Fauré Requiem Concert and My Fresh Experience with Music

Issue 27: April 3, 2024

On March 23rd, Abilene was buzzing with excitement for the Fauré Requiem Concert, featuring the Abilene Philharmonic and the combined talents of the choirs from McMurry University, Abilene Christian University, and Hardin-Simmons University. It was quite the event, bringing Gabriel Fauré’s timeless compositions to life in a mesmerizing performance. Let me walk you through my journey leading up to this big day.

This spring, I decided to dip my toes into the world of the McMurry Chanters. Honestly, I didn’t know much about music theory beyond belting out show tunes in the car and a few musicals. But with Ms. Guidi leading the charge, I quickly realized this semester was going to be a whirlwind. The first few weeks were a bit of a struggle as I grappled with unfamiliar music terms and tried to fine-tune my singing technique, but eventually, things started to click.

Our rehearsals were intense, to say the least. We spent weeks polishing every note and phrase. And let me tell you, the run-up to the concert week was no joke. It was a bit of a shock for someone used to the pace of theater rehearsals. Plus, coordinating with three different university choirs meant navigating through a maze of different sheet music versions. Thank goodness McMurry had the same score as the Maestro!

On the day of the concert, we had an early morning rehearsal, squeezed into the tight confines of the First Baptist Church stands. It was a challenge to fit all the choir members in the limited space available. Despite the cramped conditions, there was a sense of excitement and anticipation in the air.

Something I discovered that day was that we didn’t need to be “off-book,” sparing me the stress of memorizing all that Latin. Instead, we relied on our sheet music to guide us through the intricate compositions of Fauré’s Requiem. This revelation came as a relief, allowing us to focus on perfecting our vocal performances without the added pressure of committing every lyric to memory.

As the evening performance rolled around, I was surprised by how calm I felt. No pre-show jitters like I usually get with theater. From my spot in the choir, surrounded by my fellow singers, everything just clicked. There was a sense of unity and camaraderie as we collectively poured our hearts into each note and phrase.

And major props to Ms. Guidi for her stunning solo in the Requiem. Her performance was nothing short of breathtaking, showcasing her exceptional talent and dedication to the craft. It was truly inspiring to witness her command the stage with such grace and poise.

Looking back, this whole experience has been a blast. I’ve gained a ton, not just learning music theory and technique, but also getting to be on stage and do a concert. Something I never thought I would ever do. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it. With the Spring Concert just around the corner, it seems like our musical adventure is far from over. Bring it on!

Here, I also interviewed Guidi about her experience:

Q. How did you approach balancing your role as both a soloist and the director of the McMurry chanters during the Requiem Concert preparation?

In this season of my life, balancing my professorial duties with my performing life is a huge challenge. In the weeks leading up to the Requiem, I tried to spend my days of teaching, followed by musical practice in the evenings. Even when I was vocally exhausted, I would spend quiet time with my music in the evenings focusing on the mental. On Spring Break, when I had a break from my teaching duties, I spent my days preparing and coaching the Pie Jesu.

Q. What were some of the challenges you faced in simultaneously preparing for your solo performance and ensuring the McMurry chanters were well-prepared for the concert?

The preparation of a conductor and a soloist are very different things. When you lead an ensemble, you work to impart musical information to a large group, in hopes that they can ultimately sound like one cohesive, polished entity. It requires knowing each of the parts of the ensemble well enough to teach it.

When you prepare as a soloist, your goal is to create the most beautiful, reliable sound, that reaches the person farthest away from you without amplification. Instead of focusing on the functions of multiple people, you have to look inward, and focus on each second of what you are doing, instead of harnessing the skills of others. Shifting the mindset, from the management of an ensemble to that internal focus was a challenge for me. The mental shift to be more present with my solo, than the choral selections I spent so much time preparing with the Chanters took a great deal of focus.

Q. Overall, what was your favorite part of the concert? Did you learn anything from it?

I loved the final product that the Tri Collegiate ensemble was able to create! It was so beautiful to watch the different collegiate ensembles work together in three rehearsals, and sing so beautifully as one. It is always a treat to sing with a gifted conductor, and gifted musicians. I find that in each performing experience, I get to learn more about the act of live performance, and what it means to truly be present and create art.