Despite my unfortunate callback audition, the powers that be put me in Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, and on October 9th and 10th, we'll be performing a Stravinsky piece, Les noces (or Svadebka, or The Wedding) with the IU Ballet. I had never sung Stravinsky before, and it's a lot of fun. There's lots of dissonance and additive rhythms and shifting meters and sudden stops and starts -- to grossly oversimplify, I guess it's kind of like Rite of Spring, but with a choir.
Rehearsals have been tough. Because we're operating under real-time constraints -- both in the sense that the performance is coming up fast, and in the sense that we'll have to perform in sync with the ballet -- we can't really experiment with the piece much. It's just drill-and-kill, three times a week plus the occasional weekend rehearsal, trying to match the tempi of the Bernstein recording that the dancers have been working with. The pronunciation is tough, too. I sang a fair amount of Russian music in college, but all of it was liturgical music, and most of it moved pretty slowly and used the same twenty or so words, half a dozen of which were variations on "God", so as long as you could get your mouth around the shapes of those words, you were more or less fine. But this piece isn't like that. It's about the preparations for a wedding that takes place in some kind of notional abstract past Russian peasant-world, and everybody is talking about food and clothes and hair and getting drunk and lamenting the passage from childhood to adulthood and, well, just all kinds of stuff that definitely never came up in Rachmaninoff's Vespers. One of the soloists has a line that, in the English transl(iter)ation, goes something like, "Pot smashers, arrogant wives, stooping wives, small boys, pea thieves, destroyers of carrots!"
Because this is the freakin' IU School of Music, the four vocal soloists are great, and I'm somewhat concerned that we mere mortals singing in the choir will sound like mud by comparison, especially in the not-acoustically-forgiving-to-choirs space we're performing in. Not that I have any illusions about our importance -- the audience probably won't really care what the choir sounds like as long as the soloists and the dancers are good, which they are. Still, it would be nice to do this right. We have two and a half weeks left in which to attempt to target our voices with laser-like precision and really nail those carrots.