Monday, June 10, 2013

Buried in Verdi

Hello! We made it back alive from the homeschooling convention, and I do promise to fill you in on how it went.

For now, I am completely (and happily) buried in the Verdi Requiem. I have the opportunity to sing this massive choral work as part of the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival this week. We are in rehearsals every night to prepare for a concert on Saturday evening at Eastern Mennonite University. If you're local (or even if you aren't!), you should really come to this concert. After only two nights of rehearsal, I am certain that it's going to be an amazing experience. The Dies Irae will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

Being part of this choir and intensely rehearsing the Requiem feels a little like the good old days (remember, fellow music nerds?) in All-District and breathe the music for a few days and then put on a concert. I always loved that experience, playing with other musicians who took things seriously and were all so good at their parts. Singing with this choir is similar, but now that I'm a grownup, it's a true respite for my spirit. For 2 1/2 hours every night (and on the drive to rehearsal, where my carpool buddies and I have been singing along to recordings of the score), I am submerging myself in notes, rhythms, and Latin texts that come together to create one of the greatest prayers ever created. I feel like someone has finally turned on the soul is breathing deeply for what feels like the first time in months while I'm singing (or thinking about singing) this work. Singing is mind-expanding. It's ribcage-expanding. It's good for me, and I'm having so much fun.

(Didn't St. Augustine say, "He who sings well, prays twice?" Oh, apparently not. Anyway, it's still a good saying...unless you can't sing, I guess, in which case it might feel discouraging...any non-singers care to comment?)

To master my parts in the slightly tricky fugue sections, I've been doing my runs on the treadmill with the score propped on the rack in front of the screen and the Requiem blaring through my headphones. Although it never occurred to me before that "salva me" and "libera me" would make good running mantras, they are really working for me. Phrases from the Requiem (especially the heavenly Agnus Dei) are running through my head all day like a soundtrack, making the ordinary stuff like folding laundry seem almost meditative. (It's made a nice change from the 1950s music we've been listening to so much lately, which always gets stuck in my head on repeat.)

I didn't know this work well at all before this week. By the end of the week I'm going to know it inside and out, and the process of learning it is making me feel new.