New choir possibilities opened up last night. Actually last week. A college buddy of mine, with whom I’ve sung in many different choirs, both in college and after, wrote to exclaim about the choir she’d just joined. She’d gone to one rehearsal, but came back raving about the choir, the director, the whole ball of wax.
I had been toying with the idea of dropping my smaller choir for a number of reasons, and the thought of getting to sing with Susan again was appealing. Plus, her standards for directors is as high as mine, so the fact that she was so excited was contagious.
So, on a whim, I asked about auditions, secured a time-slot and headed off to see if I could put together a song to sing.
I hate auditions. I’m not exactly sure why, because I usually end up hearing that I have a lovely voice and would I please come join their group. . .
Anyway, I spent some time last week putting together a small lullaby that I had sung my freshman year in college. I happened to have kept the sheet music for it and it was hiding in the piano bench along with a bunch of piano books and recorder books and several books of songs that I didn’t recognize. It’s a simple lullaby by Franz. The words are sacchrine, so I chose to attempt the German instead.
In my excitement, I’ve forgotten that Tuesdays are already big driving days. I drive down to the ranch to pick up the milk from my cow share. The ranch is in Watsonville, so it’s a good hour to get there.
And it was hot yesterday. I don’t do hot well.
So, I’ve been in the car for hours; I’m nervous about this song that I don’t feel particularly comfortable singing. I don’t like the sight-reading part, although I usually do fairly well.
Did I mention that it was hot?
It was 95 degrees at the church.
My audition is scheduled for 5:45. I get there on time. But there’s a line of cars parked along a red painted fire lane outside a gated parking area.
I pull in behind the last one and wait. Not patiently, because I’m nervous. But I wait because I can’t do anything else.
It’s only a few minutes, but it feels like a life time.
Finally someone arrives to unlock the gate. The cars start up and our little procession heads in to the parking lot. And into the building.
Oh dear, I’ve dropped into “blow by blow” mode. I’ll stop now. Of course, I’m now past the boring bit, because the director shows up, sleeping son in the car, rushing about with music and other things to take into the building.
I fill out the necessary paperwork. Here’s the long list of choirs I’ve sung in over the years, no I don’t play an instrument, no I’ve never had any proper singing lessons. Other than a few months here and there over the years, as people try to figure out what part I actually sing. You’re a soprano. No, you’re an alto. No, you’re a mezzo. No. So I’ve sung everything from soprano 2 to Tenor 1 in choirs because they can’t figure out what I am, and will use me as necessary. My only complaint about singing Tenor 1 is having to read the treble clef with the funny little 8 at the bottom signifying that I need to read it an octave down. My brain doesn’t like that very much.
Okay, back to the audition. I tried to set the tempo for my song fairly slow, but my whole body is in speed-mode, so I plow through the song, much faster than I wanted.
The director has me sight-singing. I start, she stops me. “You’ll want to go much more slowly than that. There are sixteenth notes coming up.” She gives me a new tempo. I sing at that tempo. Stopping to fix intervals as I notice the mistakes. That’s not always a good thing. Some directors want you to just plow through, others want to know that you know that you’ve made a mistake.
Anyway, the whole audition takes about 5 minutes. After my song, the director turns to her 5-year-old son, who’s been sitting there and asks if he likes the song. He shakes his head no. I laugh. My kids would have done the same thing.
The director is handing me a new piece of music saying “I’m having auditions for a small group just now. Please stay and audition. The rest of the folks got this music two days ago.”
What? Small group? I’ve heard rumors about the starting up of a small group. I knew that auditions were today after my audition, but I certainly didn’t expect to be auditioning.
The audition piece is a lovely madrigal. There are the typical tonalities of a madrigal, which if you’ve sung them are familiar, and if you’ve not sung them can be quite tricky. Luckily for me, I’ve sung a lot of madrigals over the years.
It’s in french. She’s got it with English words as well, but we’re warming up first on “da” and then after one run through, we’re singing in French.
Again, it’s a darn good thing I’ve been doing this as long as I have, and in as many languages as I have and that I’m a damn good mimic and vocal leach.
She first asks for volunteers. There are none. So she picks the first quartet.
There are 13 altos here to audition, by far the largest number of people for a part. So we’ve got to listen to 13 versions of this. With a variety of different people, because there are only a handful of basses and tenors.
For the next three rounds, she picks a tenor and then tells him to pick the rest of the quartet. This is an interesting experiment I think, because it tells her a number of things about the tenor. Will they pick friends or people who sing really well, someone to bolster them or show their voice off. Are they even thinking that clearly? Who knows.
Anyway, for round number five, she picks a tenor, a soprano, she’s looking around at the altos, catches my eye and says “do you want to sing?”
Yes, please. Let me get this over with.
“Sure.” I say, shrugging.
As I stand up there, she says “This is Nancy. She just auditioned and passed with flying colors. I asked her to stay to audition, so she’s only just now seen this piece of music.”
I can feel the tenor beside me stiffen a little.
We sing. We all do well. The director has put me up there with good strong singers. I’m grateful. It’s a whole lot easier to hold one’s part when everyone else is singing the right part.
She has us sing the first section, thanks us and we sit down.
As the auditions go on I notice several people have memorized the music! I’m so glad I hadn’t noticed that before I got up to sing.
I had been thinking that I was going to be able to go out and get supper during the hour break between my audition and rehearsal. Ah well.
The rehearsal went well. I found a spot in amongst the Alto 2s and settled in to see how the choir worked.
This conductor is amazing. I’ll tell you more about it tomorrow. Remind me, okay?