In case your Cyrillic is rusty, the title of this post is from Psalm 104, “Praise the Lord, O My Soul”, and is one of the pieces that make up part of Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil. This weekend we performed the piece with the Greenville Chorale on Sunday afternoon at First Baptist Church.
This was a real challenge. The music itself wasn’t so hard, but there was so much of it. We did in an hour what we normally stretch out over two, when you add in soloists and orchestra. Throw in a layer of very difficult language, and you have a nearly impossible task.
I had done parts of the Vespers before, so I was somewhat familiar with the music. The sixth movement is the “Hail Mary” section, and I had done it several times with both the Latin Ave Maria text and the Russian. Even so, I found myself stumbling over music and text, even in the final performance.
Monday night rehearsals were very trying. I would come home discouraged after each one, and things didn’t seem to be improving at all. There would be some shining moments, and other times when it would all fall apart. Even as late as the last Monday before the concert, things were not going well.
Friday night we held an open rehearsal at St. George’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral so that we could experience the music in an authentic environment. Again, there were shining moments, but there were sections where it all fell apart. Part of that was due to the long reverberation of the sanctuary, and part was due to us not being able to see Bing for conducting cues very well. Still it was a good experience, and the Greek church put on an incredible reception afterwards with pastries and wine.
Saturday morning was another arduous rehearsal, but it seemed like it was finally coming together. I was so worn out from singing that I even missed the Furman-App State game. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t go to a home game at Furman.
Sunday rolled around, and it was do or die time. Miraculously, the piece came together, and there were only a couple of mangled sections. Unless the audience was really up on their Russian or was very familiar with the Rachmaninoff, I don’t think they would have spotted the problem areas. The concert went well, and seemed to be very well attended. The First Baptist sanctuary was almost full.
Despite its difficulty, this is one of my favorite pieces of music. Laura gave me the Robert Shaw recording of this piece for Christmas one year after I had performed it, and it’s one of the pieces I listen to on a regular basis. Here’s a link to a free online version of it, performed by Rhodes College Mastersingers Chorale.
One other note of trivia – the eighth movement of the piece was used as the wedding processional in the movie “My Best Friend’s Wedding” starring Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz. Here’s a link to the video clip on YouTube…
The piece can be heard about one minute into the clip, after the cat fight.