Chorus Master Tim Burke, gets you in the mood ahead of Saturday’s sing along to Puccini favourites…

Posted on October 15, 2009

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Tim Burke, Chorus Master

This week I’m making the final preparations for our Sing ON: Puccini event on Saturday. It’s especially exciting as this is only the second composer-based Sing ON event we’ve done – Sing ON: Verdi back in May was the maiden voyage for this new format, so I still feel as if anything could happen, and that we’re still very much shaping the clay.

As with the Verdi event, our aim is to introduce some of the wonderful music that Puccini wrote to a big group of participants in a very ‘hands-on’ way, with the help of a few Chorus members. Rather than sitting back and being moved by the music, we’re all going to sing, to really get into the nuts and bolts of expressing the passions, emotions and excitement of Puccini. There’s nothing like the contrast between the first few nervous moments with a room full of people who don’t know each other from Adam, many of whom haven’t sung a note outside their bathroom for years, and the last twenty minutes when everyone finds their voices soaring and excitement pulsing through them.

In the event, three hours actually seems like a very short time, so I have to be very careful about choosing the bits and pieces we’re doing. Puccini actually writes very few real ‘set piece’ choruses like Verdi’s Chorus of Hebrew Slaves or Anvil Chorus. Instead, he tends to weave what the chorus sing and do into the story, which means the chorus involvement in a Puccini piece can feel quite bitty. I’ve managed to find an exception to the rule, which is a fabulous stretch of music from Act I of Turandot where the chorus are divided between the Executioner’s Assistants who are sharpening knives and the blood-thirsty crowd egging them on. We’ll also be touching on some of the classic ‘hustle and bustle’ chorus writing Puccini uses to characterise Christmas Eve in Paris in a scene from La Bohème. There’ll be two more bits, but they’ll remain under wraps for now!

Right now I’m working with the Chorus Manager, Helen Blythe, on the logistics of the day – what we need and when, and how long for – we also create our own musical arrangements of the music which need typesetting and copying, and we need to start thinking how long a tea break all the thirsty throats are going to need! See you there if you can make it, it should be fun!

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