This Easter weekend I took part in The Rochester Mass Project as part of the Southbank Centre’s Chorus 2015 festival. The event was organised by the excellent Voicelab and anyone on their mailing list had an invite to the workshops and performance a month or so before.
I had done very little research about the piece beforehand, so it was a bit of an exciting revelation to find out that not only were we performing with The James Taylor Quartet – who are quite famous within the acid funk jazz world, but that we were also premiering the piece with the band and Rochester Cathedral Choir. Awesome.
Rehearsals were for two days from 11am to 6pm, and we ended up learning five of the six pieces we had been given. The rehearsals were a little tough, and you would be in a bit of trouble if you couldn’t read music or weren’t an amazing aural learner. Lots and lots of accidentals and fast vocal rhythms, possibly easier to play than sing! 😀
We were led through the movements by the lovely Laka D, a musician whose communication skills were perfectly suited to the piece in question and to the singers in the room. It was a really great experience to be taught by her, and as my background is more classically based, it was a plus to be developing my aural skills whilst having the safety of the score.
After a day’s break we were back at 11am on Monday for two run throughs with the band and the Cathedral choir before the performance in the afternoon. We were also meeting their conductor Scott Farrell for the first time, so it was another day of figuring everything out.
But once all was together, we were able to get a real feel for the piece, and the rhythm section really helped with the timing of each vocal phrase and for the 7/8 section of the Sanctus.
The actual performance itself was a little nerve wracking, an audience were paying to see us perform after only a couple of days rehearsal… but, it was great! It was super fun and it was wonderful to perform with a full band and to feel the thud thud thud of the bass drum.
There were nine 1st Sopranos including me and we didn’t do too much wrong! It was an exhilarating performance – with encores, spontaneous clapping (not very classical!) and woops and cheers and stuff. Wonderful.
The Cathedral choir was also excellent, amazing high voices for young singers, and it was a great help to have them there as they had been rehearsing the piece for longer. As for the band themselves, just very cool, amazing sounds, and it would have been even better from the front.
Can I do it again please?