When Christina Wilhelm told me that the Santa Cruz Singers would perform Vivaldi’s Gloria in D major, I had contrasting emotions. Mostly, I felt delight. The Gloria is one of the most beautiful compositions in the classical choral repertoire. It is one of my favorite pieces of music. I knew I would deeply enjoy working on it, and I knew Christina would make it a comfortable, enjoyable experience.
But, along with delight also came a bit of terror. Could we produce a convincing performance of this challenging masterwork? A community chorus like Santa Cruz Singers is open to anyone who likes to sing. Therefore, no one had to “try out,” prove they had a great voice, or demonstrate that they read music. We all just showed up for the first rehearsal. While we have a few members who might be considered semiprofessional musicians, for the most part we are just people who love to sing and have sung in other nonprofessional choral groups, such as church choirs.
The first rehearsal was pretty horrible. Christina put on the orchestral accompaniment, and we did our best to sing the piece. Our best was far from good enough. We missed entrances, sang many bad notes, and sometimes got so lost that we had to stop the recording and start over. When I’m struggling with new music I tend to bellow. The poor alto in front of me actually had to ask me to sing more softly so she could hear herself. “Sorry, can’t do it today,” I apologized.
Christina was unruffled by our cacophony. “Now you know what you need to work on,” she said. “Go home and practice with your CD.”
I missed the next two rehearsals because of illness. When I returned the difference was amazing. We sang the first movement, and it was actually pretty good. People were getting their notes. That included the guy next to me, who does not read music but learns his part by rote. To my surprise, he was getting just about all of his notes. Christina congratulated the group on the hard work they had done at rehearsal and at home. It seemed that the Santa Cruz Singers were on a roll!
By dress rehearsal we knew it would be a good performance. The chorus felt secure with the notes, and all were working hard to get their eyes out of their music. The soloists (all members of the chorus) were singing some pretty difficult music and doing it convincingly. Christina was busy making music, and we were her instrument. She was getting convincing changes of dynamics, cleaning up a few entrances, putting on the polish.
And then on May 7 we performed in front of a full house at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church in Sonoita. The audience offered the kind of support you only get from good friends and, in this case, the welcoming congregation of Our Lady of the Angels. I savored every note of Vivaldi’s beautiful composition and felt pleased with our group’s accomplishment.
This fall we will do it all again. If you love to sing good music please consider joining the Santa Cruz Singers! Call 520-394-0129 for information.