A Weekend with the BSO

Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall empty before a rehearsal

Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall empty before a rehearsal

I survived my crazy week!  My training plan did not, but hey, I didn’t come out the other side with a cold, so I consider it a win.

This weekend, my choir sang with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.  It was an amazingly cool opportunity, so I’m going to gush about it for a few minutes.  Music geek and all.  Plus it’s something I want to remember.

We performed Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms,” a far cry from “West Side Story,” but still featuring some of his favored rhythms.  It was a piece I wasn’t familiar with before, but now I will need months to get it out of my head.   It’s a very challenging piece and a lot of work, even though it’s about fifteen minutes long.

Yes, that’s right, all this work for fifteen minutes of singing.  Because we had to clear out of the space, on Friday night for example, the concert was scheduled to start at 8 but likely started a few minutes late because that’s how concerts work.  By 8:35, I was in my car on my way home.

It’s been fun to see reviews in the newspapers.

From the Baltimore Sun:

Except for a few uneven balances, the Cathedral Choral Society from Washington National Cathedral delivered the psalm texts with admirable polish, not to mention character.

(Hey man, you try singing over a giant orchestra!)

From the Washington Post:

The first half of the program was all Bernstein: the symphony, a product of his earliest years, and the “Chichester Psalms,” a mature, after-“West Side Story” composition. Both are spiritual, maybe, but viewing spirituality in its most muscular form. The Cathedral Choral Society (J. Reilly Lewis, music director) was the chorus for the Psalms, and I must say it was nice to hear it in an acoustical setting other than the echo-y spaces of the Washington National Cathedral. The men managed the challenges of the tongue-twisting “Lamah rag’shu goyim” crisply, the chorus fielded two excellent soloists for two small appearances, and the performance was alert and nicely balanced.

(The acoustics of our beloved Cathedral are always panned – but you can’t find a more beautiful setting.)

Watching Marin Alsop conduct was an honor.  She wasn’t her normal dramatic self when conducting the choral parts because she was so careful to make sure that we knew what we were doing.  Not all orchestra conductors are so attentive to a chorus, and it was great to know that she wasn’t going to lead us astray.  But when the chorus was silent and she was conducting the orchestra alone, it was absolutely fascinating to watch.  It’s very different to be able to watch from the front and see her face and her expression.  Absolutely phenomenal.  And the BSO is an amazing orchestra.  I will be buying tickets to see them more often.


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