Wonder Woman’s Lasso: AKA Maestro Urbański’s Baton

It was a black night in Indianapolis. No stars. Few people – until the witching hour of 10 pm, when Indianapolis Symphony musicians and Indianapolis Symphonic Choir members crowd into Monument Circle after rehearsal. Some stroll in small groups back to their cars. A lone violinist hurries along New York Street. A couple of tenors, only an hour ago energetically singing their hearts out in Orff’s Carmina Burana and Chichester Psalms, wearily amble towards Meridian Street. The streets around Hilbert Circle Theater, empty and dark just a few minutes earlier, are full of music makers.

O, people of Indianapolis, if only you knew the music and work that had filled our lives for the previous 3 hours.

This was our first rehearsal with the orchestra, preparing for four concerts over the weekend. Maestro Urbański is meticulous in his preparation for a concert. One might be fooled by his soft-spoken voice – so soft that we must listen ever-so acutely to hear him in our choir risers, way above the stage.

The focus is intense. The Maestro determinedly blends orchestra, soloists and singers into a single music-making body. He rehearses phrases until he achieves a single onset in one balanced harmony of voices and instruments. In one song with the female singers, he waves his wand and bends his arms and body languidly (and gracefully) from side to side.

Observing the obvious bewilderment of the singers, he explains he wants us to swing to the dance beat of the music. “Hmm” we think, having experienced the earthquake tremors that frequently arise if we make even a tiny movement in the fragile risers. We begin to swing with increasing gusto, risers be damned!

Now, the male singers take the spotlight with songs of Tavern life. We are treated to an imaginative “Olim lacus colueram” (The roasted swan). Our agile tenor soloist/Swan dances around the choir, as he mourns the loss of his life while being barbecued. The wonderfully resonant baritone soloist sings “Ego sum Abbas,” hiccupping and clutching the Maestro’s podium. The grand male chorus comes into its own with the Tavern song – a marvel of words roared out at supersonic speed, ranging from the most pianissimo to triple forte.

Finally a rehearsal break – water, moments of quiet reflection; for some, a review of phrases not yet smooth, for others, a quick check of social media.

Then we are back on our feet with the orchestra for Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. I marvel at the men – they have roared and whispered their voices fully in Carmina, and now they tackle the Psalms with equal enthusiasm. No wonder they walk with lassitude around Monument Circle at the end of rehearsal!

The Maestro has lost none of his energy. He dances on the podium; his baton resembles Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth – on the beat, on the beat, don’t slow down, keep the beat, keep the beat.

We are mesmerized by its message, obedient to the demands of the Baton Lariat. We hope the audience will have as much fun as we have had, in preparing for our last concert of this 80th Anniversary Season.

From time to time, we invite a guest blogger to share their insights. In this installment, Janet – a member of the Symphonic Choir alto section – shares a perspective from the chorus in the final days of rehearsals for the upcoming Carmina Burana & Chichester Psalms performances. For more information about the 4 performances (Thursday, June 8 through Sunday, June 11) at Hilbert Circle Theatre and at The Palladium in Carmel, click here.

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