23 July, 2010

Confessions of a Chorus Member: Susan Bowden

Festival Chorus member Susan Bowden talks about her nerve-racking first audition, the thrill of a standing ovation and wardrobe worries backstage.

Where to start? I arrived in the festival chorus in 1989 having done higher music at school. A friend of my mums brought me along to an empty Usher Hall to listen to a rehearsal and I was blown away by the sound. So after one very nerve-racking audition with Arthur Oldham, 'sight-reading terrible' he said, 'you are not supposed to improvise!' I was a member of the Festival chorus.

The first piece I ever sang in the festival was the memorable Brahms Requiem, terrifying when you have never sung in German before. Over the years there have many memorable concerts, the large choral works, opera recordings, one great memory was the St Petersburg Phil and Yuri Teramakanov we rehearsed in the Meadowbank stadium and they wheeled in a Television at half time for the orchestra to watch what was unfolding in Russia as Communism fell. As the orchestra took to the stage the audience gave a standing ovation, the Mozart Requiem has never felt so emotional.

There is always a great anticipation as August approaches, the first piano rehearsal with the visiting conductor and the great day when the full orchestration comes to life! It is always fascinating to hear the music we have heard Sam Hutchings playing on the grand piano in rehearsal, filling the Usher Hall.

Over the years I have made many great friends, the chorus is a very friendly group, some people have been there for many years and some only a few. But we all share a common goal of making the best music we possibly can, helped by our chorus master Christopher Bell. He keeps us working hard throughout the year, and we share lots of funny moments.

We have El Nino, Mahler 3, and Mahler 8 and the men have opera, Puccini , I am probably most excited by Mahler 3 with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, but all our concerts are filled with excitement. Live music is always best, the only way to really share in the excitement and atmosphere. The best feeling is the opening concert but many concerts take you by surprise, it is always a great adventure, even sitting backstage trying not to get dust on your black outfit before going on stage builds the excitement. Here’s to a great Festival 2010.

To find out more about the Festival Chorus go here.

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