Beethoven Missa Solemnis

By Alice Capper

For those of us who performed at the BBC Proms last year it was a somewhat drastic change of scene, from barely more than a handful of sopranos and altos singing backup for Jarvis Cocker, to almost 200 singers belting Beethoven’s mighty “et vitam ventui saeculi” from the Missa Solemnis.

Learning this monster work in time for a sold out performance seemed a daunting challenge in the beginning. The first rehearsal with our Principal Conductor Jonathan Lo terrified everyone who wasn’t already familiar with the complex harmonies and rhythms. By the time we met with the Hallé Chorus under the baton of Matthew Hamilton, notes had been learned, and I certainly had a more detailed understanding and appreciation of the text and setting.

Gianandrea Nosseda’s flamboyant conducting and the superb sound of the BBC Philharmonic added yet another thrilling dimension to the rehearsal process, and the final addition of the four soloists was the icing on the cake.

When we finally hit London (on the hottest day of 2016 – 35°) we headed to Hyde Park to cool off with an ice cream in the shade, before going to Holy Trinity Church just round the corner from the RAH (NOT Holy Trinity Brompton Road, as one of our sopranos thought, resulting in a mad dash through London!), for a quick warmup. As the person in charge of social media for the choir, it was exciting for me to be able to try out Live Streaming some of it on Facebook, to a very grateful audience.

A productive rehearsal followed, then the obligatory rushed dinner to get back to the hall on time for the 6.30 prom. Having only been singing with Manchester Chamber Choir for just over a year, I still got a rush of adrenaline when we walked out on stage to an audience of around five thousand, and nervous butterflies before the first entry of the Kyrie. However, these were quickly dispelled and replaced with intense concentration, then enjoyment, then finally the need for a very cold shower (we had to take extended breaks in between each movement to recover from the heat!).

All the hard work of the preceding few months had paid off, and the prom received rave reviews from BachTrack, the London Evening Standard, and others.

It was an absolute privilege to be part of such a superb concert with the Hallé Choir, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Gianandrea Nosseda, and the soloists (Camilla Nylund, Birgit Remmert, Stuart Skelton & Hanno Müller-Brachmann) and we look forward to returning to the Albert Hall for more excitement in years to come.

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