Sunday, November 20, 2011

Concert #6: Highlights from the 2011 NCCO Conference

Saturday night- the final concert of NCCO 2011

Colorado State University Chamber Choir, plus orchestra, James Kim, director; Guest conductor for the performance, Helmuth Rilling

Singet den Herrn ein neues Lied, BWV 225 by JS Bach

Jesu, meine Freude, BWV 227, by JS Bach

Magnificat, BWV 243, by JS Bach

As members of NCCO we were blessed to be part of the ongoing process of James Kim's fine singers as they worked with Helmuth Rilling on these Bach masterpieces. We were allowed to watch an open rehearsal, during which Rilling also addressed the audience now and then about something in the music or a rehearsal technique he was using, plus also another session of Q and A with Rilling. It was obvious that 1) Kim's singers were highly prepared and astounding musicians going in 2) Rilling challenged them to go even further. To me, these challenges he set for them should be taken overall as a great compliment- for he treated them as professional musicians, not students. Kudos to every singer for aspiring to these levels. You know ole JS was looking down with a smile.

In rehearsal, Rilling stopped the choir for tiny details- but hey, maybe they weren't so tiny. One very telling point was when the singers' articulation did not match the violin articulation of the same fairly florid pattern- maybe some other conductor would let it slide, figuring it was too much of a burden for all to fix, but with Rilling it was just the opposite-it had to be fixed. And when we heard, as observers, the difference this made in the clarity of the overall contrapuntal sound- it was obvious that Rilling was right to be so meticulous.

So... the Saturday evening concert approached and everyone was excited- just how good would this performance be? And the answer was, it was spectacular. The singing was intense and so detailed, the professional orchestra was riveted to their parts, and Rilling was in fine form. I was glad to see that he seemed in better physical shape than when he conducted the Mendelssohn Elijah at ACDA Chicago when, to me, it seemed that he was be having difficulties with his back and posture. At NCCO these issues seemed to be gone- he was erect and in his element. Sarah Graham and I sat close to the front and off to the side, Sarah's choice- and it was because she wanted to see all the conductor/singer interaction. It was great fun to watch, and I especially enjoyed watching the trumpet section and also highly enjoyed the fine work of the very wonderful continuo organist (a player far too often overlooked). But the most interesting was watching these young singers faces as they took on the challenge of every wild, crazy, unrelenting melisma passage ole JS and Rilling could throw at them- wow!

When the evening ended there was a prolonged standing ovation- and this was one of the few standing ovations at NCCO ( fine with me, automatic standing ovations for mediocre performances have become ridiculously commonplace). Everyone was so thrilled at the successes of this young chorus, the young soloists, and with James Kim and Helmuth Rilling's fine work.

It was fitting that this group of young musicians who had been so wonderfully prepared by Kim and then worked their tails off for three days in very long rehearsals with Rilling finally got to have center stage on the final night- bravo to them all.


With Thanksgiving coming up, I will have a slight interruption in my NCCO posts (I will return to them and talk about all the interest sessions- and the contributions of some pretty energetic octogenarians). But next I want to post a short blog about a college choir and also a high school choir who I have come in contact with recently- it's a bit fitting for Thanksgiving I think- so see you soon for that.

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