It’s the end of Day 2 of rehearsal. Our singers are from across the U.S. and Canada, and we convene in a central location for several days of in-person rehearsal before our annual tour. Oasis Chorale is a unique non-profit in that it only exists “in-person” two weeks out of the year. It makes these days of music-making extra special for returning singers (who have sung with Oasis Chorale for years) and new singers alike. This year, our rehearsal days are in Harrisonburg, VA, and our singers are lodging with local choir members, or local Mennonite hosts. I am staying at fellow alto Gina’s house with several other singers. Last night several of the vocalists were collaboratively planning choreography for our South African piece. It was fun to watch the artists’ planning in progress.
Today I remembered that I started singing with Oasis Chorale in 2012, and that this is my ninth season with the choir! (I found an old picture: me, a fresh-faced college student, eating ice cream with Kristin Nolt at a mall during a lunch stop in Chicago.) I’m reflecting on the relationships I’ve built through choir over the years, how I’ve grown as a singer, and how choir has formed my spiritual imagination. I think, too, of the many churches and church communities we’ve collaborated with over the years. Singing with Oasis has been a gift.
For rehearsal, it’s suggested that we arrive to our 8:45 a.m. call time having done personal warm-up, and if possible, some light physical exercise. I chose the latter and ran two miles at 6:00 a.m.
In rehearsal, Wendell Nisly works several pieces with us individually, and then we run several songs together as a set, completely memorized. After lunch, we have vocal coaching with vocal coach Rosemary Eberly-Lebold, followed by sectional rehearsal. Kristin Nolt is our new alto section leader, and today she worked with us on our resonance in the Latin piece, “O Salutaris Hostia.” Mid-afternoon, we pick up where we left off in the morning.
One change we have made recently is adding an extra day of rehearsal before tour. In the past, we have had two eight-hour days of rehearsal, but this year we have an extra day of rehearsal on the front end of tour. How luxurious! It is especially helpful to give us extra runs on our memorized pieces, not to mention cleaning up rhythms, solidifying intonation, finding our sound, and exploring color.
Tonight after dinner, a small ensemble rehearsed their portion of Mendelssohn’s “Psalm 100,” while other choir members headed to a gym for some exercise to loosen up that “folder shoulder” tension.
Esther Swartzentruber, Alto 1