I sing with the small choir at St Mary’s Basilica in Invercargill, usually every second Sunday. So far, I don’t think they have figured out that they have a cuckoo in the nest, me being a Baptist-raised agnostic, although my ingrained version of the Lord’s Prayer complete with thou’s and trespasses might have tipped them off. Anyway, it is a musical education for me, as I learn all the setting of the Glorias, Amens etc. Every so often I get thrown into the Cantor role, where I have to concentrate very hard. It’s a whole different style of singing and at the moment I still tend to sing it as a song rather than as musical speech. But I’m slowly getting there.
The other great thing about singing with this choir (I use the term choir relatively loosely given that on a good day we have one bass, two tenors, two altos and two sopranos) is that there is often solo work to do – an aria from Messiah, the Vicar of Dibley version of The Lord is My Shepherd and so on. We sit up in the choir stalls so are hidden from the view of all but the Priest and any parishioners who dare to risk putting a neck vertebra out of alignment to have a look. That means the focus is on the music and not the person singing which is much more relaxing. The acoustics are great too.
Easter in the Catholic Church is A Big Deal. From Holy Thursday we sang every day and twice on Sunday. I love that we get to sing plainchant and music that has endured for centuries in the same form. It’s amazing to think that the notes we sing are the very same as would have been sung by someone in the 12th century. I had quite a bit to do, including Cantor work and two Mozart arias – the Laudate Dominum and the Ora Pro Nobis from Regina Coeli K128. It was the first time I’d sung the Ora Pro Nobis and it appears that it was the first time anyone there had heard it which is a shame because it is the most gorgeous piece of music. The choir also discovered a new talent we hope to retain, Joy Kerr, who sang a marvellous rendition of ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’
By Sunday evening I was well and truly sung out and the medicinal application of chocolate and wine was a necessity. And now it is full steam ahead with Dido, reminding myself that I don’t have to rush the phrases, that Purcell was very fond of word-painting and I can use that to colour the notes.