The Choral Society of Greensboro is singing Mozart's Great Mass in C minor for its fall concert. I have been a member of the Choral Society since 1999 and have been challenged by a number of the works we have sung but nothing to date has been as breathtaking difficult as this Mozart work. I bought a recording of the Mass to see what we're up against. The recording by The Academy of of St Martin in the Fields featuring Kiri Te Kanawa as the soprano soloist is incredibly beautiful and unbeliveably complicated: double choruses, run after run, fugues within fugues. Eek.
We've performed Mozart before but this piece is frustrating even the Choral Society's most seasoned members (and we've got a bunch of them). Of course, we all know that by the time the concert rolls around our director, Bill Young, will have drilled it into our heads and it will be great. Take last night for example.
We finally started tackling what I think is the most difficult section of the work, the "Osanna." This section combines all the aforementioned challenges into one minute-and-a-half-long sonic extravaganza. Bill started by spliting us up into the two choruses and sending one chorus down the hall to a separate room. We began learning it by sections; bass first, tenors next, altos and lastly the sopranos who spend a fair amout of their time running up and down in the stratosphere. We were instructed to ignore the words and "dah-dah" the notes. Luckily, the runs of the "Osanna" are somewhat more regular and predictable than in some of the other sections but the timing is another story (think eight stanzas of music each coming it at different times). We worked on this for almost a half-hour and then the other chorus joined us and we tried putting it all together. The sounds we made were nothing like the "Osanna" I've been listening to on my iPod. At least, as Bill pointed out, we wouldn't be quite as scared of the section the next time we saw it.
He's right, of course, because, while I'm nowhere near comfortable yet with the "Gloria", "Credo" or "Kyrie they at least look familiar when we turn to them. Like the good drill-master he is, Bill led us through those sections again last night.
There will come a time in November (hopefully on or before November 5th) when all this will come together and I'll have this work firmly in my head. Then we can look forward to singing Beethoven's 9th Symphony with the Greensboro Symphony again this spring (which will seem like child's play after Mozart.)