Will Johnson (tenor)
On Monday Evening this week we rehearsed our 20th century repertoire at Bloor Street United Church, which is just down the street from our regular venue at Trinity St. Paul’s Centre. We started the rehearsal working through a setting of the Gloria from the Mass for Double Choir by Frank Martin, moved on to the Lauridsen: La rose complète, and then onto our Poulenc motets. As we try to remain as authentic as possible to the texts, our Poulenc Latin pieces are sung using French pronunciation. One of the tricky things about singing French Latin is the nasalized vowels. At the top of many of my scores I write “un bon vin blanc” and say that sentence out loud a few times to remind myself of the four distinct French nasalized vowels and how different each of them sound. During our rehearsals we work through the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) for our texts and write these IPA symbols into our scores. I think we sound French most of the time! But when we’re off track we’re fortunate to have our very own French diction specialist soprano Francine Labelle to correct any flaws in the overall French sound. I often remember the advice from soprano and French diction specialist Ginette Duplessis we received years ago when recording Poulenc’s Tristis est anima mea: “More kisses, tenors! More pursed lips; the ‘oo’ vowel is much more forward!” It sure works well when we’re singing the opening line of Tendre amour by Rameau! We’re very focused on our diction and are constantly trying to perfect it.
The following day we were back on home turf at Trinity St. Paul’s Centre and worked through the repertoire we’re singing at Baroque pitch. As we approach our concert week we’re now starting to ‘performance practice’ each piece and really delve into the word painting and shapes of the text. The notes are all locked in so we can focus on the delicate nuances of French repertoire and the more rustic and joyous nature of the Italian Handel pieces. “More pineapples in your hats, sopranos!” Ivars suggests as we start Handel’s S’accenda pur di festa il cor” (‘May this celebration ignite the heart’ - a celebratory chorus with solos from Parnasso in Festa). For our next rehearsal we’re joined by Tafelmusik Orchestra – hopefully they’re well rested from what appears to have been a wonderful and successful tour to Australia and New Zealand. We’re very excited to get a sense of the overall architecture of the program and put it all together.
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