O Freunde, nicht diese Töne

To Joy

Joy, thou beauteous godly lighting,
Daughter of Elysium,
Fire drunken we are ent’ring
Heavenly, thy holy home!

Thy enchantments bind together,
What did custom stern divide;
Every man becomes a brother,
Where thy gentle wings abide.

Be embrac’d, ye millions yonder!
Take this kiss throughout the world!
Brothers—o’er the stars unfurl’d
Must reside a loving father.

–Friedrich Schiller, 1786

Last night the Greenville Chorale joined forces with the Greenville Symphony Orchestra for a performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.  The 9th is one of my favorite pieces, and I’ve had the privilege to perform it once before.  Last night’s performance, though was one of the most stirring I’ve ever experienced.

For the Chorale, the piece came together fairly quickly.  Many of us were familiar with the music, but also the chorus doesn’t sing that much in the concert.  We’re only there for the last half of the last movement of the piece – about 20 minutes worth. Bing Vick often let us out of rehearsals early, which was a nice change of pace.

However, that is a VERY challenging 20 minutes.  First there is the range.  The piece is written at the extreme upper vocal range for all parts.  I can’t think of another piece that has the basses singing a high F as many times and as long as this one does.  Then there was the tempo set by Maestro Tchivzhel – fast, then blindingly fast.  We had to squeeze a mouthful of German syllables into such a fast pace that I don’t think any of us got all of the words correct, even in the final performance.  Oh, yeah, they had to be on the right pitches and at the right dynamic, too.  It was a bear. Continue reading “O Freunde, nicht diese Töne”

All Hail the Cimbasso!


This is a concert weekend for us. The Greenville Chorale is performing a selection of works by Leonard Bernistein and Giuseppi Verdi. The first performance last night went very well (more on that in a later post).

The repertoire called for some unusual instruments, including two brake drums hit by standard hammers for Verdi’s Anvil Chorus, and a sheet of metal struck to simulate thunder in Verdi’s Witches Chorus from Macbeth.

Acoutrements for the Anvil Chorus

However, the instrument that really puzzled us and caught our attention was the cimbasso.  As shown in the photo at the top of this post, it looks like a cross between a trombone and a tuba.  It turns out that is pretty much it’s function, too.  It fills a niche by providing an instrument in the bass range of a tuba, but with more of the tonal qualities of a trombone. Continue reading “All Hail the Cimbasso!”

2nd Mahler’s 2nd

For the second time in less than a year I am performing Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, and this is the second orchestra with whom I’ve performed this work. The Greenville Chorale joined the Greenville Symphony this weekend for two performances, one Saturday night and one Sunday afternoon. Last time, we performed with the Brevard Music Center … Continue reading 2nd Mahler’s 2nd