09 August, 2010

Confessions of a Chorus Member: Anne Backhouse

Festival Chorus Member Anne Backhouse talks about her BBC Proms experience...

I was a member of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus from 1996-2003 and have just rejoined. I was tempted back by the prospect of singing Mahler’s 8th Symphony for the first time, and Christopher’s ‘good and bad news’ announcement of a trip to the Proms only came after we’d started rehearsals. The bad news was that the work to be performed was Mahler’s 3rd Symphony and only the ladies of the Chorus would be needed. Singing at the Proms has always been a dream of mine and now it was going to be fulfilled.

We travelled down to London by train the day before the concert and stayed at Imperial College, a great location only 5 minutes away from the Albert Hall. I made the most of being there and went to 2 other Prom concerts and it certainly added to the excitement, sitting in the audience thinking I’ll be on that stage tomorrow!

The Festival Chorus Ladies and the RSNO Junior Chorus, were performing with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill and conductor Donald Runnicles. Our big moment comes in the 5th movement and, after a very long sit, we rose to our feet for our 3 minutes of ‘angelic’ singing. The very precise timings of our stand and sit were the cause of some anxiety, especially coping with tip-up seats, but all went well and, after the intensely moving final movement, there was thunderous applause. Back in the dressing room Christopher appeared to pass on congratulations and compliments. As chorus master of both choirs it was a very special occasion for him.

It’s hard to describe the thrill of being part of such a wonderful performance, but one privilege of sitting in the choir is being able to watch the clarity, passion and intensity of Donald Runnicles’ conducting. I can’t wait for Mahler 8!

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