Guess I’m a Choir “Parent”

Choral/piano rehearsal with Maestro Krzysztof Urbanski in attendance-Verdi Requiem, October 2013, Hilbert Circle Theater

Sometimes I'm asked what it's like to be the guy who prepares the choir for another conductor.

I understand the curiosity–the singers and I work together for a month or six weeks, sweating over every detail, getting it just right. And then, at the moment it all is about to happen, I take my place on the sidelines, and the maestro takes over.

Ok, I'll admit it…I love to conduct concerts myself. Sharing the moment with the musicians, plumbing the spiritual and musical depths of the world's great masterpieces of Bach-Handel-Mendelssohn-Brahms-Britten-etc. And a bit of a control “freak,” it feels good to have the chance to see “my” vision to completion.

But, I've been blessed by the chance to work with really great orchestra conductors…sure, they have their own individual perspectives. And of course we don't always share the same opinion or manner of doing things. But that's what keeps it interesting.

This week, we are in final rehearsals for our performance of the amazingly powerful Requiem by Giuseppe Verdi. And just in time, too…the world will note his 200th birthday the night of our final dress rehearsal.

We are honored to share the stage with our amazing orchestral partners at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. And I am very happy to be preparing the chorus for Maestro Krzysztof Urbanski, music director of the ISO, and a truly gifted musician and conductor.

Watching Krzysztof work is a joy. His ears are incredible…he hears everything. And his conducting is powerful yet clear, inspiring and full of music. Then there's his brain…usually working completely from memory, he knows each detail of the score, and often brings fresh, even new, interpretive ideas to our rehearsals. The result is a new and interesting way to look at the music we know well, sometimes from years of previous performances. It never gets old.

Training the choir, working with them, encouraging the singers…then turning them loose to do their best with someone else. Sometimes I imagine this is what parenting feels like. Raise the kids, teach them best as you can, then hope for the best as they make their way on their own, just out of reach. Risky at times? Sure. Rewarding to see when it “clicks”? You bet!

If you're there at Hilbert Circle Theater on Friday or Saturday (and I hope you are…it's going to be simply stunning), you'll see me in my usual place in the side box. Hanging on every note, trying desperately not to be too obvious as my hands and arms involuntarily conduct along with the music. And beaming with pride when it's over, watching my happy singers receive the applause of the crowds.

Just like my brother at his kids' cross-country meets and basketball games, I'm lucky to be the “parent.” Great music, terrific singers, learning from the maestros, and the chance to scale the peaks of the musical mountains together, savoring the view and lessons learned.