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April 9 – discomfort and bliss

Rovaniemi, Lapland. Best time of year to visit Lapland. Days are long, daytime temperatures are reasonable, there’s still a metre of snow and skiing is at its best. Not that I have any time for skiing this time.

The day’s rehearsals with CCF have been a delight. The voice distribution is 6S, 5A, 6T and 9B. Pretty unusual in this day and age of soprano-heavy choirs.

I thought the overall sound was a little bottom-heavy and stuffy. Changing from normal voice-part formation to a mixed formation worked wonders. The sound lifted and the activity of each and every singer seemed much higher than before. I was also reminded of a strange phenomenon I had noted on previous occasions: the very most beautiful individual voices in the choir seem to be highlighted and colour their voice part. It is not a question of being too prominent, of standing out. It is just that they catch your attention and give splendour to the sound.

Why is this? Why don’t we them when they stand next to singers from their voice part? And why don’t we hear the less beautiful voices separately in the same way? The only explanation I can come up with is that when singers of the same part stand next to each other, they instinctively blend and form amalgams of sound. When the voices are mixed, the singers blend into the whole, not primarily their voice part. And perhaps the singers also sing a shade stronger, which gives the individual voices more character.

 

***

After the concert.

I have started to experience music more and more physically when I stand in front of a choir. I literally feel discomfort, even pain of sorts when the singing is out of tune or the sound unpleasant, And, fortunately, in turn, I feel warmth and bliss in my body when the singing is excellent – something like I feel when facing the sun on a perfect summer’s day. This makes me pretty intolerable when things are bad. I know I should be pedagogical and encouraging, but it’s not easy when you literally feel serious discomfort!

There was some insecurity in the singing today (first time we sang this program), and I had to try to coax people to be a little more expansive and active by being (too) agitated. So they probably think I was dissatisfied with their performance. But, no. Physically, all was good this time. At times it was sheer bliss. The singing was mostly magnificently in tune, and there were many moments of rare beauty. I feel quite relaxed after the concert, which is always a good sign. We are repeating the same program tomorrow in Kemi, some 120 km west from here. I really look forward to it.

 

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