“But wait,” you say, “the concert isn’t until March 24. You still have three weeks!”
Yeah, right. We had already chosen to perform the St. John, secured our venue, and begun lining up soloists, by a year ago. Our orchestra contractor, Craig Trompeter, had gotten commitments from key players. Megan Balderston, our managing director, had already fleshed out her grant proposals; choral scores and orchestra parts had been ordered. I was already studying and marking my score; I had ordered representative CDs from Amazon. Three weeks is nothing, in the world of concert preparation.
Three weeks out, we have already sent postcards, done a couple of email blasts, and arranged for radio ads. Our posters are up; we are reposting, in those locations where they have already been covered, or taken down. Stacks of business cards with our concert information on them are appearing in offices, restaurants, stores, and coffee shops. We sent press releases to newspapers and radio stations long ago, to get them into the queue in time for our concert. We have been selling tickets since September; currently, selling tickets is a high priority, for singers and management, both, and consumes us. But we need also to build and set the stage! Write program notes! Lay out, type and duplicate the program booklet. We have presented a public rehearsal/walk-through of the work for our more immediate supporters, and a listening guide is in the works. I have a couple more such talks scheduled in the coming three weeks. We have already been arranged travel and housing for vocal soloists and instrumentalists who are coming in from out of town; inevitably, though, something will go wrong, something will need attention, between now and March 24.
Chorale has been rehearsing the choral parts of the Passion since the week after Thanksgiving. Currently we are working on transitions: transitions between soloists and chorus, between slow and fast tempos, between our roles as characters (soldiers, priests, crowds) and our role as choir (chorales and choruses). Chorale has only one day of rehearsal with the orchestra—that’s an awful lot of transitions to be sure of, in advance. We are still refining our pronunciation of the German text; our language coach, Steffen Mueller, will spend an entire rehearsal with us, this week, eliminating errors and reinforcing what we are doing right. Some will agonize about pronunciation right up until the performance is over, though.
I study the score every available moment, especially the non-choral aspects of it, so that I will be ready for the orchestra and the soloists when we all get together, beginning two days before our concert. So many tempos to set! So many dynamic levels to clarify; so many transitions. So many page turns. And I will conduct another, totally unrelated, concert, March 15, with my other group, Chicago Men’s A Cappella; a concert which requires its own version of the responsibilities outlined above. Of course, I don’t cover all, or even most, of these responsibilities, for either group; I just worry about them.
Oh, and did I mention that neither group’s season ends with these March performances? I am busy choosing repertoire, preparing scores, and finalizing our roster, for Chorale’s May 17th and 19tth concerts; and we are actively planning calendar, repertoire, venues, for the 2013-14 season, as well. In the meantime, I am working with Mark Travis, producer of our upcoming CD of Schedrin’s The Sealed Angel (last November’s concert), listening to proofs and suggesting edits; others in our management are taking care of licensing, packaging, and sales of the resulting product—in moments carved out of our St. John production schedule.
I’ll bet I failed to mention that both Megan and I have children—in my case, four of them, ages 21, 9, 6, and 5; our respective spouses have full-time jobs outside the home, so that we both cover most of the day-to-day childcare and homecare this entails. Oh—and my wife and I are in the process of buying a house.
It’s all happening NOW. NOW. NOW.
See you at our performance of Bach’s St. John Passion, Sunday, March 24, 3 p.m., at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 59th and Woodlawn. In real time.