A Musician’s Notebook: It’s All About The Journey…Or Is It?

This has been a very busy week in that the Choral Art Society of NJ (of which I am a proud second soprano), is rehearsing for the May 17th concert. This is a ritual that choruses around the world relive frequently, and one that I personally have participated in, at least a hundred times.  

And yet, Tuesday night, our first rehearsal with the chamber orchestra and soloists, gave me pause, as I took in the activities unfolding before my eyes:

Director Sedek focused intently, with good humor, on pulling these disparate, individual and varied talent providers into a cohesive force that would not only do justice to the composers’ works, but also, and perhaps more importantly, move our audience to experience a genuine emotional and intellectual response.

Musicians positioned themselves with their instruments in front of carefully situated music stands, soloists politely chatted together, most likely sharing their concerns about the quartet blend or their challenging aria.

The chorus provided a soft undercurrent of conversation from the church pews, as they waited for their cue to take the stage.

Though I find great fulfillment in performing onstage, I again realized that I get profound enjoyment from rehearsals. I’m not referring to the regular (every Tuesday night or Saturday-morning) often pedantic rehearsals; nor do I mean my rehearsal time alone at the piano or in front of my music stand (though I do glean personal satisfaction and fulfillment from those activities). I refer to the dress rehearsals, and rehearsals of the full ensemble just before a performance.  These are particularly inspiring and exciting.

I believe that the answer lies in the display of the dedication required by the full cadre of musicians to first, hone their talents and then, ultimately, to blend their talents to create a truly beautiful ‘whole’. It’s the struggle with dynamics, timing, and interplay with other parts and the director, that makes me feel renewed, in a special way.

The last Choral Art Society rehearsal is this evening and tomorrow night we will perform the Brahms’ “Liebeslieder Walzer” and the Rutter “Requiem”.   Learning, rehearsing, and performing this music has been a very personal journey – it always is. Always, a moment of clarity comes when I realize that I ‘understand’ the music. It is then that the sheer beauty of specific passages and of the entire work, can truly move me. It is then that I marvel at the sheer genius of these composers.

In closing, though I began this piece chattering about rehearsals being more ‘fun’ than performances, I must admit that during every performance, I am overcome with emotion to the point of tears. I have asked myself:

“Why?” 

Perhaps, because come Sunday morning, wistfully, I will remove the musical scores from my black folder, and along with my practice tapes and playlists, store them away; and the phrases that haunted and challenged me this season and this week, will fade into the hidden recesses of my memory. 

Or perhaps because this unique moment will never come again: This audience, this program, this venue, this weather, the soloists, chorus, orchestra and the scores of other professionals and amateurs that contributed to this effort, will never be, could never be repeated. So I will let the tears come (not that I could stop them). 

Yes, it is about the journey; and undeniably, it is also about the performance.   But most importantly (as a wise BCF faculty member reminded us before our performance last July), it is appreciating that, for a moment, the world is a more beautiful place because of the music that we make together.  

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