Thursday, November 11, 2004

It's all Greek Orthodox to me

I was supposed to have dim sum with some friends this late morning, but because it's a rainy day and I don't feel particularly well, I decided not to go. Does this have anything to do with rehearsals? Perhaps. Well it's best not to take my chances, get sick on the day of the concert, and regret having gone out.

Since there's no school today, I decided to catch up on blogging. It's pouring quite substantially outside. Last night when I was getting ready to sleep, Rachmaninoff's music was still floating in my mind. This always happens if rehearsal ends after 6pm, and yesterday's ended at 10.

I still remember the cathedral. It's situated on a hill, so we saw the vast array of city lights and the Bay Bridge down below. In the lobby area, I saw unused skinny candles placed flat on the table. I assume that worshippers could take one and light it. This reminded me that I was entering a sacred place.

Once inside, the first thing I noticed were the round iron-cast lights that looked like candles that were hung low from the ceiling. They reminded me of the light in the house where Yuri sang. This quite lifted my spirits from the cold that I felt even when I was indoors.

Looking up, I saw the dome-shaped ceiling, where square sections of gold-colored tin (?) looked pieced together. In the middle of the ceiling was a dark-skinned Jesus, and around Him, the 12 apostles. I attempted to decipher the Greek names next to each and to determine who was who. I think I found Peter and Phillip. We were discussing if Judas Iscariot was present (probably not, we concluded). My friend next to me said, "Well it's all Greek to me--ha, ha, ha."

At the stage in front, tall icons graced the walls. The middle inner was veiled by a gold curtain, and we were instructed not to look inside ("no curiosity allowed!").

Rachmaninoff's music requires lots of outer-calm-but-inner-energy from all of us. Our conductor told us an overview of the legacy that the Russians have left behind. There is outward solemnity but an inner strength that helps them survive during the difficult times. I think this also rings true for us. Yes, the music is hard not in the sense of notes but in the enormity of emotion which we have to convey through our eyes. If we hold onto this thought, we will able to finish strongly in these two concerts.

Rock, man!

Rock man!
Rockman who?
Rachmaninoff, of course!

I'm singing in the choir again this semester. We're performing Rachmaninoff's Vespers All-Night Vigil in Old Church Slavic. I've been drowning in work lately that I've quite forgotten to mention it. Just last night we ran through the whole piece at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral where we'll be giving our first performance.

Some characteristics of this piece:
1. We're going to sing a cappella for the whole thing, which means no piano, no nuthin'.

2.Some examples of the Slavic syllables that we'll be singing: vozdvigsha, svobozhdsha, pomishliayete...

3. The time signatures often change from measure to measure.

4. We're singing with another choir, and it's always a time for adjustment when two groups come together under one conductor.

5. We're performing this twice: this Friday and Sunday, in fact.

6. The stage at the cathedral is small, so we'll most likely be holding the scores up to our noses--all 200 of us.

7. Our conductor will be standing close to us to allow the back row to see her. This means that we who're in front would have to invent some clever way to simultaneously:
look up at her,
look down at our scores to remind us of the words, and
to maintain our singing alignment with our chins held in.

However, I'm in no way complaining. For one thing, we have our beloved conductor again this semester. I can't imagine any other person having the power to create beautiful music using ordinary people than she can. Moreover, it is exciting for me because it's my first time singing in Slavic. It really is quite different than Handel's Messiah.

Most importantly, what's impossible for man is possible for God. The piece is really a chance to give glory to God, and with that in mind, it will turn out wonderful. PTL!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

What is J-pop?

If you are:
-clueless but curious as to what J-pop music is,
-a fan of J-pop but don't really know where it comes from, or
-just generally interested in J-pop,

then check this out.

Searched engine: Clusty.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Live! review

Just received my Messiah recording. Since it took so long for them to make the CDs (five and half months!) each person got two copies! I was really happy. So I've spent some time listening to our choir sing, but I haven't gone through the whole thing yet.

I think if I had to be fair, I'd give the musicians 90 points and ourselves 80 points. Many of these musicians have played Messiah before, so they're really familiar with the music, whereas many of the chorus members are only singing it for the first time. They're using period instruments too, which gives a more authentic feel to the music. Also, the guy who played both harpsichord and organ improvised many of the chords, and the other musicians improvised many of the embellishments as well. Our director told us that there's less chance in inviting such a talented group to accompany us in the future, due to the unfortunate budget cuts.

Tell you a secret: we sang a semi-tone lower than indicated on the page, not because we're chicken! but because this was how it was done back in the day. So all you people who thought the soprano part in "Hallelujah!" was insanely high? Well it isn't actually too bad. I give ourselves less points because in the movement "We shall purify", the timing between the parts was very off in the beginning. I don't know how our conductor got us back on track again! However, the emotion that we created with our singing was excellent in some parts, especially when we sang "And the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all".

I cringe inside when I realize that every little thing, good and bad, has been immortalized in this live recording. It will never be perfect as a studio recording will be, where talented programmers could splice parts to make a flawless masterpiece. But this CD represents the fruit of our labors, and I'm thankful for the experience.