“Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, Resurrection”

Ordinarily if I were reading through a program of events, or flicking through the newspaper scouting advertisements of shows, this is not a title that would stop me. Not even for a second. And yet, I’ll be engaging with this event perhaps more than any other during my time ‘in’ Hamburg.

On the weekend I attended a tenor/bass rehearsal of the choir. Next week I’ll listened to another in the Conversations series, a discussion between choir master Emily Cox and QSO Director Richard Wenn. And finally, perhaps most excitingly, I will attend the final rehearsal of the performance, with both the Brisbane-based choir members and the Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra.

Watching an hour or so of the rehearsal has started to built up my anticipation of this event. I was fascinated by Emily Cox’s direction of the choir during her rehearsal. Her drill sergeant intensity balanced with a gentle, artistic finesse had me engrossed as I listened to the men begin to master both the sound and the aesthetic connection she asked of them.

This was, I gathered, a short performance for a choir, and yet perhaps demanded more of them than any other performance would. The rehearsal, and Mahler’s work, required that they leave their egos at the door and really connect with one another so that they may produce a sound, a feeling, an experience that truly reflected what Mahler had intended when he wrote those words, those lines, those dots of music on paper so long ago.

Female choir master with blond hair leads a bass and tenor rehearsal of Mahler's Resurrection

“… It’s a human act of feeling the sense, the text in the chord.” The choir master searched for words as she constantly worked to connect the mechanics of technique with each man’s own thoughts, experiences and feelings.

This connection to story, to emotion and imagery is something I’ve never been able to feel when listening to classical music. Well that’s not entirely true. I do feel something, and I do hear the emotion but I’ve never really felt that I’ve understood or experienced it ‘well’ enough, if that makes any sense at all. I’ve always felt that it was above my artistic understandings, or that there must be more in the music that I just don’t ‘get’ because I can’t read music, or play the piano, or generate any kind of small talk about ‘great’ composers.

Unlike other art forms I’ve never felt myself entirely carried away by classical music.

I was in the Conservatorium Youth Choir for a very short time during early high school. I struggled with the rehearsals. I struggled with the music. I struggled with the musicianship classes. And the complexity, the demanding nature of this rehearsal, and of this piece of music illustrated why I wasn’t successful in my first opportunity to become a life-long ‘knower’ of classical music.

One, I didn’t have the patience (particularly as a 14 year old after the novelty of my afternoons at “The Con” wore off(.

And two, it just wasn’t my ‘thing’.

That said, I left this rehearsal eager to hear the final product. To listen to the Australian choir as they joined the German orchestra in bringing to life this massive piece of music. To see if I could, if I would feel all that Mahler wrote into his music.

Behind the Scenes of an Opera Rehearsal

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