We've just finished an in-city weekend retreat on the Bach and Handel program, and I think we are in pretty good shape.
After seven hours of rehearsals in two days, I've managed to tackle all the movements of both the Bach and and Handel. The Bach is in very good shape, just stylistic issues, articulation and clarity of text to perfect. We are not short on German scholars in the choir - which is both a blessing, and a curse, as every time we stop, there is at least one person who will volunteer their expertise by fixing all the diction problems - no matter how trite they might be at this point. I suppose I should be thankful, but sometimes it stops the flow of my rehearsal, and I am very quick to loose my train of thought, and therefore wasting valuable rehearsal time. I'm a very patient conductor, and for the most part these things roll off my back, but I can see the distress on other choristers faces when we get into an argument on things like the word stress of "Hallelujah" in Bach Cantatas.
The Handel is well underway, although there is much work left to do on the last movement. We had some very productive work in sectionals today, and I think another session apart will be necessary. As much as I HATE (and I don't use that word lightly) sectionals, I think it is the only way we are going to get through this repertoire. At least I have a very capable assistant.
An interesting thing about these two works (for those who missed earlier posts, we are doing BWV 4 "Christ Lag in Todes Banden" and Handel's "Dixit Dominus") is that the orchestration is exactly the same. This probably explains why the pairing is so popular. It calls for only strings and continuo. The oddity is that it requires a two separate viola parts. Having never conducted either work before, I took the advice of the orchestra's manager and decided on only two violists, one per part. Last night, after he had a closer look at the score, he is now recommending we add two more violists. Arrggghh. Now I have to ask the board for another $1,100! They are a very agreeable lot though, and I don't think they'll worry about it too much. My hope is that we can "sell off" the soloists through creative corporate sponsorship, which could save us as much as $5,000.
Five more rehearsals to go!