Blockbuster Choruses

life

I'm not sure that choral singing is something that most people would classify as an adrenaline sport, but my experiences on Sunday have lead me to believe that it might be. I went along — with about 1,100 others — to participate in the 'Blockbuster Choruses from Scratch' day, held at Symphony Hall in Birmingham. The idea is that you get some rehearsal with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) and Chorus during the day, then perform a short concert in the evening.

My love of listening to choral music is well known, but I also enjoy singing, despite not having done it seriously since being in the choir at school. I don't sight read well; I can tell if the notes are going up or down, and roughly estimate the duration of notes, but I'm heavily reliant on listening to others and picking the tune up as I go. As Eric Morecambe famously told André Previn: "I'm playing all the right notes, pal, but not necessarily in the right order". Despite this, I had an absolute blast. The conductor, Simon Halsey, was wonderful1, and it was brilliant fun.

I enjoyed all the pieces we did ('Deep River' from Tippett's 'A Child of Our Time' was unexpectedly beautiful, and a treat for altos with low voices like me), but perhaps the biggest buzz came from doing Handel's Zadok the Priest. This music must be the biggest musical tease in history. You get about 24 bars of gentle orchestral introduction, which ebbs and flows and keeps fooling you into thinking that the big choral sonic boom is about to arrive, when it actually isn't due for another few minutes. This is an approximation of my thoughts during the concert, while waiting for the big moment to arrive:

diddle-diddle, diddle-diddle, are we nearly there yet? diddle-diddle, diddle-diddle, wait for it... diddle-diddle, diddle-diddle OK, getting closer, diddle-diddle, diddle-diddle, on your marks diddle-diddle, diddle-diddle, get set diddle-diddle, diddle-diddle, GO! [sound of 1,100 people collectively taking a deep breath]

ZAAA-DOK THE PREEEEIST... [flamin' heck, that's good...]

And a huge adrenalin rush was had by all. With so many people, I'm not sure that our timing was spot on, but I don't think we could be faulted on amplitude!

1 His explanation of how choir boys achieve a trill was hilarious and not easily forgotten...

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