Monday, December 06, 2010

Choir Concert

I survived singing in my first choir concert in Iceland, congrats to me. The choir is not a professional one, which is new to me, but everyone loves being in the choir so the atmosphere is quite festive (and certainly not competitive, like some divas like to make it so in the States). It's more like social club, with a lot of singing in between coffee breaks. I'm not a very loud singer, but it is nice to feel like I can help out the bass section with the music, as it's usually very sight-readable for me. Not to toot my own horn or anything but music is sort of, like, you know, mon field d'expertise. The giant challenge for me is that all the choir rehearsals are in Icelandic, which is great for my retention of the language, and the choir director is very clear in his direction, so I almost always know what's happening either musically or through his clear Icelandic speaking. Most of the other choir members are also very patient with me when I try to chat with them in their language, which makes me feel less self-conscious.

This concert featured Dvorak's Mass in D major (with organ), a couple different 'O Come O Come Emmanuel's, and a sneak-attack 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring' as an encore. This piece and one of the 'O Come' works were in Icelandic; what an interesting experience to sing a song you know quite well in a translation that only makes half-sense. Thankfully Icelandic is very phonetic. There aren't any crazy exceptions to speaking rules like in English. (How stupid that we have words like 'through' and 'trough' and 'dough' which all have similarly-spelled endings but sound totally different. Dis iz DUM.) In Icelandic there are the ways that letters are put together and the rules of how you say them, and thankfully that's really without exception.

The choir sounded better than I expected. Things shaped up a lot in the 24 hours prior to the concert, i.e. 'panic time'. There were a couple moments of lock-in that I thought were quite resonant. But still, there were parts that I wish could have been in tune, entrances that didn't make it. There was one part I thought would be a total train wreck but luckily we just started that particular movement over again just two seconds after it began. The director was scolding people for not looking up from their music and said something interesting, that 'the people looking at their music the most, they read the notes the least'. Something which I never had thought about before-- if you are in a choir and don't read music very well, it would probably benefit you more to just listen to the people around you and basically memorizing the music than be chained to your part that only makes half-sense.

After the concert, there was much rejoicing. There was a lovely round of toasts at a dinner/drinks party, and everyone got tipsy and huggy and thankful and guitars appeared and songs spontaneously began, and I think that was one of the loveliest times I've seen here in Iceland, everyone congratulating each other on their hard work, and lots of glass-clinking. (Skál!)

The choir director also asked me if I might fill in for a random 1st-bass in a small all-male choir who will perform a couple songs at an Advent concert. What a dramatic change from SATB! I've never been surrounded by so many booming resonant voices before in TTBBBB. All the guys knew their music well by now, so it was me trying to keep up with sight-reading hand-written Icelandic lyrics to Christmas carols and barbershop arrangements of Jingle Bells. It was also really funny/great to sing songs in English with non-English speakers; I would generalize that most Icelanders over 30 speak English with British accent, but most younger people speak with an American accent (blame the cast of 'Friends' and American TV for this).

I'm enjoying all the Christmas-fest that's been happening around here, including a bunch of choir concerts, parties, decorating, and twinkly lights everywhere. With the sun so low in the sky during the day and limited day light, this holiday time is nice way to feel warm and cozy and forget about the winter blues. For now...we'll see how I feel in still-gloomy March.

In only two weeks I take a flight to Dublin for Christmas to spend time with some fantastic artist friends. I'm looking forward to even more new places to see. Here's a toast to a bit more Vitamin D in my daylight! Skál.

(photo: Kór Neskirkju on Facebook, from April, a few months before I joined.)

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