Just as I was starting to prepare myself for some serious summer downtime, life took one of it's usual unexpected turns, and I am off now to step in for an ill colleague at the Oregon Bach Festival for some Bach and Mendelssohn over the next few weeks. So, while I had initially planned on spending this week exploring new recipes in my kitchen and catching up on entire seasons of TV that I've missed via Netflix in between casual study sessions of Brahms and Schubert, I'm instead hurtling across the country in a flying steel tube with wings a few weeks earlier than I expected. While I am already a little homesick (a perpetual state of being bittersweetly combined with gratitude for the fact that I get to sing for a living), I'm very much excited to get to spend some extra time in the Pacific Northwest. I think it is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and I can't wait for some time to explore and enjoy it a bit more.
The Mendelssohn piece I'm jumping in for this weekend actually is providing me with an opportunity to sing a piece that I have been dreaming of performing since college. Die erste Walpurgisnacht is a secular cantata that is a setting of a Goethe text that Mendelssohn set in 1831. The piece completely captured my imagination, hitting all of my sweet spots when I was as a 19-year-old sophomore in the University of Michigan Chamber Choir. Between singing about druids and pagan rituals and the fact that it is German Romantic music at it's most exciting and dramatic - both the history nerd AND the angst-ridden, teen drama queen inside me were having a heyday. There is a nice tenor solo in the piece - at first, the tenor portrays one of the druid priests calling for the start of the Walpurgisnacht rites that everyone is there to celebrate.
When I first saw how beautiful and exciting the opening tenor solo was at our first read through of the piece in college, I fell in love with the piece and ran straight to a practice room to properly learn it so that I could start working on it at my next lesson and sing it for the upcoming audition for the solo. In the end, to my great disappointment, they gave the solo to one of the fantastic Doctoral students that were studying at Michigan at the time (there was a plethora of very talented tenors studying at Michigan while I was there). Being a 19 year old with a very limited perspective on life and music, I remember feeling so sure that I would never have the opportunity to sing those fantastic opening lines ever again. I swallowed my disappointment and sang my heart out in the chorus for the concerts, nevertheless enjoying the chance to get to know the piece during the weeks that we rehearsed it that semester.
Since getting the call to jump in at the Bach Festival, it's been great fun to reminisce about my college excitement about the piece and be reminded about the passionate curiosity for music that drew me to this wandering minstrel's life. I wish my ailing colleague a very speedy recovery, and I offer him profuse thanks for giving my disappointed inner 19-year-old self the opportunity for a bit of delayed gratification.