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Playing: Slavonic Dances in A and D, op.46 nos 5 and 6 by Antonin Dvorak

"In BaaaAAAA-BY-LON..." Preparing for Prom 23

Friday 10 August 2012, 18:50

Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick Head of Interactive, Radio 3

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The view from the Chorus - rehearsing in Colston Hall

Jon Parker is a member of the BBC Symphony Chorus. He wrote this post during rehearsals for Prom 23, which you can listen to online for the next four days. On Sunday he and the Chorus will be performing Schoenberg's extraordinary Gurrelieder in Prom 41 - Steve Bowbrick, Interactive Editor, Radio 3.

26th July: Piano Rehearsal.

While a certain torch is making its way towards Westminster, the BBC Symphony Chorus congregates in Maida Vale 2 for the piano rehearsal. To this point, we have had four rehearsals to learn Ireland's These Things Shall Be and Walton's Belshazzar's Feast with our Chorus Director Stephen Jackson. For many, Belshazzar is an old friend while the Ireland is almost universally unknown. However we have worked on them in much the same way, with text, intonation and dynamics high on the agenda.

Tonight we meet Maestro Otaka. This is our chance to have some one-on-one time with him so we jump into the detail. It's certainly tiring, but enjoyable, and after a final pep talk from Stephen it's time to battle with the Tube.

29th July: BBC Symphony Chrous goes to Bristol.

Today we are in Colston Hall in Bristol to join up with the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales. We use the rehearsal to combine everything we have been learning with getting used to taking cues from the dense orchestral texture. For Maestro Otaka and the (now) two chorus directors it is the first stage of balancing the three groups. Lots to be done...

31st July.

General Rehearsal: The orchestra and chorus are joined by Jonathan Lemalu and London Brass to add the finishing touches. Our task is to get used to the acoustics and to get used to projecting the text all the way to the gallery. Maestro Otaka works through the programme before Adrian Partington, Chorus Director of the BBC National Chorus of Wales, gives us some final notes.

Concert: Being a relative newbie to the BBC Symphony Chorus this is only my twelfth Prom (!), but performing to a full house at the Royal Albert Hall remains nothing but thrilling. This has been in the diary as my Proms 2012 highlight since we performed Belshazzar with Edward Gardner in December. It's so much fun to sing! I challenge any performer not to have an ear-to-ear grin at the end of it. Inevitably, the concert is over in a flash, and so after saying farewell to our Welsh colleagues, it's back to normality. Rehearsals for Gurrelieder continue on Friday. Watch this space...

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