Singing Bernstein and Beethoven

I’ve had the privilege to spend the weekend singing Bernstein and Beethoven with Capriccio! Columbus and the Central Ohio Symphony. We sang Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, which are portions of several Psalms sung in Hebrew! Then comes the choral part of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the “Ode to Joy”, sung in German (who says I’m not multi-lingual, at least with a score in front of me!).

256px-Leonard_Bernstein_1971

The Bernstein piece was relatively new to me and there is a very challenging part for the men in the second movement. The women sing Psalm 23 and it is beautiful, peaceful music that includes a child or counter-tenor solo. Then we come in singing Psalm 2 where David writes, “Why do the nations rage” and indeed, we are speaking with rage and derision. But the women (and the Shepherd Lord of Psalm 23) have the last word.

Beethoven

Then there is Beethoven. I’ve listened to this piece since I was young and dreamed of singing it. It is an incredible experience to be in the midst of a large choir behind a live orchestra. As exhilarating as the fourth movement is, the opening violin part had me at the first bars and to sit and watch the orchestra converse back and forth, to wax and wane in intensity and build up to the final movement–wow! And then comes the moment when you stand along with the soloists and after a baritone solo, sing those title words, “freude, freude” (joy, joy) at the top of your lungs–and off you go!

For someone who never did more than sing in a few church choirs until six years ago, this is joy indeed!

2 thoughts on “Singing Bernstein and Beethoven

    • It was. The Bernstein piece explores the varieties of mood in the Psalms with some startling juxtapositions. And to watch an orchestra perform Beethoven’s Ninth is to appreciate his genius–and then to join them in the concluding movement an incredible privilege.

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