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Gurrelieder - A Chorus of Approval

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Graeme Kay Graeme Kay | 16:24 UK Time, Thursday, 16 August 2012


Photo of Carole Cameron


Earlier this week, Phil Hall reported on the BBC Proms performance of Schoenberg's Gurrelieder from the orchestra's perspective. Now BBC Symphony Chorus soprano Carole Cameron gives the view from the choir seats ...

Well clearly this is the only gig in town tonight!

The first rehearsal found director Stephen Jackson, reminiscing about a previous performance, when he'd been demonstrating how he wanted a passage sung. The Narrator commented 'mmm, nice voice'. It was Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau...

It can be seen as a 'cough and a spit' for us ladies of the chorus but what a spit! As soon as I see 'Farben Froh' in the score, I hear the voice of our former German language coach Geraldine Franks, fondly known 'Mrs Deutsch', intoning '23 double Rrrrrs and 23 double FFFFs please'. Tonight we're fortunate to have been coached by her successor Norbert Meyn, no mean tenor himself, and infamous in rehearsal for being inclined to take over from whoever is officially conducting, such is his enthusiasm.

This will be my fourth 'Gurrelieder' and it's still an absolute 'must do'. The first was particularly memorable: my father was in the audience and as he, and I, came back down to earth he said, 'Well, I never thought I'd see Hans Hotter on stage; I certainly never imagined my daughter would be on the same stage.'

But our line-up of soloists was definitely the best I've heard. We are over 450 performers, and as a result we've been in an unusual set of venues recently, not just seeking refreshment without a massive queue. Inevitably, when most of us were rehearsing at Cadogan Hall on Monday last week, one of our sopranos managed a two-minute guest appearance in a Mark Elder rehearsal in Maida Vale Studio 2, before realising that all was not well. On Wednesday we visited the Friends' Meeting House, near Euston, and on Saturday, Central Methodist Hall Westminster. On Sunday, the day of the performance, we invited all involved to our 'warm down': usually Stephen Jackson's notes on rehearsal but this time BBC Symphony Chorus Pimms in the Park and picnic. The ladies of Crouch End Festival Chorus won the football.

The week's best Jacksonism: 'Basses, I don't care what orifice that top E flat comes out of...' LOL!

The conductor, Jukka-Pekka Saraste last worked with us in 2005 on Rachmaninov's The Bells. He's dry, laconic even, but very clear. Sunday morning's rehearsal instruction was, 'Don't be too civilised in your singing. We could do it all mezzo forte, but....'

Stand, breathe: 'Seht': the sun - and the pitch - rises, adrenalin starts to flow. We rise above the 1st sopranos into the sun, perched on a top A, descending to the glorious, endless [breathe again] C major final chord. There are worse ways of spending your Sunday...



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