Edinburgh Festival Chorus seeks new recruits

Oct 18 2011 | By More

Audition opportunity to sing at EIF 2012

A close up from during a rehearsal by the Edinburgh Festival Chorus for the Festival 2011 Opening Concert Das Paradies und die Peri. Photo by Eoin Carey.

By Thom Dibdin

The EIF’s much-vaunted Edinburgh Festival Chorus is looking for recruits to add to its existing 120 members.

The chorus is looking for “talented and enthusiastic” singers, who are invited to attend an open rehearsal, directed by Chorus Master Christopher Bell, on Tuesday 25 October at The Hub on Castlehill before signing up to audition.

Bell, speaking on an EIF podcast, says: “The chorus was established in the mid to late sixties to do a performance of Mahler’s 8th Symphony. The 8th Symphony is one of these iconic pieces – it doesn’t come around very often and it requires a very large orchestra, a very large chorus. At the time they didn’t feel that had a chorus the right size so they wanted to form a different  chorus and they took singers from all over Scotland, rehearsed them and brought them together to do this performance.”

That was in 1965, under the influence of the then EIF director Lord Harewood who brought the chorus together for that year’s opening concert with the Scottish National Orchestra. Public opinion was so positive about the performance, that it was repeated the next year, with only one soloist changed.

According to George Bruce, writing in his history of the EIF: Festival of the North: “The impact of the Scottish Festival Chorus, later renamed the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, was decisive.”

The chorus blog, Confessions of a Chorus Member, contains some fascinating insight to the operation of the chorus and the sheer joy of taking part.

Writing of the experience of attending his own audition, current member Jack Kirk recalls being quite blaze about the whole thing. Up until the point where he actually heard the chorus in action.

Truly thrilling

Kirk writes: “I arrive at the venue, find the stairs for the fourth floor. I’m on the first few steps when, evidently after a pause in the rehearsal, I suddenly hear the choir far above launch into the start of the first movement of Mahler’s 8th Symphony. I am transfixed. I have never heard a sound like the sopranos I am now hearing. They are rising to a tremendous fortissimo high note, truly thrilling – then over two or three bars descending melody they diminuendo to an exquisite pianissimo and a brilliant accompanist is taking the music on into a piano dolce section, amazingly simulating a full orchestra plus soprano soloist.

“As I wait outside the room I know that I badly want into this choir. I no longer fancy myself, this is no stroll. I need to pass this audition.”

Full time Chorus members take part in Festival concerts and there are touring and recording opportunities. Rehearsals are on Tuesday evenings from October to June and throughout the Festival period. For those who cannot commit to the full schedule there is the opportunity to enlist as an extra for the especially large scale works.

The Edinburgh Festival Chorus perform John Adam's El Nino as part of the Festival Opening Concert at Usher Hall August 2010. Photo by Claudine Quinn

The Edinburgh Festival Chorus perform John Adam's El Nino as part of the Festival Opening Concert at Usher Hall August 2010. Photo by Claudine Quinn

The Chorus has been at the heart of the EIF since that concert in 1965. Recent performances have included Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius with Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé in 2009 and Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 with Mariss Jansons and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 2010. This festival included performances of Liszt’s Faust Symphony with Vladimir Jurowski and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Bartók’s The Miraculous Mandarin with Jonathan Nott and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra.

The Chorus has a creative relationship with the BBC SSO, joining the orchestra and its Chief Conductor Donald Runnicles for two performances of Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem in Edinburgh and Glasgow as part of their 75th anniversary season in February 2011; at the 2010 BBC Proms performing Mahler’s Symphony No. 3, and most recently at the 2011 BBC Proms with Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé.

The open rehearsal takes place at the Hub, Castlehill, Edinburgh, on Tuesday 25 October from 7pm to 9.30pm. Anyone who would like to attend the rehearsal and potentially audition for the Chorus should contact Chorus Manager Helen MacLeod by email at chorus @ eif.co.uk or by phone on 0131 473 2027.

The chorus blog, Confessions of a Chorus Member



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