Today was a most challenging practice. Here’s the setup:
The polyphony choir that I’m in, led by Jenny Donelson, is leading the Holy Hour service tomorrow afternoon at 5:00. We had a decent practice yesterday, but another group needed our practice room so we got swapped over to the vestibule of the Mundelein hall. Not so bad, but for one fatal flaw: no piano.
We started practicing a Tantum Ergo written by Kevin Allen, a new piece just published in 2007. So it has lots of modern harmonies. Which means that none of us had a clue what the thing should sound like. Well, Jenny did, but it’s hard to sing four parts at once.
After a total flameout after four measures on the first try, we started splitting it into sections. It started feeling like we were in trouble when it took the tenors about half an hour to get through the first page and a half of four pages. The basses didn’t do much better. And the poor ladies were feeling totally left out, so they tried doing sectionals in other parts of Mundelein hall. Time for a deep breath and a break.
While Jenny worked with the ladies, the tenors and basses went off into corners to remind ourselves of the Domine Non Sum Dignus (Tomas Luis de Victoria) that we practiced yesterday. It’s feeling like that’s getting under control. But when we come together, what’s the Tantum Ergo going to sound like?
Well, it was surprisingly good. Not perfect by any means, but we certainly earned lots of indulgences for the sweat and tears put into this afternoon. One of the hardest practices I’ve ever had.
But after we sleep on it, what about tomorrow? That’s anybody’s guess. We have one more practice after lunch and then a little warmup before the service starts, so hopefully these old brain cells will retain a bit of what we worked so hard on. If not, well, I guess we count it as time of purification in Purgatory.
Quote of the day: “Putting church music under copyright is rather like using the state to attempt to control something which should be divine.” — Jeffrey Tucker