So, in a couple of weeks I have a concert, entitled Equinox: Cultures in Harmony. The blurb on our flyers states it is "inspired by the 2012 Olympics" and it's an ambitious project involving not only us, but several choral groups from around Birmingham, including but not limited to a Polish folk group, a Chinese choir, Sanchita Pal Ensemble (Hindi), SHAAM (Arabic), Black Voices, Town Hall Gospel Choir, World Youth Chorus (or similar), Bournville Young Singers and two percussion groups. Each of the groups is performing an example of their own style of music. CBC are doing three Shakespeare songs by Vaughan Williams, and "Sumer is icumen in", an old folk song - not quite our usual repertoire but Messiah is the only thing we're known for and it's a bit long. :P Then all of the groups are joining together to perform a Brand Shiny New composition entitled Koinonia by local composer, Chris Long (in fact, it transpires it's his PhD thesis).
I started off being quite enthusastic about this concert, and had all these great ideas to drum up interest in attendance. I was going to create an event on Facebook, invite everyone and get everyone to invite everyone else (as it will hopefully appeal to a wide range of people, not just the stuffy Symphony Hall patrons), and once I'd done that I was going to spam celebrities on Twitter asking for re-tweets - such as Gareth Malone, Sue Perkins, Stephen Fry - in an attempt to get it out there in the bigger sphere.
Here's the thing. The concert is on 17th March. It is now inconveniencing me in so many different ways that I'm losing all enthusiasm for it.
- For starters, it is Lloyd's birthday meal on that date, over at Las Iguanas. If it was at a different time and anywhere near Brindley Place I might at least stand a chance of getting food in the break between rehearsal and concert, but unfortunately the Arcadian is too far away and the meal isn't until 7.30, when the concert actually starts. Lloyd recently created the Facebook event and said it was on Friday so I might have had a chance of going, except obviously he put the wrong date in.
- Secondly, it is the day before Mother's Day. I am cooking this year, and would really prefer not to spend my entire frigging Saturday in Symphony Hall (rehearsal is at 11.00 with a performance from 7.30 until God-only-knows when), as ideally I would have liked to make the dessert on Saturday in advance. So now I will have to make the dessert on Friday night instead, if I can find something appropriate, and if not just make a pavlova well in advance and just whip some cream and add fruit on the day. I also need to send Paul out for ingredients on the Saturday in my absence, which takes a chunk out of his day as well, and means he'll have to leave the house twice (the second time being to come to my ill-fated concert, which means he also has to miss Lloyd's birthday out of loyalty to me). I will now have to get up early both days of the weekend because the starter is chicken liver pate (I need to find time to buy those in advance as I don't trust local butchers to stock them) and it needs time to set in the fridge. Thankfully the main course involves two hours of cooking and not much prep (hopefully), but still.
- As an upshot of this I decided I was going to book off Friday, 16th March as flex as I am eight hours in credit (having gained no less than 3.44 hours last week due to transcription stupidity), except because it's March everyone is using up their annual leave and the day is 'fully booked', so I didn't even bother trying. I am sorely tempted to switch to anniversary-based leave so as to avoid this nonsense.
- If the above wasn't bad enough, nobody is actually going to want to come to this concert because 17th March is St Patrick's Day, so any Brummie in their right mind is going to be watching the parade or down the Irish Quarter. Our multi-cultural concert, which is supposed to represent the wealth of cultures in our fair city, does not feature any Irish contribution, which frankly is stupid. Surely there must be Irish vocal or instrumental groups somewhere in Birmingham? Personally, I think it's a mistake to exclude such a large part of the city's heritage and culture.
- When this project was first in its infancy, they asked choir members to make suggestions to Chris Long about what we associated with Birmingham and its music. (We've ended up with Shakespeare songs because we do a lot of Vaughan Williams, the music is technically challenging, and Shakespeare was a local lad). Nobody suggested anything, or at least nothing interesting. In discussions we came up with plenty of quintessentially "English" aspects of music - such as the great British musical, Gilbert & Sullivan, and our ever-popular Messiah - but nobody could think of anything specifically Birmingham-related. I was going to suggest some sort of nod towards us being the city that birthed Metal, as I thought that might have created some interesting contrasts. Choral music over heavy guitar and drums sounds awesome. Except I kept forgetting, and given what the piece has ended up like, it would doubtless not have been taken on board anyway.
