Tonight was the dress rehearsal for my Bach Clavierübung concert and I am happy to report there were no train wrecks—at least in my part! As you will see in the program, this body of Bach’s chorale preludes are among his most complex and technically demanding of all his organ works. Thirty-seven years ago, Carl Crosier and I performed some of these pieces, but frankly, we chose some of the easier ones. 37 years ago I remember I tried learning “Vater unser im Himmelreich,” BWV 682, and I distinctly remember giving up after just practicing the first four measures! “This is just too hard and too complicated!” Now, all these years later, I can finally play this wonderful music.
However, I wore shorts to the rehearsal which is never a good idea for organists, because your skin sticks to the organ bench and you cannot slide around very easily! It’s something I tell my students not to do, so I distinctly (and deliberately?) put myself to a disadvantage tonight. Oh well, on concert night, my skirt is made of chiffon and will help me slide with ease.
It was the first time I had heard the voices chosen by Scott Fikse, for the chamber choir, and I must say, they are absolutely amazing in their gorgeous tone and sensitive phrasing. The choir includes Mihoko Ito Nakano and Naomi Castro (soprano), Karyn Castro (alto), Karol Nowicki and Bowe Souza (tenor), and David Del Rocco and Scott Fikse (bass).
We had to work out some of the transitions from the organ pieces to the chorales. Surprisingly, even though Bach’s settings are intended as introductions, the last note of the organ pieces are not necessarily the same as the opening of the chants or the chorales. “That’s why we have rehearsals!” I reminded everyone. By the end of the evening, the choir was very secure in their pitches.
I swear, this choir is better than the one we had three years ago when I played the complete Great Eighteen Chorales! It’s definitely worth coming just to hear this beautiful choir.
By the way, Jeremy Wong, himself a wonderful baritone, who is unable to come to the concert, came tonight to the dress rehearsal and took these pictures. Thank you, Jeremy!
I’ve been telling people that this is my last concert, because frankly, I don’t know what else I’d be willing to work on. I really ought to expand my repertoire beyond Bach, but nothing else challenges yet satisfies me.
It’s a little like having a needlework project. After you finish it, after having spent maybe 200-300 hours on a project, you don’t know what to do with yourself afterwards, and you can’t wait to start the next one. But as I’ve heard applied to needlework, the same can be said for working on a concert like this:
The journey is the reward.
Hope to see you Sunday night!