Friday, 9 December 2011

Scenes from the choir loft

As I've mentioned before, part of my busy pre-Christmas season involved singing with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra as a member of one of the choirs in their annual Pops Christmas Concert. And yes, that commitment can now thankfully be put in past tense. As anticipated, all the rushed preparation met its just reward, namely the pleasure of singing in Edmonton's fabulous Winspear Centre, (which sounds even better than it looks) and the bird-eye view of the whole spectacle from my perch in the choir loft.

It's hardly a replacement for a spot in the seats; I've now twice had the honour of hearing mezzo-soprano Mireille Lebel, but I've only seen her face as she's entered or exited the stage. From the audience reception, I can only assume her facial expressions compliment the wondrous warmth of her voice during her performances. I only caught the public view of the tapdancers and handbell ringers by sneaking peaks at their solo rehersals; though the negatives of those particular photographs were still very worth watching.

There are however, little things that can be best seen from spots above and behind the orchestra. I've made myself a house-rule of not watching the same section of the orchestra in action at the same point of each performance. When there's so much to see, and you get to see it twice (three times, if you include the dress rehearsal), it's best to spread your focus around. The scramble of the percussionists in the sound-effect-happy rendering of "Nuttin' for Christmas" had me breaking that rule. So did the sight of the pianist switching between playing the grand and the celeste by rotating ninety degrees on a single bench. His head stayed facing his music on the piano the entire time.

The sight that had me reaching for my invisible camera, however - along with the skill set to do it justice - was a tableau from the dress rehearsal: the bass bassoonist slumped in his chair, instrument settled in its frame beside him, music open to a single sheet on his illumined stand. The sheet read out, in large block letters:


O HOLY NIGHT

TACET


'Twas, I suppose, a song too sacred for the likes of a bass bassoon. Garrison Keillor would understand. 

(For those who didn't get the reference, I tried, and failed, to find a link to his "Young Lutheran's Guide to the Orchestra". Find it. Listen to it. Love it.)

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