Theatre & Opera Magazine

Simon Says...

Posted on the 29 May 2012 by Pinkall @pinkall
I have certainly had the most amazing week so far.  Last Saturday, I began singing with the Simon Carrington Chamber Singers - for most of the world, that's a big "so what!"
Well, it has been one of the most interesting music experiences of my life.  First, this is a small professional choir.  Its purpose is to record an album this week with singers from all over the nation and world.  Boy am I lucky, they just happen to record in Kansas City - the group is as diverse as possible, but the sound is incredible.  It certainly is amazing.
From the get go, it is clearly apparent that this recording is ultimately important - I expect that they will want to submit it for recording awards and such.  But, Simon Carrington is a sweet genius.  He is an amazing person with a great attitude and bright English accent, but he is to the point - his rehearsals are premeditated and intense in all the best ways.  We begin with careful but difficult warm-ups challenging perfect intervals - to any Joe Schmo, most wouldn't be able to tell the difference between perfect and horrible, but pitch accuracy is vital and just the slightest problems will be noticed in a group like this.
Our rehearsals are long, and frankly, I was not in the least bit pleased with myself after the first rehearsal.  It was apparent that the other singers, all super-professional singers and choristers, were better prepared for the situation than I was - I spent hours Saturday night practicing; ironing out my problems.  Yesterday and today have been a blast however and I don't think many singers would believe the detail that has been discussed such as:
A group of perfectly tuned 4ths and 5ths descending and ascending in parallel motion were not staying in tune with a held high G by the sopranos in a John Corigliano piece.  The problem is that descending perfectly tuned 4ths and 5ths will be flatter than equal temperament because of physics - so we have to purposefully tweak the 4ths and 5ths in very precise ways to make it sound correct.  One person described the problem as "we're singing a B sharp instead of a C" - let that screw with your mind.
Other problematic details include finding your note in a piece opening in a cluster chord, without an opening pitch; which ethnic dialect of Latin to use; the precise length and intensity of a breath, the letter "f", a crescendo, the glottal mechanism for beginning on a vowel, and even our facial reactions (which effect the brightness of the sound).  All of these are controlled to a precise detail and it is incredible to work with such amazing musicians who can pull off the most impressive tasks.
We even have sound technicians in the room yelling at us, even personally at times, what we did wrong and why, all to a very small detail.  If you are a singer, these experiences will teach you so much about discipline in making art - if perfection is ideal, it takes people like this to at least attempt it convincingly.  So, with that said, we will soon have an album to release, and we will have a concert on Friday at the beautiful Episcopal Cathedral in KC (at 7:30) as well as a concert on Saturday at Corpus Christi Church in Lawrence (at 7:30).  We are also recording for NPR today, and Simon will be in a live interview on Kansas Public Radio at 11:00am on Thursday.  I hope you are able to hear us live!
Simon Says...
On a different topic, I was able to get a private hearing of the organ at Helzberg Hall at the Kauffman Center from a good friend, Jan Kraybill, who is its caretaker.  It was amazing, an elevator takes you right up into the middle of the organ pipes.  You must walk through the pipes and wood planks winding their way out to the console which overlooks the beautiful hall.  And the sound was startling - I was so excited I laughed uncontrollably through Saint-Saens.  Thank you Jan for the amazing opportunity!
Simon Says...

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