So, the chorus concert last Friday?
Okay, so I still didn't particularly like the first three songs -- especially the middle one of the three, which had moments of beauty but moments of being way too modern, and the poems that were the lyrics were, I swear, written by someone with functional knowledge of English grammar and a very limited and dysfunctional vocabulary, because so much of it did not make any sense. Honestly, I find it easier to sing in Finnish (Aamulla varhain, kun aurinko nousi, kun minä unestani heräsin), which I don't know, than to sing something in English that is grammatical but bizarre (Nor change the Pasture, but the Place, to feed off Thee in Thine own Face wtf?)
... as an aside, I feel ... odd ... about the fact that so much of what we sing is Christian, or at best Judeo-Christian, in a choir affiliated with a university (rather than a church, and it isn't even a religious university). I know that a lot of good western-style music was written for churches, for masses, for a largely Christian-oriented society, but on the other hand, it's ... I don't even know. And I don't have a personal problem singing about Jesus, or about God, but I wonder if other people do.
But anyway, back to the concert. I had an urge, which of course went unexpressed, to tell the audience that the second half was going to be way better than the first half; I was worried that people might bail because the music was so weird. I don't know if anyone did, because while the first half was just us and an organ off to the side, the second half -- Vaughan Williams' Dona Nobis Pacem -- had orchestra, so I couldn't see the audience at all.
(Where I sit -- where I have to sit, to the side of the main choir in the front because I can't really fit on the risers at all -- is, shall we say, entertaining, because in front of me are the french horns, and directly on my right is the percussion section. When everything's at full volume, I can't hear what I'm singing. At all.)
When we started the quarter, I wasn't sure about the VW piece, because it had some amount of clashy weirdness with shifting tonalities. It's not the soft gentle Dona Nobis Pacem round that most people are familiar with. It's a plea for peace, but it's also sounds of war, with a lot of lyrics coming from Walt Whitman poetry and from scripture (OT, not NT), and it's gorgeous and powerful and needless to say, over the course of the quarter, it grew on me. :)
It was kind of amusing at the end, though. As a performer, as a conductor, you are intensely aware of the timing of applause. With some pieces, the applause starts too soon, before the music has finished, or in the wrong place, regardless of the conductor's body language; the ideal, IMO, is a heartbeat or two of silence before the applause starts. Which we got with the first three songs.
But with the VW, which has a recurring theme of the change between dona nobis pacem and sounds of war, there's this wonderful climactic ending, loud and full-instrumented and full-voiced and gorgeous and glorious, that quiets down into dona nobis pacem, and at the end, just, pacem, alternating between the chorus and the soprano soloist, ever softer, pacem, pacem, with the soloist getting the last word in, ppp decrescing into nothing ... and then silence, for a long time. I didn't think to start counting seconds or heartbeats, but it seemed endless, us standing still and barely breathing, the orchestra still because it had been a capella for the last few pages, the conductor perfectly still with a look of satisfaction on his face. Forever silence, except not.
Granted, there were other points in the concert where dead silence didn't mean end-of-song, and other places where he wasn't conducting (when it was just the organist playing) or was conducting with minimal movement, so there were no obvious cues for the audience to follow.
It wasn't quite an awkward amount of silence, and it was appropriate for the piece; but from the perspective of a performer, it's just *strange* to have that much of a stretch of silence.