, we definitely sing a lot better like that. I think we've all improved individually too, and Harriet's definitely improved as a conductor and director.

Anyway, my grandma came to the concert, it's the first one she's been to. First concert of any kind she's been to, I guess. She told me she didn't think she'd enjoy it but she did, and that we were very good. She also asked me to dye my hair blonde, because she likes it that way. I told her I'm not keen on bleaching it because it looks awful when the roots grow in dark, at which she looked a bit confused and said, "But you've always had blonde hair!" Well no, actually I haven't. My current brown is only a bit darker than my natural colour - I was blonde as a young kid but it was always that dark goldy-blonde that turns darker. This prompted Holly to ask me if I was really blonde! Sigh. My own grandmother doesn't know my real hair colour. I wouldn't mind, but no-one's blonde in my family. The lightest is probably my cousin Emma, who's a mousey mid-brown. Her daughter Olivia is blonde at 3, but it's just like mine was, and it'll end up darker too.

I'll add more pieces to my sidebar once I find the programme (I know I picked one up, just don't know where I put it down again). You noticed my sidebar, right? It's almost becoming my musical CV.

So yeah. The concert took it out of me I think - I was all energetic all day and pretty much pain-free, but I crashed on Monday after a bad night Sunday, going back to sleep instead of to my lectures. I woke at 2pm in the end, feeling tired and draggy and awful. I think I'm getting a cold. After some internal conflict I decided to go to rehearsal instead of staying in with a book like I wanted to, and I'm glad I did, even though I struggled with a brain that didn't work properly and a body that wanted to go back to bed, because it would have been much harder to learn new songs next week when everyone else has already learned them. And I did enjoy it really.

I'm a bit better today, but nowhere near dragging myself out of this low-energy thing. I don't know whether to rest, or force myself to do stuff. Oh well. Might go back to the doc.

And it's 3.15am, so I probably should go to bed.


  1. I'd not seen the YouTube clip before. The singing was great, though I'm not keen on the way the fragments were edited together - the sudden change, or worse still, short overlap of the choir singing 2 pieces in different keys is not something I like.

    We find mixing the choir up is terrific for developing our performance, since it forces us to listen to each other.

    And once, singing in Ripon Cathedral, the conductor stopped conducting one piece we knew well, which had the same effect. We really had to think, and work together, and listen.

    Not sure about doing without the music. In Ripon again this summer, at the choir dinner, some of us started up singing the Purcell Magnificat. I noticed a close friend, music teacher, not singing. Why not? I enquired. She doesn't know the music. She sings the dots. The rest of us memorise it and use the dots to remind us. That brought me up short.

    As did our conductor's reaction. Not appropriate to sing that music in that setting. As an atheist, my reaction is Jeez, it's only music, gimme a break! but I guess not everyone would agree with me.

  2. Agreed about the editing!

    I had a similar experience singing Spem in Alium with the People's Chorus. During rehearsal we had to sing it through once without the conductor. 700 singers in 40 parts singing a piece that complicated was hard work, and felt very weird.

    I used to do the memorise-and-use-the-dots-to
    -remind-me thing, mostly because of how bad my sight-reading was. But now we get through so many pieces that it's just not possible to memorise everything, we don't have time. Although if we do some impromptu singing (which often happens if we've been out for a drink!) I can usually sing something approximately correct.

    Yeah, my reaction would have been the same! I mean, if you believe in God, isn't He everywhere anyway?? And if you don't, it doesn't matter. ;)

  3. Good news that you feel you're getting stronger singing wise. When my ME was really bad my voice just vanished. I never was much of a singer but I just had no strength at all in my vocal chords - since ME affects the muscles. As I got better, my voice got better too. I'm still not much of a singer but at least I can sing around the house without the neighbours thinking someone's died!

    Hope your energy starts to pick up again soon. BTW where are you in the clip? I guessed on the right hand side (ie our right looking at the clip).

  4. Yeah, singing definitely requires muscles. It sounds easy, but singing well is hard work.

    If you watch the clip and pause at 0.52, I'm in the middle of the shot. We stood in different places for different pieces - the Jenkins being easy(ish) we were all mixed up, but for the Basler we needed a bit more support so we stood in parts as normal. I'm the um, bigger one. :)

  5. Hey friend-of-old-in-the-real-world-cum-new-blog-friend.

    You crack me up. That description of your grandma not knowing your hair colour. No one knows my real hair colour. Now I come to think of it I'm not sure I remember what it was.

    Your Ladies choir concert on Thursday was excellent. I was blown away by how great the altos were sounding even though there were just four of you. Normally I'm sopranos all the way but not today - Flippin' brill.

  6. I wouldn't know my real hair colour either, except it keeps growing back! Damn selfish if you ask me.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the concert. :) I rather enjoyed it myself! We're used to being vastly outnumbered by sops (yesterday there were 4 altos, 12 sops). We just have to tell them to keep it down a bit when they get too carried away.

    Not that I'm dissing Fraser (well actually I am), both Ladies' and Socii sound so much better since Harriet took over.