Don't get me wrong; the piece is amazing, and it will sound absolutely brilliant. It's just a bit cliché, somewhere midway between the simple melodies of Carmina Burana and the tribal influences of Adiemus. I was expecting something a bit more ambitious, with a few more influences other than Latin choral singing from our end.
My choir always manages to fail epically when it comes to scheduling concerts. The main one last season (if we exclude the Christmas run) was on 5th November, i.e. Bonfire Night. And then they wondered why nobody managed to sell any tickets. Well, probably because there are several fuck-off firework displays happening the same night, and nobody wants to come to Symphony Hall and listen to ancient Glagolitic, a language nobody speaks any more, in a piece they've never heard of. (I actually missed that concert due to having food poisoning, which was a shame as actually the Glagolitic Mass was amazing, if weird.)
I know it's not really their fault, and we're in competition with the CBSC and so many other choirs and groups in the city and the availability of the facilities must be a nightmare... but it's still an epic logic failure when it happens.
It frustrates me. I really try to be enthusiastic about what we do, and I really enjoy being part of a choir when it all comes together and sounds awesome. Watching The Choir reminds me of what being in a choir SHOULD be about; I honestly believe Gareth Malone should be given a knighthood for what he does. But the pressures of rehearsal - especially when we're doing something especially challenging and are threatened with being kicked out of the concert if we don't have minimum attendance - and the constant reminder that some of us are less important than the rest when it comes to solo opportunities or selective groups... it grinds me down. Since the latest committee changes, things seem to be getting even more high-pressure, selective and SRS BIZNIZ, and that isn't what I want. This is supposed to be my hobby, as I've often said, and nine times out of ten it's a pain in the arse.
I think when I was a student I could cope better with the pressure of a big choir, because I had less going on in my life that was otherwise stressing me out. With CBC I feel like a very little fish in a very big pond, powerless against the flow, and infinitely frustrated with long-time members who think they know better than Adrian, who don't try hard enough in rehearsals and make the process even more long-winded. We are now less than a fortnight away from the concert and there are still members of the choir who haven't learnt the Shakespeare songs yet. We are supposed to be doing these from memory, and whenever Adrian tells us to put our music away he is presented with affronted stares. Yes, I know it's hard without that sheet music security blanket, but STFU and learn it. If you can't learn it, don't bother doing the concert. Someone needs to actually have the balls to SAY THIS, to weed out those who aren't pulling their weight, but it won't happen.
I think in retrospect I much prefer the atmosphere and music-making of a chamber choir. My time in Chamber Choir at school was one of my happiest choir-related experiences, not just because I was with friends but because that's the kind of sound I enjoy. There is no place for operatic vibrato in a choir the size of CBC, especially in exposed a capella pieces where tuning is paramount. Adrian tells them over and over again to tone it down, they behave for five seconds when he's standing nearby and then revert to form again when he goes away. If you want to be a super-special diva with your voice training, go and join an amateur operatics group instead.
Grrrrr. Rage. I actually tried to make a Facebook event for the concert yesterday but work's internet ate it and sapped my enthusiasm again. IDGAF any more. I'll do the concert and it will doubtless be full-on amazing, but nobody will be there to see it. Apparently we've sold about 500 tickets; that's a fifth of Symphony Hall's capacity. There is normally a last-minute rush towards the end, but we still probably won't break even, which means subs. will go up and they'll moan at us to sell more tickets again, without realising it's nothing to do with what we're performing or who we're performing it with, it's because they have no logic when it comes to dates.
I don't know what the solution is, really. I keep investigating local smaller choirs but they are uber-selective and membership is usually closed, so there's no chance. I don't think I would be good enough to get in even if I tried. I really need to think seriously about my fuure in CBC, because this constant ambiguity is exhausting. I want to sing in a choir and enjoy it, not feel pressurised, disheartened and guilty...
Blah blah moan moan.
Interestingly, in the midst of relating the Transcription Fail to Paul on Friday night, he asked me what I thought my nickname might be amongst my colleagues, if they were to adopt the same approach as me. At this juncture, I suspect it would be Moody. :P