Mahler 8th “Symphony of a Thousand”, Ely Cathedral, 07.07.18

Ely Cathedral on the morning of M8 concert 07.07.18

A reflection on Mahler 8 by Frank, one of our wonderful bass singers…

Our first rehearsal with Brian was hard work for all with only three main voice parts (S)ATB and a small cohort of singers We worked mainly on words and rhythm. Pitching was problematic at times. His positivity and ability to fix things enabled us to keep going productively whilst realising how much work there was to do at home.

On the Friday as we converged on Cambridge, the heat and crowds increased. Michael led us to the rehearsal Hall, where Mark, a young conductor took first piano, and then orchestral rehearsal. His most helpful suggestion was to focus on getting the timing correct for phrases. Interplay between choir 1 and 2 needed work.

Saturday lunchtime we were sitting in the shade of our venue having a coffee and watching the ducks sleep, whilst receiving pictures taken from the Cathedral roof by Patrick.  Tim, our conductor worked very effectively on balance and timing as the temperature in the cathedral slowly climbed. Sitting right beside choir 2 required some adjustment for choir 1!  We assembled in the Lady Chapel for warm- up in full concert dress. As a nod to the heat we were allowed to take water on stage for the short interval between part 1 and part 2 only.

The performance to a full house went very well with tempi differing from rehearsal, as is not unusual. During the mystical chorus one bass with wonderful subterranean tone resonated throughout the section. Mater Gloriosa sang magnificently from behind us in the pulpit as the tumultuous end approached.

Early next morning came the dawn chorus. Ely Cathedral stood against the dawning light. The return journey was marred by bus substitutions for many. Traversing the cacophony of airport shops, eventually the noise, heat and crowds diminished to a dreaming on the island ferry.