After a full travel day yesterday (Edmonton - Minneapolis/St. Paul ... four hour lay over ... Ten hour travel day in total) we finally made it to where the "corn is as high as an Elephant's ear". First impressions of the city is that it reminds me a lot of Edmonton. It's flat, dry, and seems to rely heavily on oil and farming as an industry. The main difference is that on the front page of their paper was a picture of a choir (you'd never see that in the Edmonton Journal). Also the entire city has been taken over by choir directors. Nearly 3,200 in total I am told. Oh, and where it is about -15 and snowing in Edmonton, it is expected to be +30 here tomorrow (that's up near 80 in the scale they use down here).
Day one began with a long line up for registration. They did have the sense to organize the registration by last name in groups of three letters. What they didn't anticipate is that the majority of choral conductors seem to have a last name beginning with B. As a result, I was late for the first concert, seeing only 3 of the 4 choirs. However, I was NOT disappointed. The highlight of the morning was the Green Valley School Madrigal/Chamber Singers, who appeared in full period costume (knickers for the boys, frilly cuffs for the girls), and sang through repertoire from Sweelinck and Monteverdi to Whitacre and Rossini with the precision and tuning of an excellent University choir. And this was a HIGH SCHOOL choir.
I then spent a few hours at the exhibits, some 200+ stalls trying to keep my VISA card in my pocket, letting it out only to buy a few scores for works I will be conducting next year (I can't promise I won't go back for a new baton though!) I met up with a few old friends both from Ottawa and Edmonton and learned of the Canadian reception which is happening Friday night, after that it was off to Concert session II.
This concert also had it's highlights, which included the Michigan State Women's Chamber ensemble, and the University of Texas at Austin Chamber Choir.
A few casual observations from the the concerts thus far:
- It really doesn't matter how many times it is announced to turn off the cell phones, there will still be at least 3 or 4 that will ring in a two hour period.
- Programs that end with a spiritual will undoubtably receive a standing ovation, even though the one that ended with Frank Martin should have as well!
- Further to point 2. Even though standing ovations are not a rarity here, they are all well deserved!
- The wardrobe of the conductors is going to be a topic of discussion just as much as the quality of the music is. (So far the conductor for the Michigan State Women's Choir wins first prize for originality).
- there are some FINE choirs in this country!
After my nap, it will be off to the first reception and wine and cheese, and that will end day one.