choirlogue, 1st rehearsal: Brahm’s “The Seasons” – Alto II
The season started as it always does: The director giving us some background and then playing an extended sample of the music so the choir can get a feel for the piece. “The Seasons” is a resplendent piece, marking Handel’s progress from composing music for small, private, affluent audiences (read: chamber music sponsored by a prince) to large, pieces with more grandeur, befitting a more common audience. Still, it was written in the 1700s, and does pull up some imagery of chanson sung in sitting rooms while young women do needlework or sketching. I can see Mary Bennet enjoying this type of music: immensely enraptured in her socially awkward and hardened outer skin.
My first thought on performing this piece on a college campus: It’s going to be a hard sell for the undergrad singers. The libretto and ornamentation of the piece is stylized in a way, while radical and brilliant for that time period, does not necessarily easy lean itself to teenagers and young 20-somethings of today who’ve grown up with John Williams and Howard Shore in their ears.
My second thought is, “Oh those poor foreign national students.” The lyrics (originally based on an English poem, Handel’s first rendition of this piece was to a German translation of the words. The English we sing is re-translated from the German. Furthermore, the translation is by a non-English speaker, so there are some quite interesting word choices. Our non-native English speakers will expand their vocabulary this season to include “jocund,” “bounteous,” and, a particularly archaic word, “tuns.” In a cringeworthy moment (at least for a writer,) a native English speaking undergrad asked about the word “ethereal.”
My mood was made buoyant again by the wonderful presence of Girl Scout cookies at break. Though one did have to fight a crowd to get to them.