The best treat after a hard day’s work? Ice cream? Binge tv watching? Relaxing in a bath with a glass of wine? No, no, and no: Challenging ourselves with German words set to the Romantic music of Johannes Brahms. This year, the Summer Choral Festival hosted by St. George’s Choral Society will present Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem on June 18 after only two weeks of rehearsals.
Committed to this challenge, the participants of the choral festival came to the first two rehearsals this past week with their pipes in working order and phenomenal focus (there was only one “where are we?”). The chorus’ high level of engagement has allowed Artistic Director Matthew Lewis to concentrate on dynamics, phrasing, and diction, rather than on note learning.
For example, in the opening and closing movements (“Selig sind”), we used dynamics to convey the sense of peace imparted to the blessed mourners and blessed dead. Honing our German pronunciation (forte consonants, piano vowels!) brought out the hair-raising reminder of mortality found in “Denn alles Fleisch.” The joyous fugues sprinkled throughout the piece (“Der Gerechten Seelen sind in Gottes Hand,” “Herr du bist wurdig,” to name a few) elevated the phrasing and highlighted the gorgeous blend of each vocal section as the theme swept through the different parts.
By the end of the second rehearsal, we have now gone through the entire piece in depth. Exploring such a beautiful composition with a committed group of individuals is an amazing summer treat. The melodious musicality that Dr. Lewis achieved from the group during this first read augurs an excellent concert.
If you are not singing in the festival, come be uplifted and comforted on June 18 at 7pm at the Church of the Incarnation on Madison Avenue and 35th Street. The concert is free and will be followed by a choir benefit ($25 to attend the benefit).