Publication Date: Friday, July 16, 2004
Getting schooled at Schola
Getting schooled at Schola
(July 16, 2004) Sing-along is fast, fun and not for the timid
By Candice Shih
There aren't many concerts where the performers are in the audience but Schola Cantorum's Summer Sings is one of them.
On Monday, I joined more than 200 others in the seats of the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts to partake in the sing-along, a tradition at Schola Cantorum for over 20 years.
After paying $8 (and the center's $2 surcharge), I received a set of borrowed sheet music for Mozart's "Requiem" and "Solemn Vespers."
It was the first Summer Sings program of the season, and was expected to be one of the most popular. The event is being repeated, with different pieces and different conductors, for the next five Monday evenings. The Brahms "Requiem," another popular choral work, is on the program next week.
"It's a great way to keep up your voice if you're in a choir that doesn't meet in the summer," said Anneka, a Schola member. Others I met were an avid singer in college who wanted to stay connected and a hobbyist who wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to sing in a large group.
Personally, it had been a few years since I had sung in a chorus, although I was once a member of Los Altos High School's well-reputed Main Street Singers -- as the non-singing secretary.
But as a longtime instrumental musician, I'd like to think I can hold my own, especially when I know that no one except the poor person next to me can hear me.
That poor person on Monday was named Sue, who had an alto voice like mine and seemed quite tolerant of my inexperience. Also fortunate: The people directly in front of me relied on hearing aids, so I knew they could block me out if I was too horrendous.
Sue regularly sang in choirs and had participated in a number of Schola sing-alongs. "Some of them sound kind of respectful . . . but some of them sound kind of chaotic," she said.
It seemed likely that the chaos could be tamed -- most of the people at Monday's concert knew at least the "Requiem," if not both pieces.
The show began when guest conductor Janice Gunderson and piano accompanist Dawn Reyen took the stage. We started with warmups, and Janice checked to see if all the parts were covered. Altos were the most common, and when the handful of tenors identified themselves, Janice said, "Oh, good, we have some!"
Then we dove into the "Solemn Vespers," which I quickly realized was in Latin. The language was only one of my challenges; others were staying on pitch, counting the proper rhythms and noting the dynamics. Since we were at a sing-along, not a rehearsal, we rarely stopped and mistakes were overlooked.
While I'd like to think I got at least one of those elements right most of the time, I truly meant it when I sang the final words of "Vespers": Amen, amen.
After an intermission, it was on to the main event: the "Requiem." Although I was told it was in the movie "Amadeus," I had no recollection of it and stumbled along with the help of Sue. It was no coincidence, I thought, that the sixth movement began "Confutatis, maledictis." (This is the music that Mozart, on his deathbed, dictates to Antonio Salieri in "Amadeus.")
After tearing through the whirlwind music, experiencing the emotional highs and lows of Mozart's music, we made it to the end in one piece but with a few strained vocal cords.
I think our conductor considered it a success. "We started together, and we ended together," Janice said. Amen to that.
E-mail Candice Shih at firstname.lastname@example.org
What: Schola Cantorum's Summer Sings
Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St.
When: Mondays starting at 7:30 p.m. Through Aug. 16
Call: 903-6000 or visit www.scholacantorum.org
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