Last week my choir held the usual Christmas concert that I've mentioned here before, and the event turned out to be one of those classic Icelandic evenings. This year's program was Bach's Magnificat, a glorious piece of baroque frivolousness, paired with a piece newly written over the past few months. The choir director has been in a composing program at school here, and decided to write a chorale as his final thesis. As he finished the chapters over the fall, we rehearsed them along with the Bach piece, re-learning as he re-wrote, trying to grasp his new sound and do justice to his creation as we brought it to light.
The rehearsals with the baroque orchestra began a week before the concert, and at the last rehearsal on the Sunday before our concert, things were sounding a bit iffy. Soloists were getting lost, the timing of the instruments was off, the choir anxious and uncertain of entrances, notes that had been changed at the last minute, unable to hear each other, shuffling the risers in the back rows. Too late to do anything but hope at that point though, so the on the evening of the performance, as I watched from the side chapel as the church fill with concertgoers, I hoped we'd do justice to this new piece, and to all these people who were paying to hear our efforts.
As always though, once the overture began, nothing else mattered but the Bach that we'd been practicing for nearly a year. It's a piece I hope I sing again, although as each movement whizzed by I found myself wondering if or where that might ever happen again. There wasn't much time to ponder this since we filed offstage the instant the last chord was over to mill about in the church's cellar.
Finally, time for the director's piece. Somehow, despite the frustrating performance, it all came together just how it was supposed to- the girls' choir came in right on cue, the soloists remembered their pieces, we found our places and our voices in the choir, and at the end, the director's look of gratitude directed at us said it all. The audience seemed to agree, and one standing ovation and several encores later, I marveled at all the only-in-Iceland features that came together to make this evening possible. There we were, an amateur choir composed of a very motley crew of people, representing all ages, many different professions, a sprinkling of nationalities, along with the elite from Iceland's symphony orchestra, some of the best soloists the country has to offer, all performing a piece that had been written just in a few months by the guy who's guided our choir through four countries now. Doesn't happen every night in a girl's life.
We rounded out the evening with a champagne toast and a hilariously cheesy cake featuring a full-color photograph of the director, as ordered by his wife (she ate the piece with his face on it). The elation of the well-performed concert combined with the liberal champagne made for a joyful and conversational after-party. As it began to wind down, I slipped off my fancy-yet-uncomfortable concert shoes, and back in my boots, I walked the few blocks home in the crisply starry night, arpeggios still trilling in my ears.