This last week has been filled with the final preparations of Richard Danielpour’s “An American Requiem”. Not only does this require the coordinated efforts of the University Symphony Orchestra but also the Grand Chorus and the artistry of featured vocal soloists Elizabeth Cowan (WMU), James Doing (Wisconsin-Madison), and Stephen Lancaster (Notre Dame). What has also made this orchestra cycle special has been the presence of the composer. Mr. Danielpour’s attendance to our rehearsals has brought a unique level of meaning of tonight’s performance.
Personally, I feel a profound sense of catharsis in the narrative of this mass. The Dies Irae is truly demonic as it keeps both performer and audience off balance with quick meter changes and dynamic extremes. Yet there are also tender moments to balance these dark and violent elements. Part II introduces smaller sections with beautiful vocal solos and choral textures (the iterations of “Hosanna” are glorious beyond belief). Two cello solos come in the Benedictus and Libera Me respectively, which if I might say, are a wonderfully lyrical and idiomatic for the instrument.
What I have learned from this experience is how collaboration can bring a final product to an even higher level of excellence that would be otherwise unattainable as an individual. For example, preparing the cello solos are about 45% musicality and 45% technique. Score study, listening to the recording, and the rehearsals serve as a guide to know “how it should sound”. Then I have to work hard, both in practice and in the actual execution, to play with good intonation, project the sound, rhythmical accuracy, etc. Yet the last crucial 10% can only be obtained by fitting it with the soloists that the part doubles. It requires me to be committed to exactly how the singer is expressive the phrase. Maybe a little time taken here, perhaps a wider vibrato there. Whatever it is, we must blend.
This rule of 10% extends further. The orchestra’s work is complimented by the chorus and the chorus by the orchestra. The instrumentalists derives meaning from the text, melody, and harmony of the chorus. Likewise, the singer’s soundscape is set by the textures of the orchestra. And on top of all of this, Mr. Danielpour has given us as a collective ensemble this 10% with his guidance. In this sense, this crucial 10% is what makes the end product magnificent.
If you aren’t busy tonight, come to Miller Auditorium at 8:00 to hear the Western Winds perform Danielpour’s Icarus and the USO and Grand Chorus perform An American Requiem.
This beautiful and shiny instrument is not mine. Prof. Uchimura was kind enough to loan his cello for tonight's performance. I love my cello, but to be honest, it's like the difference between Pabst Blue Ribbon and good champagne. Cheers!