May 08 2009


by at 6:21 pm

My choir has been busy rehearsing and singing this spring.  We have gone through the Dvorak Mass in D Major, a couple smaller works by Mendelssohn, several reprise concerts of Jean Balissat’s Fete de Vignerons, had a gig with our standard repertoire at a town festival, and this week, we moved on to Aigle’s 47th Haut les Choeurs, a choir festival for the Canton of Vaud (Lausanne is the biggest city in this canton).  We’ve also gained a huge number of altos, who now make up by far the largest section…but that’s ok, altos are always hard to hear anyway.

This time, we had to memorize our music by heart.  Yikes–I am so out of practice with memorizing choral stuff.  In Melvinland, I thought to vertically and about tuning (though about line also!) such that practice music on my own without the choir around me to tune to was a daunting task.  Plus there were a lot of words in foreign languages for this concert–the killer was Spanish with an Argentian pronunciation.  Anyway, I got all the notes, all though occasionally had to sing them on a neutral vowel sound…oops.

Friday we had a performance with the pre-teen choirs of Vaud.  That made me re-realize that I am not so fond of this age group and get them even less now than when I was in middle school.  Also, with 300 or so of us on the temporary stage and them jumping up and down rhythmically on it (Swiss people clap together with a beat after the end of a performance, it’s really weird, and the ados on stage chose to jump instead), I thought it was going to collapse.  This concert was not judged, thankfully, because it was in a large tent and there were 12-year-olds gossiping and texting all the way through our performance.

On Wednesday was the competition, which went pretty well.  Not much exciting to report, except that we found out today that we’d won gold out of the 11 choirs in our division (I am totally unclear how we choirs are placed into divisions, so don’t ask).  We will be performing in Aigle again in the Concert of Competition Laureates at 11am.

While I am on the topic of my choir, let me entertain you (especially if you happen to be associated with a Holden choir or are a choir nerd at large) with some fun factoids about my singing experience in CJL.  Keep in my mind this is a quite a good choir, but it has a philosophy more like that of University Choir than Holden (put a bunch of great singers together, learn quickly, forget perfection):

  • I have found what I think is one of the few smoke-free environments in Switzerland.  On breaks, everyone eats instead of smokes.  It’s amazing.
  • My conductor never uses a pitch pipe.  He uses a TUNING FORK and then figures out the relative pitches.
  • It is somehow acceptable to hum the starting pitches before beginning a piece
  • French people can say a short “i” as in “fill” if they try, but they can’t remember to say it.  Thus, “a thousand pictures fill my head”==>”a towzend peectures feel my head.”
  • Now that I have disproved the stereotype that Anglophones don’t speak French, the new New Zealander in the choir who has never studied French is being held to unfairly high expectations.  If I can understand, why can’t she?
  • Sometimes we singing in quartets, and sometimes we stand in sections.  We sound way better in quartets, so why don’t we do it more often?
  • People here know so many languages that the conductor rarely bothers to go over the pronunciation.
  • We don’t really care about Latin vowels.  Or maybe Latin vowels are different in French?  Anyway, “oo” is never a pure “oo” and I have so much difficulty trying to make my vowels blend.  And then I have so much difficulty explaining in French to other choir members why I am having so much difficulty.
  • There is a warmup that we use every week.  I still am not sure whether I should be saying “desordre” or “deshonneur” or something else entirely.
  • Our standard repertoire, the stuff we sing all the time, newies have to learn with comm-choir catch-up speed.  Pain.
  • Newies have no introduction to the choir and are all completely confused all the time.  But they are Swiss, so they don’t ask questions.  These days, I am feeling only slightly less perplexed all the time.  I still arrive at concerts and regularly am completely surprised at what they turn out to be.
  • Imagine a young, silly conductor (you know the type!) but speaking in French.  Hilarity magnified.  The other day, he exclaimed, “Youpi!”  I think this means “Yay!”

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “ZOMG! CJL wins GOLD”

  1. Juliaon 31 May 2009 at 3:38 pm

    “Newies have no introduction to the choir and are all completely confused all the time.” Haha this sounds like the first several weeks in Holden. In fact, it took me almost all four years to figure out Oct Tamale 🙂

    I love this post by the way

  2. Jackieon 01 Jun 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Well. I admit I NEVER learned Oct Tamale, not really, anyway. On the other hand, newies were welcomed and integrated very conscientiously, in a highly ritualized manner, into Holden choirs. I didn’t even know who the other newies were in CJL—all I could do was try to guess by who else looked as confused and lonely as myself.

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