Getting ready for Stravinsky

I expect the next few days of blogging to be quiet as I spend some time with the BSO preparing to perform the Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms tomorrow, Friday, and Saturday. Good rehearsal this morning.

The major challenge with this work for me is memorization. The Tanglewood Festival Chorus, which is the volunteer chorus in which I sing and which supports the BSO, performs all its pieces from memory (with the exception, for some reason, of its Pops performances). This has become a point of pride for the TFC and the BSO, for better or for worse (for an interesting discussion on the pros and cons of singing from memory, check this interview with chorus member Reggie Didham).

On the purely practical level for the Stravinsky, I find it much harder to memorize a piece, both words and music, if it has an unfamiliar text; there are sections of the psalms that are familiar from other settings, but from time to time in rehearsals I find myself holding my breath and hoping that I remember the text of the next passage correctly. It certainly makes for an exciting performance, though not for reasons that I would necessarilly recommend to others.