Joy, thou beauteous godly lighting,
Daughter of Elysium,
Fire drunken we are ent’ring
Heavenly, thy holy home!
Thy enchantments bind together,
What did custom stern divide;
Every man becomes a brother,
Where thy gentle wings abide.
Be embrac’d, ye millions yonder!
Take this kiss throughout the world!
Brothers—o’er the stars unfurl’d
Must reside a loving father.
–Friedrich Schiller, 1786
Last night the Greenville Chorale joined forces with the Greenville Symphony Orchestra for a performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. The 9th is one of my favorite pieces, and I’ve had the privilege to perform it once before. Last night’s performance, though was one of the most stirring I’ve ever experienced.
For the Chorale, the piece came together fairly quickly. Many of us were familiar with the music, but also the chorus doesn’t sing that much in the concert. We’re only there for the last half of the last movement of the piece – about 20 minutes worth. Bing Vick often let us out of rehearsals early, which was a nice change of pace.
However, that is a VERY challenging 20 minutes. First there is the range. The piece is written at the extreme upper vocal range for all parts. I can’t think of another piece that has the basses singing a high F as many times and as long as this one does. Then there was the tempo set by Maestro Tchivzhel – fast, then blindingly fast. We had to squeeze a mouthful of German syllables into such a fast pace that I don’t think any of us got all of the words correct, even in the final performance. Oh, yeah, they had to be on the right pitches and at the right dynamic, too. It was a bear.