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Musical Weekend - The Lyorn's Den

Tue Jan. 11th, 2011

12:47 am - Musical Weekend

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Same place as two years ago, some of the same people, more music, and less cold.

This time, we got our whole ensemble there, ten people and our conductor. Only three of the altos and I had been there the previous time and could smirk about everyone else getting lost all the time.

The whole thing started with a heap of unnecessary drama for me. Two years ago, someone had made reservations for our whole group, and I had nothing at all to do with it, which was perfect, because for someone designing processes for a living, I'm incredibly bad with paperwork and deadlines. Being incredibly bad with it, I optimistically assumed that everything would be taken care of, only to form a (very late) suspicion from some overheard comment ("I just got the papers back for my reservation") that all was not well. Confirming that, yes, I had to make this reservation, took some time. Getting the application form with took some time. Printing it out proved impossible, and then the deadline was past. So I called at pretty much the eleventh hour, to learn that they had no more beds and I could get accommodation in town, maybe? The internet helpfully told me that accommodation in town would cost 70 to 80 Euros a night, which was a lot more than I was willing to pay for a room where I would spend only about 6 of 24 hours a day. The others suggested putting an air mattress on the floor, so I called again, three days before the event, and found that that would be fine and they would even provide a folding bed. So, this was solved.

Life stayed interesting, though. We had agreed to get on the road at 10 am on the 6th. At half past eight, I awoke to hear the voice of the radio announcer tell that after five weeks of temperatures well below zero, a drizzle had set in, covering everything with a solid sheet of ice. No buses were running, and the police recommended that people stayed inside and did not even think about driving. Some phone calls later we had agreed that we would wait until noon before we attempted to get going, and I went to the bakery. It took me 15 minutes to balance/slide/crawl the 400 metres to the bakery, even making use of the damp ankle-high snow in the park. My car was completely covered in ice. I had breakfast while updating the web page of the local radio station every five minutes to check the state of the roads.

Around half past eleven things got better, and (not without some reservations) we decided to go now, so that we would not arrive in the dark. It had rained for two more hours by then, the ice on my car was mostly gone (and the rest could be rubbed off with the fingertips), and the walkway to the house was suitable for bipedal movement again. Picking up everyone was still a challenge, but as soon as we were on the Autobahn, it was perfect going, because most people had (still sensibly) decided to stay home. We arrived at a quarter past four and ran to the check-in and to the first class without even unloading our baggage.

Most of us were taking a three-part intro class into Complete Vocal Technique -- an attempt by a Danish vocal researcher to categorise different vocal modes and describe how to achieve specific sounds without getting a sore throat. It was kind of similar to the things I had heard in the unexpected private lesson we got two years ago, but a lot more in-depth. I had no idea what to expect, and found it very useful. We also made a lot of noise, which is always fun.

After dinner there was a concert of the Jazzchor Freiburg -- a highly decorated choir, very professional. Unfortunately, I really disliked their repertoire, which was among my least favourite types of Jazz. It wasn't painful or atonal, just very, very boring. Most of the time, the choir performed only as background for a solo singer, and it was all "shoo-bi-du" and "dab-di-dap", and not one single piece of music that made me wish to sing it myself. Best about it was one singer who also did beatboxing and produced the most incredible sounds.

After the concert, we moved to the cellar to party. It was not as cold as two years ago, partly because it was mild outside. I still did not enjoy it especially. I don't know why I keep going when I know I hate the noise and the smell. Hope dies last, probably.

However, there was sufficient hot water in the room, the heating worked just fine, there was no draft, and the folding bed was quite comfortable, although it had a tendency to wander around the room, until I felt like Hartmann's Iwain, with his bed running all through the castle.

Next day, we practised after breakfast because after lunch we had a coaching session with the very same much feared sarcastic music professor that had so unnerved us two years ago.
Much feared music professor still did not live up to his reputation of scariness and was helpful and reasonably nice. We sang "Journey to Brazil" which started to get into shape. I still dragged down the whole ensemble when being the only one in my voice, because there were a few bars where I still had no idea where I belonged in the harmony.

