cgefre's picture

Little Choir in a Hurry, Full of an Important Worry

Even though Winter Term has passed and the week break leading to Spring Term is almost complete, I didn't exactly feel like I was out of classes. Sure, my Philosophy and French classes were both completed and their final grades tabulated, but instruction wasn't complete for the students of the Vocal Chamber Ensemble. Sleeping in was a luxury we couldn't afford this past week, and for good reason--the fate of our trip to New York rested on our mastery of Eric Whitacre's "little man in a hurry."

In case you haven't heard, C of I's Chamber Singers have been invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York under the direction of Eric Whitacre, one of the world's leading choral composers, singing a very advanced repertoire under his byline. Whitacre is about as close to a contemporary musical genius as I can think of, but like Beethhoven before him, Whitacre doesn't take it easy on the choirs he writes for. Over the past few months, we Chamber Singers have been working to memorize some extremely challenging work. This isn't just because we personally want to be prepared for our upcoming trip--the company that invited us requires actual proof that we know our stuff before they'll allow us even a glimpse of Carnegie in the form of video recordings. They wanted each song in uninterrupted takes, both an audio and visual recording to prove that we weren't using some sort of studio fakery to scam our way to the Big Apple.

It may sound easy enough, but our deadline has loomed over us this last week, and we still had to finish polishing the crazy rhythms and nonsensical syllables of this last song. If the only way to do so was to give up our mornings, then we had to take it.

I've been staying in Meridian with my family over the break, so from Monday to Thursday this week, I've been waking up much earlier than I should be over a break to drive myself to Caldwell for rehersals. As a result, even though I wasn't living on campus over those days, I felt as though I may as well have been. It felt exactly like going to class as I had over the Winter Term--the only difference was instead of studying utilitarianism and deontology, I was studying 11/8 measures and tempo accelerations. Certainly a different kind of class, but a class nonetheless.

I'm sure I'm making it sound like a big deal, but that's only because I'm not a fan of waking up early for anything. Honestly, by the time we started rehearsals, I was wide awake and ready to perform. The atmosphere may have been one of work and buckling down, but none of us let it affect our spirits. No one was being negative or pessimistic about our situation at all--quite the contary. Each of us launched ourselves into learning this piece with gusto and positivity, each of us finding time to joke around in between going over trouble spots. And it wasn't like we were being worked to the bone, either. Our director, Dr. Brent Wells, knew that many of us were sacrificing our previous break plans to be at these sessions, and rewarded us one morning with two dozen donuts and milk to go with them. Punctuality never tasted so good.

By Thursday morning, we were set to record and ready to reach the deadline. Three takes and one short break later, and it was over much faster than any of us expected. We might not have been able to sleep in until noon for most of the break, but we definitely had a lot to show for our hard work.

Spring Term officially starts on Monday, but after a choir intensive break, I feel as if it's started early. No complaints here, though. Give us a few weeks and before we know it, we'll be in Manhatten.

--Clayton Gefre

Clayton is a sophomore creative writing major from Meridian, Idaho.