SUNDAY NOVEMBER 30TH: A frisson of excitement ripples through the choir, as the first violinist calls for silence. The orchestra is tuning up, first the violins, then each section in turn. After weeks of rehearsals, first a cappella, then with a pianist, this is our first rehearsal with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and with all four choirs. I love the sound of a full symphony orchestra tuning up, especially when it’s the first orchestral rehearsal. This is the moment when all the weeks of preparation start to come together and you feel it’s really going to happen.
We’ve already had two rehearsals together with the Rubin Academy of Music Chamber Choir (their conductor, Stanley Sperber, will be conducting the two concerts), but this is the first time the Kibbutz Artzi Choir and the much smaller Tontine Choir will be joining us. It seems to go well. At any rate, rehearsal ends much earlier than I had expected (feared, in fact). There is to be another rehearsal on Tuesday, the General Rehearsal. Just as well. It takes time to get used to Stanley’s rather exuberant conducting, after Ronen’s more restrained style.
TUESDAY DECEMBER 2ND: This time, the soloists will be joining us. One of the sopranos seems to have absolutely no sense of rhythm or tempo. Another has a most irritating vibrato. The counter-tenor is excellent. The tenor and the bass – acceptable. The tenor, in fact, proves himself in his solo aria, and especially in the recitative section, ringing out loud and clear as he asks, in notes that remind one of the oratorio "Elijah", also by Mendelssohn, that we sang two years ago: "Hüter, ist die Nacht bald hin" (Watchman, will the night soon pass?). The choir’s triumphant response – "Die Nacht ist vergangen" – is one of my favourite sections of the Lobgesang. I slip off the stage to listen from the front of the auditorium, taking the opportunity to record it. My batteries are almost flat and I am forced to make two takes. Splicing and editing is going to take some time but when it is done, I promise to post the final cut on YouTube and embed it on this site as well.
WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 3RD: Tonight is the first of two concerts, in Jerusalem’s Henry Crown Symphony Hall. First, the Bach Magnificat, performed by three only of the choirs. Then, we are joined by the Kibbutz Artzi Choir for the Mendelssohn Symphony no. 2 – Lobgesang (Song of Praise). There is hardly a vacant place in the 750-seat auditorium and the applause at the end is loud and prolonged.
THURSDAY DECEMBER 4TH: Tonight’s concert takes place at Tel Aviv’s Performing Arts Centre, home of the Israel Opera. Here, too, we have an audience of several hundred. The concert doesn’t sound as good to me as yesterday – possibly because the vastness of the stage makes it difficult for the various sections of the choir to hear one another and because of the distance between the conductor and the choir. However, at least we have chairs to sit on when we are not singing, unlike the previous evening, when we were crowded together on tribunes imediately behind the orchestra. (The seating arrangements of a full symphony orchestra are such that the sopranos are always directly behind the brass and percussion sections, and while perspex acoustic barriers are placed between them and the string section in front of them, we are exposed to the full body of sound – which, in the case of the Mendelssohn, is very, very loud!)
Still, I am told that the sound out front is much better than it seems to us, on the stage – and here too, the applause is enthusiastic. So that’s all right then.
The concert starts right on time (they are fussier about that in Tel Aviv) and finishes at 22:10. By 22:25, we are on the coach, heading back to Jerusalem. This coming Sunday, there will be no rehearsal. We have earned a holiday. Next Thursday, we shall meet again. I wonder what our next project will be…