Wednesday, September 27, 2006

…but a place to sing?

So, I've been here over a week now. All's going well, although I still have no chequebook or bank card, or, for that matter, money. Ho-hum. These are minor details, life in "colocation" goes hyper-bien, and today I even bought us a little whiteboard memoboard thing for the kitchen so that we can leave each other messages. Cunning! Well, I thought so.
Anyhoo, yesterday I finally got myself organised with all the relevant info on the "institut de musique sacrée" and decided to go along to see what the "A la francaise" choir (which is the institut's baroque choir) was like, before moving on to the rehearsal for the mixed choir at the cathedral. However, four and a half hours later I returned to the flat somewhat depressed, and here is why:
The first choir (the baroque one) was, I suppose, between 40 and 50 people, average age 40/45 (despite supposedly being the catholic university's choir).I spoke to their chef de choeur, who said it was fine for me to listen and that I could audition next week, he then went off to finish auditioning this week's candidates and left the choir in the capable hands of his assistant who is English and, amongst other things, used to be at Canterbury cathedral. I introduced myself to him and he immediately said that although he didn't want to frighten me away, the choir was good by french standards but by british standards I would be bored, because french singers don't sight-read. They were singing some lovely music, but after half an hour of warm up they did spend the remainder of their two hour rehearsal on one piece, and it wasn't the first time they'd looked at it…They prepare just one concert programme and perform it twice in march, with two hours practice weekly: nice stuff, and friendly people, but a little slow-going…
So, thinking I might find better elsewhere, I toddled off to the cathedral song-school. Oh Dear. That was a mistake. There was me thinking that the biggest church in the second biggest city would have a decent choir, and certainly a decent director of music. Clearly I have been living on planet nonsense for the last 21 years. The "choeur mixte de la primatiale" fancies itself a lot, has made recordings and flashy leaflets, and promotes itself as Lyon's premier adult liturgical choir. They go on tour at least once every two years, and they like to prepare big works for concerts, as well as the usual sunday/festival repertoire: this year they're doing Brahms Deutches Requiem (YAY!! think I). Sounding good? At 8.15, as we waited for the 8.30 rehearsal, that's what I thought too. But by 8.30 there were a good 50-60 singers in the room. My audition consisted of "oh hello. you emailed me. can you read music?" to which I replied "yes" and was told I could take a seat. Once again, the rehearsal was two hours long, consisting of half an hour's warm up, an hour's sectional work note-bashing through three or four short pieces, and half an hour putting those same pieces with the men. The only comments made were about notes, none of them about style, and the maître de chappelle had a particularly vague manner of conducting the rehearsal (from the piano) The entire rehearsal (after the warm up) was conducted SEATED, and as a result the sound was not great although I could tell there were a select few with rather good voices. Average age 55/60. At one point he decided to rehearse an agnus dei for sunday's service unaccompanied. Twice through, both times choir sank by a not quite perfect tone. Mmm tasty. So I politely indicated that I had a few other choirs to see this week and that I'd let him know whether I was staying or not, and left.
So that was rather a flop. Definitely can't be bothered to sit through the cathedral choir all year, especially as I fear they are amplified in the cathedral (ugh!), probably don't have the patience to bother with the baroque choir either. However, this is by no means the end. The Institut have various other choirs, most of which are clearly equally as slow-going, but one is a gregorian choir and is new and starts next week, so I'll see about that. David the pianist guy also said he's keen to set up a sight-reading choir (shock horror)at a church in the 6eme, and he took my number so he can get hold of me for that. Hooray! And I can always set up my own chamber choir (no, really, there are millions of choirless churches round here!). Also, I have an audition for the lyon oratorio choir (of a more professional standing) on october 11th, so if I get into that it might be better (note, might…).
With choirs on the back-burner for a few days, today I turned my attention to the next problem in line, that of a singing teacher. I went to the Conservatoire National de la Région, which is the equivalent of the county music service as far as I can make out. Hélas, one has to do a concours to enter and that's happened already. However, the girl gave me three people to contact about private lessons, so that might work. Second, I went to the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique et Danse, where they were totally unable to help me apart from to let me leave a message for a singing teacher I had already been recommended there, so I did that and hopefully I might hear back eventually. Meanwhile, if I want to I can enrol on a singing course at the Institut de Musique Sacrée, which would give me singing lessons and masterclasses and a diplôme at the end of the year, but I've no idea what their teachers are like and I'd have to enrol on that this week, and commit for the whole year–might phone the teachers and see if I can have a taster lesson first!
Those of you who don't sing will by now be as bored as can be. So I will shut up. Ttfn!

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