From the U.K. to Texas, or, how dream chasing can be unpredictable
"There is no such beauty as where you belong."
When I auditioned for the U.K. Voces8 Scholars Programme last winter, I thought it might be a long shot. Any time I'm competing with British singers, I know that they will have been sight reading since the age of six months or something, and have been brought up in the rich English choral tradition, which was unparalleled far before the birth of the U.S. I only though that if I stood a chance, it would be a privilege to learn from singers of that background.
Enter the U.S. Voces8 Scholars Program.
Apparently there was so much American interest in the program this year that Voces8 was kind enough to begin an American program, which resulted in the emotional roller coaster of a half rejection, half acceptance letter that I shortly received.
On Thursday, six young singers, ages 22-26, showed up in Plano, Texas with not the slightest idea of what was about to happen (other than some music making). So, what did we learn? What was the end result of this adventure?
- We engaged with the community and learned some incredible pedagogical techniques designed to get even the most hesitant of singers to sing (check out Paul Smith's 'Pas de Deux' and 'The Voces8 Method' for more on that).
- We learned exercises and techniques to create a cohesive small ensemble sound for one on a part singing.
- We learned how to connect across the ensemble, to unify entrances, and to communicate with each other.
- We learned how to run a rehearsal without a leader, but with six leaders working as a team, and trying things out whether they worked or not.
- We had the luxury of rehearsing just a handful of pieces for hours on end, and found that everyone was so nerdy that we LIVED for the picky details.
- We convinced Paul to make a Bitmoji, which is likely the most important thing that happened.
- We became friends in three days.
- We were treated to vigorous Southern hospitality by the staff (especially Taylor, Jonathan, and Philip) and choir of St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Plano, TX, and ate far too much food.
It was a huge privilege to learn from Paul Smith of Voces8, who is extremely knowledgeable and was kind enough to guide and mentor us. It was also a huge privilege to learn from my American colleagues as they brought their variety of knowledge and experiences to the table in our collaborative rehearsals, the likes of which I had never experienced.
I write this in my hotel room. Everyone has departed except for me, so here I sit, unpacking this beautiful, whirlwind experience so that the memories don't slip away as soon as I fly home to Boston. I look forward with great anticipation to whatever comes next, and hope that it involves all of the wonderful people I just met.
For a long time now, whenever I hear the soprano solo in Paulus's 'The Road Home', I will hear Christine's ridiculously silvery and lovely voice. Seriously. Get it, girl.
As if all of this wasn't enough, I have finally lived my dream of singing Renaissance polyphony one on a part. This is a dream I've had since seeing the Tallis Scholars perform at ACDA in Dallas. I was both changed and transported by that performance, because apparently the combination of British singers and Texas creates actual magic.
I am, forever, the most grateful of sopranos.