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Sunday, December 09, 2007

making beautiful music together

recently, i've found myself attending more kirtans than i usually do, and it's only because they were led by awesome performers that are a dream to chant with.

a week after the shakti fundraiser at power yoga west (and yes, my write-up made it to the december/january issue of LA yoga!), i endured the madness known as LA-drivers-attempting-to-drive-in-the-rain to get to yoga works in larchmont to listen to krishna das chant with steve ross and a host of others. i was initially turned away at the door because the performance was sold out and i hadn't pre-purchased a ticket (what's with that?!?), but thanks to an angel named nicole, i was able to buy the ticket her boyfriend brad couldn't use because he was horribly stuck in the same traffic i managed to get through earlier. with all the excitement that was buzzing about the room before KD walked on stage, i was somewhat disappointed when we were asked to refrain from clapping while singing because the performance was being taped. having to chant in such a reserved manner definitely put a damper on the kirtan, as far as i was concerned. too bad.

then a week later, i drove out to hollywood for dave stringer's concert at golden bridge. he was on tour to promote his new divas & devas album; along with him were vocalists suzanne sterling (one of the divas on the album) and spring, as well as the usual assortment of musicians whom i seem to keep running into at kirtans. and this time, all of us in attendance were able to respond as freely as we wanted; by the end of the evening, we were clapping and chanting ganapati om wildly and ecstatically... now that's kirtan!

but if only singing with a group were always that easy...

for the past month, i've been busy trying to learn the music for an upcoming holiday sing-along. while the average person would be perfectly happy singing familiar seasonal songs and christmas carols with friends and family in a church or town hall, the more adventurous push themselves to do something more demanding -- like singing george frideric handel's messiah in an acoustically-exquisite concert hall, accompanied by a world-class symphony and chorale. in four-part harmony, no less.

and as you know, i'm no slacker, so guess what i just got myself into :)

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder
And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

BDB passed along an invite he had received for prime seats to this extravaganza; he knew i was itching to try my hand at singing the messiah. and i, a former member of my high school glee club and of a small singing group that some friends of mine had put together way back when, took the bait and agreed to join him. after all, with my catholic girls' school background, i had sung my fair share of sacred choral music in three-part harmony (i sang soprano II at the time). so while i don't consider myself a seasoned chorister -- it's been a long while since those days -- i figured i could at least follow along well enough to have a good time.

O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain!
O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength
Lift it up, be not afraid
Say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

i do have one disadvantage, though: i can't sight-sing. i have to learn my part by rote; i hear it, sing it, and keep repeating the process until i've committed it to memory. so just having a copy of the vocal score -- which is a must if you want to do the messiah right -- wasn't enough. and neither was listening to the CD version of the oratorio itself, because it's nearly impossible to pick out a single vocal part and follow along from beginning to end.

so how was i supposed to learn my part? in a little over a month??

He trusted in God that He would deliver Him
Let Him deliver Him, if he delight in Him.

thanks to rehearsal arts, i found the perfect solution: a learning CD with the alto vocal part (because i can't reach the high soprano notes) sung clearly over the rest of the chorus and orchestra. so all i had to do was listen and repeat. over and over and over until i got it. i placed my order online and within a few days, the CD arrived at my doorstep. i eagerly opened up the jewel case and popped the disk into my car CD player so i could sing along while stuck in traffic on my way to and from work.

two weeks later, i realized that i wasn't spending enough quality time learning my part. of the 17 choruses i needed to learn, i could follow along with only a handful. and i was far from being able to sing them from memory! i loaded the contents of the learning disk onto my ipod so i could listen to it wherever i happened to be -- at physical therapy, on the bus, on the train, while waiting for yoga classes to start, while falling asleep in bed at night (you never know; what they say about learning while you sleep could be true!).

then finally, the acid test. two days ago, i popped my copy of the london symphony orchestra performing the messiah into the CD player, hit play, and tried to sing along... and found myself getting so overwhelmed with the grandeur of the work that i kept losing my place.

Hallelujah! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ
And He shall reign for ever and ever.
King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, Hallelujah!

needless to say, i've resigned myself to just being able to sing what i can, especially since the sing-along is TOMORROW. technically, i still have a few hours to cram, but since our seats are in a prominent location, i.e, the choral bench seats (which face the audience!), i'm probably going to have to follow the advice my older daughter gave her younger sister before their school's christmas program: if you can't remember the tune, just mouth the words and no one'll know any better.

yes, it looks like i'll have to fake it this time.

honestly, all i want to be able to do is to be able to sing the hallelujah chorus with confidence and gusto; it's so well-known that i should be able to follow along, even if i end up singing a hybrid of the alto and soprano parts. and who would really know? except for BDB, perhaps, who'll be there right beside me. yes, mr. B who can sight-sing AND has mastered portions of the messiah for his chorale's concert next week. argh.

at least i'll be better prepared for next year's messiah sing-along, if that's any consolation...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joni...it was great to see you at KD...glad you were able to make it in! KD was bummed about the no-clapping policy that night as well...the next two nights the loosened the restrictions! Friday really opened the door to a magical weekend! Thanks for this post!

8:20 AM  
Blogger joni said...

hi greg --

it was good to see you, too!
i took steve ross's class at maha a few days later and asked him about saturday and sunday and he said they went much better. timing's everything, i guess...

10:19 AM  

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