Freude! Performing with University Chorus and UVic Orchestra

I’m currently basking in the post-performance adrenaline after our School of Music concert on Saturday with University Chorus (under the direction of Dr. Adam Con), UVic Chamber Singers (under the direction of Dr. Kinza Tyrrell), and the UVic Orchestra (under the direction of Maestro Ajtony Csaba) at Farquhar Auditorium.

Chorus is a special group to the School of Music because it is one of the few courses and groups that is open not only to non-music majoring students like me, but also members of our community who just love to sing and make music.

After 2 very long years without live music performances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this was a very special moment for the Chorus – it was a big day for all, so you might be wondering… what does it take to go from meeting Tuesday nights to being in front of the lights at Farquhar?

Freude! Freude!

It takes patience.

Since I was in Chorus, our area of responsibility was singing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, 4th Movement, a.k.a “An die Freude”, a.k.a. “Ode To Joy” – and let me tell you, when we first heard this piece, we were feeling less than joyful.

The piece was 23 minutes long. Yes, you read that right – twenty-three minutes. That’s after listening to the first three movements which were about 45 minutes long in total.

It takes German lessons.

And to make it even more challenging, 15 of those 23 minutes was the Chorus singing… in German. I’m a French major and that’s already pushing my brain function and now we were challenged to sing in impeccable German.

My mouth formed sounds that I didn’t even know were possible to come out of there. (Sidenote: Does anyone who doesn’t speak German know what the letter ß sounds like? And hint, it’s not a B.)

It takes 21 hours to get it right.

Three hours a week after a quick warm-up was dedicated to perfecting the “An die Freude”, and with only seven in-person rehearsals to get there, of course we had some hot mess moments (I think for like 5 of those rehearsals I left class thinking “what the heck just happened in there”), so hearing something only for it to go out the other ear was not an option.

It took all of the focus I had to learn the melody, to learn the language, to learn the rhythm, and then to combine all of that. I don’t think people give musicians enough credit for things like that, and this experience just brought up my respect for them ten-fold.

Look at the view from up here!

It takes bonding over the struggle.

I say we were a hot mess at times, but by the last few practices, we sounded really good. Of course it took a lot of effort to get there, but being with other people (especially the non-music majors) who reassured me that this would be a difficult task combined with the knowledge that we were still producing something great despite the difficulty I think motivated all of us to keep pushing and hit that high note or sing a little louder.

Put those all together… and you get a concert!

My section and I sat pretty much front and centre, allowing me to enjoy the Orchestra playing the first three movements, and let me tell you, hearing music live for the first time in years was something so special to me, let alone being able to perform it?! What an honour that was. Those 23 minutes flew by so quickly.

10 minutes before the concert, the feeling of forgetting everything I’ve learned kicks in. A classic case of performance anxiety!

Thanks to the consistent practice and repetition, the piece became second nature to me and what I had thought of as an intimidating task became so fluent and familiar to me.

Now post-concert, I still find myself singing the words as I go about readjusting to the rest of the semester without choir, excited to return in September.

University Chorus brought my appreciation for the process of “musicing” (as director Dr. Con puts it) to a whole new level. It was incredible performing at Farquhar, but what I think made this experience so worth it was the cooperation it took to get us there.

The process of making music and the challenge of mastering harmonies, words and dynamics was so interesting and honourable to watch happen in front of my eyes.

How would I describe the spirit of Chorus? I think Beethoven and Schiller put it best in the words of the 4th Movement: “Wem der große Wurf gelungen, / Eines Freundes Freund zu sein … / Mische seinen Jubel ein!”

Whoever has been lucky enough to become a friend to a friend, let him join our songs of praise.

Watch the full concert and check out other UVic School of Music concerts (which are free for UVic students) here!

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