Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Archived Performances

The weeks after the Christmas holidays are an opportunity for a fresh start. For many people, it’s the time to start a new diet or exercise routine or perhaps even a new job. With all the extra holiday concerts, services and rehearsals in December (23 this time around!), I’m usually so busy that I can’t keep up with office work during that time. For me, the first few weeks of January are an opportunity to wrap up business accounts and files for the old year, file old materials away, set up accounts for the new tax year, and generally clean up my office in preparation for new projects and consulting work.

One of the jobs I enjoy most is gathering, organizing, and filing away the materials for each of the performances in which I’ve participated. I’m rather a sentimentalist when it comes to preserving memories of my performances. As I’ve written here before, even my performance scores – marked with pre-rehearsal edits and embellished with notes taken during rehearsals, – are preserved as tangible records of my musical experiences. As I said earlier, “It can be deeply moving to page through a score, years later, and re-live those musical memories.”

I also keep a folder for each performance project. Here I file the concert program and any reviews, of course, but what I really treasure are the many behind-the-scenes communications, including explanatory and interpretive notes from the director, congratulatory notes and emails that arrived after the concert, and other memorabilia, such as ticket stubs and even advertisements. If I've blogged about the performance, then I might also print off and file my essays. If I've prepared program notes for the concert, I'll include a copy of my final edited essay, as well as and longer essays that I might have prepared for the singers or director.

My filing project gave me a wonderful opportunity to review the riches of the fall concert season just ended. I was so fortunate to sing in several amazing concerts:

— “American Voices” with the all-professional choral ensemble CONCORA, performed on October 19, 2008 at the First Church of Christ, New Britain, Connecticut. This was a musically satisfying and intellectually enriching project. For this program, CONCORA’s Artistic Director Richard Coffey programmed a delightful mix of American choral music, ranging from new works by Gwyneth Walker and Nancy Galbraith (read more here) to superb settings of traditional folk songs and African-American spirituals. The ensemble gathered for this performance included most of CONCORA’s best musicians, and we worked well together to achieve spectacular musical unity and beauty. I prepared the program notes for this performance; read some of my essays about this program here and here and here.

— Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with The Hartford Chorale, CONCORA, and The Hartford Symphony Orchestra, performed on October 24 and 25, 2008 at The Bushnell Memorial in Hartford, Connecticut. In its end-of-year arts review, The Hartford Courant called this concert “The most extraordinary orchestral concert in Connecticut during 2008 — the Hartford Symphony Orchestra's soulful performance of [Beethoven’s] Missa Solemnis with The Hartford Chorale and CONCORA in May.” Read The Courant's end-of-year comments here , and read the entire review here.

— Music for a Great Space by Gaudeamus and Chorus Angelicus. Long a favorite of Hartford audiences, the annual Music for a Great Space concert showcases the soaring choral sounds of Chorus Angelicus and Gaudeamus in some of Hartford’s acoustically finest sacred spaces. This year’s performance was on Sunday, November 2, 2008, at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford. Many beautiful moments.

— American Harmony: Readings and Music from Colonial New England, presented by an ensemble of thirteen CONCORA artists. This program offers glimpses of Colonial New England through readings and music from the period. We performed this program for the members of the Mansfield Historical Society on November 14, 2008. Though this was our fourth or fifth performance of this program, it was our most compelling, and I was deeply moved, both by my colleagues’ performances and by the warm reception by our well-informed audience. (I am a charter member of this CONCORA ensemble.)

The Hartford Chorale’s “Harvest Song” concert on November 22, 2008 at Immanuel Congregational Church in Hartford. This concert included the debut of the Hartford Chorale Chamber Singers , of which I am a charter member. I also prepared the program notes for this performance.

— “Christmas in New England” with the all-professional choral ensemble CONCORA, presented on December 14, 2008, at Center Church, Hartford. This was a delightful program of Christmas music by New England composers and authors. I also prepared program notes for this performance; you may read some of my extra-musical reflections here.

— “A Candlelight Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols,” offered by the outstanding Chancel Choir of historic South Church in New Britain, Connecticut on December 21, 2008. This remarkable and memorable service was presented as part of The Music Series at South Church. (Our post-festival party was also remarkable and memorable. Too bad that a foot and more of snow prevented many people from attending the service.)

And that was just the fall season! Much excitement also lies ahead for the spring, as I’ll describe in a soon-to-be-posted essay.

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