Then there was cake, and the next part of the CVT class, dinner, a CVT open masterclass, and another concert, this time by Acoustic Instinct, who were doing beatbox comedy, and by Don Camillo, a choir from Munich. They did everything I had missed at the previous evening's performance, and I wanted to sing every single one of their pieces. We had heard them in 2009 as an also-ran, and they had gone up several levels in those two years.

The quest for coffee had become a running gag on the second day. Literally, running, with the endless corridors of the monastery, and only one coffee-maker in the most out-of-the-way room. Plus, all drinks except tea and tab water were sold from machines, which needed small change, which you could get from another machine in a not-obvious location in the store room near the kitchen stairs. Too many people had only 20 or 50 Euro notes and were then running around jingling with small change. I was very happy to have brought a large cup -- it held three normal-sized coffees and lasted me for a while.

The rest of the evening found us in that cellar again. I still don't know why I keep going there. Next time I won't.

Day three brought another coaching session ("Give them thy fingers"), more CVT, and drama from completely unexpected quarters. In the evening there would be a concert where the conducting students had to show off their work, and every group that wanted to could do the same. Turned out that our conductor had planned to have us perform, and had neglected to tell us in more certain words then "bring your stage clothes, just in case". I usually enjoy performing, and do not suffer too badly from stage fright, but I was dead set against the hassle that performing would mean. Panicked last-minute-practise, running around the corridors (I did mention those were goddamn long corridors) to get into clothing, to rehearse how to get on stage and off, sound check, getting on the lists -- and all these things taking up time and attention that I'd much rather have devoted to learning stuff. Plus, I was very, very tired and my ability to concentrate wasn't getting any better. The second day at dinner I could not remember what we had done after breakfast, it seemed like days.

To add to that, at the evening's CVT coaching session we completely lost the rhythm when doing "Journey to Brazil" -- seems that I was not the only one who started feeling mentally exhausted. Performing in that state would have been a dreary duty, and most of the sopranos felt that way. We said that to our conductor. Who could have replied, "oh, come on, I really want to show you off", or "it will be very helpful to get this thing on stage and get some feedback from a competent audience", or simply "sorry that I did not make myself clear, of course we are performing". Instead she got all passive-aggressive with us, said that if we didn't want to it was no use, and told everyone willing to listen that we were too chicken to get on stage. I could have dealt with "too lazy", because that was a valid way to look at it, but I was seriously miffed about "chicken".

We decided to make something useful out of the time we had gained by not running around the corridors trying to organise a performance we had not planned on doing, and practised "Mister Sandman". We managed to get two very tricky parts straight before our conductor showed up, and then she added to the general state of miffed-ness of the sopranos by changing one of the tricky parts we had just made some headway into so that the harmony would be simpler and the notes not that high. The sopranos resented being called chicken and treated as incompetents in the space of less than two hours, and we were all very relieved when it was time for the final concert.

The concert, as expected, had its highs and lows and was all in all OK. And then the cellar again, some escalating drama, more people getting told that we were chicken, and why the heck did I stay until half past one? Maybe to see the drama run its course. In the end, we were all too tired for more of the same, sang "Goodnight Sweetheart" and called it a night.

The mood was better the next morning. We packed our gear and were on the road again by ten and home around one. Serious Cat Jerome let me know that he was displeased with his human's absence and was haughty and distant the whole day.

I feel kind of worried about the drama, and about another type of drama threatening on the horizon: There is a choir festival in Frankfurt next year, and our conductor would like us to enter a contest. I know I would love to do that, but the ensemble is not fully independent. It's part of a larger choir that might feel very unhappy about the situation. Hell has no fury like an artist's vanity offended. Oh, well. If there is one thing I have learned in my day job it's not to worry about things I cannot control. We'll see what happens.

Today I had to be back at work. And I fear I'm getting a cold. Grr.

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