The state of things in Denmark

August 6, 2010

Geoffrey Silver (New York Polyphony) in actionThisted, in the Thy region, pronounced “TEA-stul” and “Tü” (clearly…), there are lots of silent consonants here, nine official vowels, and extra letters at the end of the alphabet: æ, å, ø and Ӝ. (I lied about the last one).

Our first full day began with a workshop with the church choir of men and boys, and ended with a concert broadcast live on Denmark’s national radio.

The workshop was held in the well-appointed Church hall, with its brightly coloured walls, impossibly puce fabrics and Dansk heart-motif ceiling; all in all, a bit early morning. We were welcomed by our hosts Preben and Irene who provided much-needed coffee. Preben teaches core Anglican repertoire to his choir – we met him at the annual Choir Masters’ Conference in NYC – so luckily we knew most of the music for the workshop (Howells, Rutter – God be in my Head and Britten) as our Danish is a bit thin on the ground. Preben is approaching his 25th anniversary at the Church, and in that time he has built a truly remarkable program. About 15 boys and a dozen men, many of whom began as choristers, then joined us.

We opened by performing three of our Tallis English psalms, whose vernacular resonated with our Lutheran hosts. After that, I drew the short straw for the warm-up, to give the boys an easy start with some English spoken proper. We spent time on breathing, low-impact vocal onsets, slides, head-voice blending and placement. The group was impeccably behaved, even NYP for the most part.

The boys were fantastic, pretty Johnian in their ‘take-no-prisoners’ attitude. This being their first rehearsal for several weeks, they impressed us by remembering their memorised repertoire. As impressive, perhaps even more so, were the men. The five tenors, five basses, and two counter-tenors, included a couple of Dads, but essentially consisted of Preben’s former choristers.

GW worked with them on the Britten Te Deum, Scott and Craig on solos in the Vivaldi Magnificat. Our friend and organist Svend, who collected us from the airport, accompanied.

A side note about the vowels: we all think the dark, back of the throat “ah” is very helpful – we rehearsed the Howell’s Col Reg Nunc with a fantastic tenor who transpired later to be the son of our host, and his dark pronunciation of “hast” and the second syllable of “prepared” reminded me of a Brummie friend who also benefited from the vocal alignment that that darkness provides.

In the evening, the concert went well and the Church was full. It’s a beautiful building and we had a fantastic and enthusiastic audience. The radio guys placed two pairs of mics at the front (two omnis, two cardoids), and one pair of omnis at the back behind the organ for Absalon we did in the base of the magnificent bell tower. Scot received a good response from his Danish intro, GW and CP did an interview in the interval, and we received rhythmic applause that demanded three encores.

We’ll post a link when the archived show is available. Meantime, visit our Facebook page to see pictures (and links to a few video clips) of our trip.  Tweets, too.

— GS