Friday, March 16, 2007

A Short Lesson in Classical Music Appreciation

I’ve been singing classical music since I was eight years old. The pieces I’ve sung have created lasting memories, each creating a different mental picture in my twisted brain. Of the myriad of classical works that I’ve been privileged enough to experience first-hand, the Dvorak Requiem is near the top of my list of favorites. By the way, it’s pronounced ‘duh-vor-zhak’.

The Requiem was one of the first pieces I ever sang as a little choirboy. It was also the first piece I was able to sing as a bass, my voice having dropped enough over the previous summer. This spring I’m singing it again, with The Chorus of Westerly.

It’s been twenty years since I sang it last, but I can still hear the music in my head. I managed to find my old score, the one I used as a 15 year old, newly anointed, pseudo adult. For as many musical notations as I made in my score back then, there are also some other, more creative editorial comments.

When I last sang this piece, I was touring in Italy with the Chorus. We sang in a city called Spoleto, at the Festival of Two Worlds. We had a guest conductor – a Russian man whom we quickly decided we would rather see dead than holding a baton. Behold the hatred of a fifteen year old singer:

“I’d rather be in a tribe of savages who are preparing to pull out my toenails.”

“I’d rather be covered by a horde of army ants.”

“I’d rather be slowly lowered into a tank full of acid.”

“I’d rather be traveling through the deep jungles of Africa, being bitten by mosquitoes infected with every imaginable deadly disease, the scorching sun beating down on my, giving me skin cancer, fall in quicksand, and in my possession is a Pepsi. I Hate Pepsi!”

“She must be choking.” (we unleashed our vitriol on the soloists, too)

“I’d rather have poison ivy on my genitals.”

“I’d rather be hanging for dear life while climbing the highest mountain in the Alps, subzero temperatures are slowly freezing me when suddenly I notice my shoelace is untied and my zipper is down.”

“We should start singing the 1812 Overture out of tune.”

“If you name your dog Rex, he comes when you call ‘King’”.

Our rehearsals were long and hot. It was the peak of summer when we were singing, and the temperatures were unbearable at times in the stone-oven, medieval churches we sang in. Sometimes, we got a little silly.

“Your father sells brushes.”

“Your seven illegitimate brothers clean my toilets.”

“Your fourth cousin sells me my shoes and takes out my trash.”

“I need soda, not ice cream!”

“Your half-step-half-half aunt ten times removed propositioned my in Las Vegas.”

And sometimes, when you weren’t looking, your friends would steal your music and respond to your comments.

“I can’t keep my hormones in control.”
“A classic, but TRUE statement.”

Thanks, Alison.

The absolute beauty of all this teenage tomfoolery is that in the middle of the concert, televised nationally all over Italy, I passed out. I didn't care for "agua con gas", so I drank nothing but Coke for three days straight. Whoops. If it weren’t for my friends standing on either side of me, I would have ended ass up in the tuba.