09 March 2006

Vocal contributions

Last night I went to try out a chorus in my local neighborhood. I've always loved singing, and in Iceland almost every man, woman, and child is in some kind of performing group of some kind. If instruments aren't your thing, there are choirs everywhere. Many of them are kvennakór (wpmen's chorus), since apparently the guys are all off playing bass or something, but I always preferred the richness one only gets with men and women together. When J got started on his musical group (woodwind ensemble conducted by our former upstairs neighbor) it was time for me to find a way to be part of the musical life of the country.

On Saturday, a friend we haven't seen in a while came to the party and said his wife was in a group that practices at a church right in our neighborhood, and they had both men and women. I went yesterday for the first time, and as with most things here, it was totally new and strange in some ways, but certain themes of Iceland are already becoming familiar and comforting.

It's a church choir, so the practice was in the activities building to the side of the church. The building is complete with the usual area for drinking coffee after church on Sunday, the church-vestibule coatrack, and lots of nice church-ladies in the chorus. Last night was a sectional rehearsal, so the only guys I saw were the ones who'd forgotten they were supposed to come in the second hour, but all the women were very friendly, although I think I'm the youngest in the group.

The director was just the kind of person you'd expect to be a chorus director- somewhat slight of build, picking the melody and harmony out enthusiastically on his electric piano as his blond hair fell into his eyes, his toe keeping time with the quarter notes. He even had a stripey chorus-director scarf. All of this was so familiar to me that it seemed odd that he was giving all the instructions in Icelandic, accompanied by the usual hand gestures meant to be a visual representation of the tune we were singing.

After a flurry of paper passing-out, we got started with the usual vocal warm-ups. It's been years since I was in a group, but by the time we started in on the new music, things were coming right back to me- the counting of notes, the listening for where the soprano and alto notes blended into a nice moment, the pronunciation of the Latin words. The ritual of singing practice is exactly the same here, although after getting lost in the tune and interweaving voices, it was an odd shock to have the intricacies of a phrase explained in this language I'm still grasping to understand.

I think I'll be back though, since it seems that the living-in-Iceland experience is incomplete until you're in a musical ensemble. Plus, there's talk of a singing trip to Italy in June... can't argue with that!

Ship sighting: I saw the research vessel Triton on the horizon this morning, and apparently it's a special type of boat, as this website explains. It's got a trimaran hullform, at 98 meters long, is the world's biggest sea-going trimaran. I guess it's a bit of a design experiment, so the research it's doing sounds more along the lines of boat design and military equipment than what's living at the bottom of the sea. Still, could be cool to see up close so I'm thinking of heading down to the harbor to find it later today.


SB said...

I'd stick with the group if only for the trip to Italy ;D

What's going on with your weaving and knitting? There are groups that meet for those sorts of activities too. If you can find a 'Saumaklubbur' I think you'd love that. That's where 'the girls' meet, chat and do some pretend knitting as they stuff themselves with delicious snacks and redwine :D

Great mama said...

Gott hjá þér! It's true most Icelanders are in a choir and/or play an instrument.
This will be a nice experience for you and will help you to become fluent in Icelandic.
I have never been in a church choir, but my husband has and he liked it. I'll stick with my 125 ladies in the biggest womens choir in Iceland.

ECS said...

Hi S!

I am still waiting for my loom parts before I get going on the weaving (thanks ShopUSA for losing my invoice!) but I have heard things about the ol' saumaklubbur. I've got people interested in coming to learn about weaving so maybe I can establish something around that.

tsduff said...

Oh, did your loom break? I remember how joyous you were when it finally came in.

When I was in Albania, I got to watch the women making mats and rugs on giant looms. It looked fabulous - wish I knew how. One thing at a time I guess... I'm trying to be a sculptor at the moment :-)

ECS said...

tsduff: my loom was broken when it arrived, due to insufficient padding in the box, and it's taken all this time to get the replacement parts. They arrived on Monday and it was the wrong leg... so frustrating! However, J's brother is coming on Tuesday and should have the correct piece, if they let him through with a four-foot piece of wood! I'll be weaving soon, hopefully.