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Elly on the Arts: Singing stories from the Big Apple

Last time we talked about the Flin Flon Community Choir’s trip to New York City to sing Handel’s Messiah in 2013. We were singing with a mass choir from all over the world.
A choir singing.

In our last column, we asked for memorable moments from Flin Flon’s arts and culture world but we have not had any thus far. No matter - we will plow ahead with our own recollections. If the spirit moves you, however, do feel free to chime in. We love those stories.

Last time we talked about the Flin Flon Community Choir’s trip to New York City to sing Handel’s Messiah in 2013. We were singing with a mass choir from all over the world - literally - in the famous Avery Fisher Hall in the Lincoln Centre. That’s the same complex that houses the New York Opera, in the building with all the arches on its facade.

The organization that plans and executes these events is Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY). They specialize in bringing together people who love to sing and creating a marvelous experience for them in one of the greatest venues in the world. When the community choir was there, they were joined by a choir from Australia, two choirs from the United States and a choir from Singapore made up of senior university choral students and recent alumni. They invited the Flin Flon Community Choir to share a sing-along with them in an off-site rehearsal hall on 45th or 46th Street West, somewhere between Ninth and Tenth Avenues.

They were very talented and had decided that a drum was necessary to set the tone (and presumably the rhythm) for the event. So off went our intrepid significant other, Tim, to locate and rent a suitable drum. Manhattan being Manhattan, everything is available and it’s within a ten-block radius. Needless to say, he found one and it came in a hard case with wheels, so he wheeled it along in midtown Manhattan, right to the rehearsal hall (up two flights of stairs - that wasn’t the easy part!) and then, back down again.

The group sang a couple of lovely songs that were totally unknown to the Flin Flon Community Choir and they made beautiful music. We sang some made-in-Manitoba pieces, then the Singaporean choir taught us a lullaby. It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon and we don’t really recall the drum being played. Perhaps it was so integral to the songs that it just blended in seamlessly. It was really quite a lot of fun, not the least of which was hauling a big drum around the streets of Manhattan.

The rehearsals for the big concert, which was on Sunday afternoon with a full orchestra and four gorgeous soloists, were held on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. Yup, that’s all! We had a rather abridged rehearsal Sunday morning so that the orchestra and the soloists could hear each others’ tunings. The choir really only learned how to get on and off the stage without mangling either our own or someone else’s ankles. Dr. Jonathan Griffiths, the maestro and artistic director of DCINY really expects perfection (in two days) and does not suffer fools gladly.

During rehearsals, choristers are expected to take their seats in the same formation as they will be in concert so that the sound produced is what the audience will hear. We had not yet had our hip surgery and so would be seated for most of the concert, in the front row of choristers. That meant that for rehearsals, we were seated about six feet from the director. It was terrifying! We were mouthing the words at one point, out of abject fear of making a wrong note and he called us out! After that, we sang, albeit very softly, even during bombastic movements.

There is more of this story and in two weeks, we will tell it, but suffice it to say that the actual performance was a triumph. The orchestra sounded amazing and it is always a thrill to be seated in the choir during an orchestral performance. The soloists were astonishing and the audience loved it. Dr. Griffiths said they would, but you know, we were not in Flin Flon anymore! Next time we will tell of Dr. G’s visit to the north.

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