Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
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Bach’s “St John Passion”

After several weeks of intense rehearsals, and having a tenor-line rehearsal track on continuous play-back in my car so I could get things into my head and voice as I was driving, we reached the final week of rehearsals and met the performance conductor, Stephen Layton. He is a very famous choral conductor and has done Bach’s St John Passion about a hundred times, so we were very aware that he would know his stuff. In contrast, I believe that this was going to be the first time the TSO had done it, although a few of the choristers had performed it before, and the TSO Chorus had done the St Matthew Passion a few years ago. Apparently we were a larger-than-typical choir for this particular work, but we were all keen to do it well.

By all accounts, tonight’s performance was a resounding success, with fantastic soloists, sensitive orchestral playing, and powerful choral singing. All the things that Stephen Layton had urged us to do were achieved and there were some intense dramatic moments as the Passion story progressed. Stephen Layton seemed happy with the performance which pleased everyone. It was a long, challenging sing—nearly two hours with no interval—with demanding emotional contrasts between the chorales and the “mob” choruses, and the chorus is standing for much of the performance, which meant that we were all feeling a mix of weariness and adrenaline high at the end of it. Many of the audience gave us a standing ovation once they realised the performance had ended (or, at least, were prepared to break the atmosphere of the moment): we did the final climactic chorale, then there was silence and it took a bit longer than anyone expected for the applause to begin … but it was thunderous when it did.

Here are some photos (the first two were taken by James Powell-Davies and the final one by David Horn). I am second from the right in the second back row in the first photo, and in the second you can see that we were many in number, especially in comparison to the size of the orchestra. The final photo is the post-concert celebratory group photo (and I’m way up the back standing on a chair).

We had good reviews from those who saw it, and we also had some great feedback from the conductor:

Please pass on this message with my heartfelt thanks to the TS0 and chorus for the wonderful week of music making culminating in Saturday’s performance of the St John Passion. I have taken part in many performances of this music since my childhood. This was a fine one. Unusually the audience in Hobart in Federation hall were remarkably still. We did not really ever hear them. I cannot remember such quiet. This sense of peace in the building said it all – Peace in the hall but electricity on the stage.

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