Thursday evening, and I should be at my writing group but here we are at Blackheath again, clutching our carefully marked up scripts. Jonathon is also clutching an article about charity shops, which we hope will help with finding our costumes. It’s half term and we feel a bit thin on the ground, indeed Music director Nick is away doing some offshore conducting, and Duncan is in charge.
Apparently Nick has left an overly optimistic list of what we are to get through, (either that or we are being very slow at getting it right) because Duncan works us incredibly hard, the tea break is very late! I could easily fall out of love with that fa-la-la again…
Rose is rushing about making copies of the practice disks, somewhat hampered by her computer deciding to crash, but by the break there are enough to go round, more or less.
Briony has two lists with times on for us to meet and negotiate our costumes, and one for those who want her to get everything. We have to commit to finding our own or give her money to hire what we are missing by Sunday week. We have already ransacked cupboards and come up with Act 2 middle class garden party without much trouble. Tatty shirts for act one agricultural worker ditto in fact we can do that in multiples, jeans more of a problem. A has about 6 pairs in varying state of shabbiness, but possibly too figure hugging, I don’t have any.
The sopranos are in good form tonight and I’m sitting right next to them, which is making it harder to stick to an approximation of the tenor line, which would be easier if I didn’t have a migraine. Fortunately the tenor part in Onegin is completely in my range, the lowest note we have to sing is an E which is the lowest I can go and it still be a note rather than a growl, and I’m a lot more comfortable with nice rich low notes. I recently bought a kit to make myself a rebec, as part of research for a novel I’m writing, and it’s a kit because I needed to spend as little as possible, but despite the fact that it was most expensive of the kits, and probably the least authentic historically, I went for the tenor version. Unfortunately it’s even more of a kit than I anticipated so its turned out a false economy, but there you go…
One of the tenors has a nasty cough, which I really hope not to be entertaining any time soon, I’ve had quite enough respiratory infections of late and missed out on singing the Messiah with the Sixteen and the Royal Festival Hall, as I only got to one rehearsal, and hadn’t enough voice by the day anyway, which was very disappointing, so I hope he won’t mind me giving him a wide berth!
Duncan is full of cheer and advice. “I recommend that your pencil is a 2b or 3b, it makes it easier to rub out your notes when we change our minds”;
“Any tempo you like,” when we aren’t paying much attention on the entries;
“I know I said not to breath there, but I don’t want you to expire, we’re short on tenors as it is…”
“If you could conspire to sing the same note at the same time…”
It is interesting (to me at any rate) the different styles of musical directors, and how you can not mind a bit being told how utterly and completely wrong you are in what you have just sung. The first opera I did at Blackheath (Boheme) Leigh O’Hara was MD, and his style was to just say, “Yes, lovely” regardless of how dire we were (or whether we’d sung at all!), which I found very disconcerting at the time, and being new to opera didn’t feel confident in speaking out; but he still got a pretty good performance out of us. Apparently he was trying not to alarm us with how VERY bad we were. These days if he does that, I just say, “It really wasn’t Leigh, can we do it again?”
Nick, on the other hand, looks at us and says, “Lets do it again shall we?” until we get it right.
Mel who is MD of my regular choir Raise the Roof Singers, is much more … robust… and has been known to stamp her foot, but people love it (or they leave) when her language hits high octane swearing, because of the self evident passion behind her impatience. One of the choir made her a banner with her most regular catchphrase on it for her birthday : “Shut the F**ck up”. I think it was her most popular present.
It seems I may be giving a negative view of the Boheme production, and I don’t want to do that: apart from what we were having to sing it was a riot. Ian our director gave us all characters, and we set it in 1968 so A and I were hippies and had a great time pretending to be stoned!
This evening we don’t stray into any new territory and are pinning down what the notes really are as opposed to what we think they are, and getting the diction right on our constenants. Occassionally it sounds quite good, which for a second rehearsal is pleasing. Still getting a bit tangled in the words, it’s an entertaining translation, and Harry has pepped it up a bit to suit our purposes, but part of the problem is that we are still reading the words (never mind the music) so we aren’t looking at Duncan for tempo, and this is very evident when he tries to stop us, and no one notices… maybe he needs Mel’s banner !
We are all shattered by ten to ten, and pleading to be let go as we finished one particular song. Duncan concurs, and is thanked by one of our number (I shan’t say who) calling out “We love you Duncan”, to which he responds that it is entirely mutual.
My litmus test of a good rehearsal is that we sing on the way down the street, and pass other people doing the same. This was a good rehearsal. What the burgers of Blackheath make of these strange people singing ‘this is superb’ as they bounce down the high street I can’t imagine.
We can’t resist changing the words though…
The Miller’s pretty daughter/she’s no better than she oughter/I can feel it in my water/ fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
here’s a farmer drunk on sherry/red and ruddy as a cherry…
A very good rehearsal.
Copyright Cherry Potts 2011