After a few brief notices from Frank, Kristin, our music director, had us move our chairs out to the stage apron (that's the front, over the pit) and arrange ourselves by voice type. Sopranos and altos in the front, tenors and basses in the back, with tenors behind sopranos and bass/baritone behind altos. There were only four Altos, and one of them we had to recruit! So I am glad I have had all my choral training, because it comes in handy!
The first song we worked on was the opener--"The Old Red Hills of Home". While most of it is a solo, sung by the Young Soldier in the Prologue and the Old Soldier in the Act I opener, the men come in about 70% through it, and then the rest of us join them for the remainder of the piece. We are split into three ensembles, and since there are only 26 of us, that means there's not a whole lot of people on each part. After Kristin worked each group, we would sing it a few times together and end with Kristin playing the orchestral reduction on the piano. It came together relatively quickly--thankfully we are all quick studies!
The second piece, the "Anthem: The Dream of Atlanta", went a lot faster, because 1) it's only two parts, and only in certain places, and 2) it's only a page long. :) I am singing the top part on this, because there are some screwy intervals in the harmony that are hit or miss, and I don't want to be worrying about that. Plus my top register should be warm before we get to...
The "Funeral Sequence: There Is A Fountain", where I have my first solo line. But before we did that, we did the reprises of the "anthem" that bookend Leo and Lucille's duet, "Leo At Work/What Am I Waiting For?"
Thee Funeral Sequence is fairly long, and we ran the entire thing, including the solo lines for Frankie, Iola, a boy, Monteen, me, and Lizzie Phagan. It went really well--again, there are two choruses, and Frankie has one and half pages to himself in the middle of it. The song really demonstrates how the town evolves from grief at Mary's death to feelings of anger and vengeance by the end (mostly expressed by Frankie). It's the song that really puts the piece in motion.
Kristin is a great music director--she gives us the cutoffs very cleanly, and she's methodical in her methods, which I like. We work the entire period--two hours, in this case, with a short break---and we get a lot done. She's friendly and extremely talented.
Frank also gives us notes after we rehearse each song, so we know the emotional and thematic underpinings. The first number is supposed to be joyful and celebratory, while "There Is A Fountain/ It Don't Make Sense" is somber, moving into anger and retribution. It's so helpful to start that process now, instead of later, when people already have the way they sing the songs cemented.
One woman asked about the Southern accent, which has been present in some people's spoken dialogue but seemed largely absent form our singing. Frank and Kristin are going to powwow on this, for the simple reason that singing in a dialect is not as easy as speaking in it. To sing, the purity of vowel is paramount. You must have clear tones, with definite consonants. If you're singing with a full-fledged accent it can sound unintelligible. The solution is usually to emphasize a few key words. For example:
One of my lines in "The Factory Girls" reads like so:
"He'll call my name/ I'll turn my head/ He got no words to say/ His eyes get big/ My face gets red/ And I want to run away!"
The southern accent comes through in the tweaking of some vowels and consonants. On "my", for example, I don't say "my" with a bright "y". I make it darker and sort of swallow it so there's sort of a darker 'i' sound. The same thing with "head"--it's a darker sound, more swallowed, towards the back of my throat. It's a lot harder to explain than to mimic. There is also the dropping of some consonants. In "How Can I Call This Home?" I sing a line that goes: "La, la, la la in the land o' cotton." It's actually written " o' ", so that it sounds more authentic. And of course there's the dropped "g"s in several places.
With Cockney accents ("My Fair Lady", "Les Miz" [the Thenardiers]), it's things like dropping 'h's, "scooping" the sound (like when Eliza Doolittle sings "All I want is a room somewhere" in "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?"). Rhythm is also a big help, as in "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" The jauntiness adds to the ease of singing in Eliza's accent.
Usually, however, the accent is much more pronounced in the spoken lines, as opposed to the vocal ones.
(Wow, that's probably more than you ever wanted to know about singing in dialect...)
So, after we accomplished all this, we adjourned rehearsal. The Funeral Sequence was actually scheduled for tomorrow, so I imagine we'll do Wednesday's schedule instead, which is the Closing Statements and Verdict of Act I, and the Finale of Act II (which, for the ensemble, is just another reprise of "The Old Red Hills of Home").