Tuesday, 6 July 2010

St Matthew Passion

The man himself!

It's been a long old day today, but a very satisfying one. The adult classes began at 9am this morning with the Novice class, through to the final Oratorio section with 'eleventy one' singers all performing for around 6 minutes.

Oratorio, or sacred music from large works most often, in festivals, by the 'greats', Bach, Handel, Mozart etc, is the class more than any other which sorts 'em out. I am not a formal church going woman, but I do consider myself to be a Christian. I have sung Oratorio for most of my adult life as chorus, soloist and more recently as conductor. It is challenging and tough music, but boy does it bring it's own rewards.

I wonder sometimes as I teach and adjudicate what it must be like to perform this scripture based music if one is a non believer. It must, I suppose become more role play than real. Then, of course there is the thorny problem of, 'is it the music which moves, or the spiritual message', and then the even pricklier problem of 'if it was inspired by belief, how can it be performed without that underlying inspiration' ? Too many questions for me at this hour after a veritable vocal marathon. Indeed I don't think I have any answers, so all in all, I am glad that I do believe, that neatly solves it for me.

I heard a most beautiful 'Erbarme dich', or 'Have Mercy Lord' from Bach's St Matthew Passion. A young lady with the creamiest voice embarked upon this difficult aria with such focus, and such commitment I found it altogether completely satisfying, quite apart from the sheer beauty of her performance of the vocal line which entwines with the violin obligato like a great heavenly duet.

I sang the alto solos in the Matthew Passion many times in my life and always felt humbled and very small in the face of the journey of this work, which above all others is bigger than we are, by about half a world. To sing Bach well we need a combination of excellent muscle support for the enormous and mostly impossibly long phrases, a highly astute musical ear to navigate the key changes and tricky intervals, and guts to have the cheek to even think we can do it any justice !

My desert island disc selection would be littered with Bach vocal works, in the hopes that if I was marooned long enough, I might have the time to conquer them !

To be honest, I am not convinced. I would have starved or gone bonkers before I felt as if I was even close!

Bach 1 - Ann 0

The picture is the one I like the best. He looks like a man who was human, and smiled. He had 22 children - he must have had a smile on his face a couple of times!

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