Kit Bridges, Chorale's Rehearsal Accompanist

Kit Ridges - Rehearsal Accompanist extraordinaire! Photo by Erielle Bakkum A good rehearsal accompanist can be essential to a choir’s success, especially a larger choir, like Chorale. If the conductor is tied to the piano, constantly giving pitches, playing parts, helping with tricky passages, he cannot focus on his singers—their sound, their vocalism, their ensemble production. And a mediocre to bad accompanist—one that lacks personally artistry, that doesn’t listen to the conductor or the singers, is not attuned to the conductor‘s preferences and needs, does not anticipate the conductor’s ideas and techniques, and does not mirror these things in his playing-- is even worse than no accompanist at all. If an accompanist slows the rehearsal down, it is better for the conductor to struggle at the keyboard himself, bad as that is; at least he can keep the pacing of the rehearsal up.

A good accompanist is more than a good pianist. He is even more than a good musician. He is completely attuned to the needs of the conductor and the group, and uses his energies and talents to help the choir sound better, and to help the conductor do a better job. His work serves as the rehearsal’s foundation.

Chorale is blessed with such an accompanist.

I first met Kit Bridges when he and I were grad students at Northwestern University. He accompanied the studio of Norman Gulbrandsen, which included most of the best singers at the school—and he played like a god. He brought technique, sensitivity, artistry, to what can be a very boring and perfunctory position, and made his singers sound like polished artists, even if they were too thick to know he was doing it. I started out in a different studio, with a different accompanist; one of the principle reasons I finally switched to Gulbrandsen, was to work with Kit. He exemplified for me the kind of collaborative artistry I heard in the recordings of Dalton Baldwin and Gerald Moore—and I wanted that sort of a musical experience, more than anything else. That was many years ago, now; but I have been privileged to work with Kit in one capacity or another ever since, and was thrilled past my wildest dreams when, three years ago, he agreed to serve as Chorale’s regular accompanist.

It is a little like hitching a thoroughbred to a plow—why should someone with Kit’s abilities, be sitting at a piano bench, giving pitches to a choir? But he even gives pitches artfully! And the grace with which he plays our warm ups, pulls more out of the unwitting choir, than any amount of verbiage from me can. Besides, it fills me with such security and confidence to have him there—he can hear what is going wrong when I can’t, can pinpoint problem areas and fix them, ever so quietly and unobtrusively, while I am struggling with other issues.

Most members of Chorale have little idea of what Kit does during the rest of the week—the classes he teaches, the singers he coaches, the recitals he plays, the major auditions he accompanies. They take him gloriously for granted. But I know that we have the very best, right there in the room with us-- and that he helps Chorale be the very best we can be.