Over the summer, there were some lovely hot days. No, there were. And if we so happened to be rehearsing on such a day, then usually all the doors would be flung open, and you would occasionally see people stopping to marvel (so I like to believe) at the wonderful sound emanating from the building. Well thanks goodness the weather’s turned.
When concert goers hear choirs live I sometimes wonder if they can imagine the amount of hard work that goes into creating the final performance. Or the noises that get produced during the process… It wouldn’t be that unfair to liken some of the sounds we’ve produced over the last couple of weeks to cows lowing in a field. What are we rehearsing? Russian music of course.
Not that Russian music (in this instance Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky) isn’t beautiful, it’s more that sight singing in Russian is hard work. Hence, the return of our Russian vocal coach.
It’s actually amazing being in a choir that has vocal coaches, it genuinely makes a real difference to the sound we produce. And Sasha is great. He sits implacably in the face of our inability to pronounce certain vowel sounds, simply repeating phrases to us until we manage to approximate the right noise. And then doesn’t castigate us when we have forgotten something from one phrase to the next. The trick to it, as far as I can tell, is to look slightly like a goldfish a lot of the time. This should apparently prevent us from trying too hard with the vowels. What you do though, when you see a (transliterated) word that has 5 consonants in a row, I’m still not quite sure. But Sasha says we’re brilliant. In what is usually a slightly sarcastic tone, with a hint of “that’ll do for now”. You know next time he’ll want it even better. And then better still. In a couple of weeks, I fully expect to know the difference between hard and soft sounds and to not panic at the sight of a new cluster of letters, but in the meantime I am grateful for the patience for a man who can sit through a minor mangling of his mother tongue.
So, we may brace ourselves for more odd sounds tomorrow, but rest assured, it will sound good on the night. Which is on Thursday 31st October at Symphony Hall, Birmingham if you fancy coming to hear some hopefully impeccably pronounced Russian under the baton of Russian maestro Vassily Sinaisky.