Sunday, December 21, 2008

Passing into the West

Today we made history.

Today, the combined choir of the Young KL Singers, the Malaysian Institute of Arts Music Department and the KL Children's Choir ended their three-day run of Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings Symphony at the Dewan Philharmonic Petronas with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra.

The show premiered on the 19th of December. Four months of blood, sweat, more tears than I could possibly imagine, worry and stress, culminating in three nights of fear and trembling on stage, wanting to do the best we possibly could. Two nights of missed cues, thumping hearts, wrong notes. And it all ended in the best performance we've ever done.

Hearing the refrain Nef aear, si nef aearon echo in the symphony hall was one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard - no mistakes, perfect time, voices light as air, clear as glass.

Listening to the men's chorus singing the Dwarven refrain of Un du abad, ku gan aga aznan on that last lifted note swell with the tenors in high register took my breath away. It was beautiful. It was moving. It was everything it was supposed to be and it brought tears to my eyes for the first time since we started singing in the symphony hall.

And when the same men's chorus stormed into 'Urus ni buzra! Arras talbabi filluma! with full deep bass volume, it was all I could do to not smile from ear to ear because of just how proud I was of them. Our men! (For the record, Asian voices don't do bass very well. Lots of tenors, lots of baritones, true basses? Very hard to find. Most of our basses are either transplanted baritones, or else they have the range of a Bass 1, ie: not that low. This part of the symphony was one hell of a challenge for them and they pulled it off.)

Today, things just fell into place. Clicked, like magic. The women sounded like the warriors they were supposed to be in Movement 3, mysterious and bell-like like the Elves they sang about in Movement 2, full of fire and rage in Movement 5 and Movement 6. The men rounded out that sound in all the Movements - warm, rounded tones, solid. And the children sang like angels, especially our boy soprano. The mezzo soprano and baritone soloists were on the top of their form - perfect performance today, all shivers down spine.

The soprano solo of 'Into the West' in the last Movement has never failed to touch me every time I've heard it these last few days. Today though, it brought me to the verge of tears because in a way, that's been our journey - all the rehearsals and the insane administrative work, and worrying about just how we're going to sound and how prepared we are - and now, it's over. Like the Grey Ships, we're passing into the West too.

It's been hard. I've been ill for the entire week, and have totally lost my voice, but today I managed to sing the last three Movements (I'll pay for it tomorrow I'm sure.) It's been a logistic nightmare in many, many ways.

But I would do it all over again, if just to hear the echoes of the choir's voices rising and falling, supporting Ann de Renais' bell-like 'Into the West' as it lifts into the air. This is why I joined choir. This is why I work for a choral academy. This is why, like a sucker for punishment, I come back to choir again and again. Because it's a labour of love. Because to hear something as perfect as this and know we've helped to make it happen is the best reward for all those agonizing months. And just maybe, sometimes, it's all the reason I need to carry on.

And all will turn to silver glass
A light on the water
Grey ships pass
Into the West.

Bravo, MPO Lord of the Rings choir. I am so. Damned. Proud. Of all of you.


kyrielle said...


Snickering Corpses said...

Wandered onto your blog by way of one of your followers who commented on a friend of mine's blog.

I'd not heard of this Symphony before. Is there video of it somewhere online?

I am also now curious, from comment in posts further down, were you ever on OS? Furstack is familiar, though it could appear in many places.