When I got there, I found my pianist having lots of fun figuring out sounds and stops on the organ. He was thrilled to have the opportunity to play the organ for this meeting. Then I looked around to see where they had set up the choir risers. This Ballroom is very big and the stage crew had set up the risers on the opposite side of the hall! It seemed like a football field away from where they had set-up the organ! My heart sank as I wondered how we would communicate and keep the tempo together from such a distance. My pianist was more confident, though. He thought we could make it work just fine. After all, hadn't I written the closing choir arrangement for the choir and organ?
The other issue pending was that I really had no idea how many kids would show up to sing in the choir. Would it be 12, or 20 or 50? I had had two rehearsals previous to our performance day, but each rehearsal had a few regulars, but mostly other singers show up. I had chosen music that I thought would be accessible in two rehearsals, but I had the feeling that we might get a few people who had never come to any rehearsals. However, I knew that we had many talented singers in our Stake who sing with the most accomplished choirs on campus. So, I extended an invitation for those good sight-singers to come join us as long as they would do some homework. I sent out a link to my web site for any who would at least listen to the arrangements beforehand.
This "warm-up" rehearsal was to run through the songs and add the flute, oboe and string bass into the equation -- as well as learning to arrange ourselves pleasingly on the risers and do a mic check. We only had about 20 minutes to do all that. Our first piece was "I Stand All Amazed." We began the run-through with the piano, flute and oboe and about 18 singers. By the end of singing, the choir grew to about 35 singers. The congregation was also starting to fill the hall. I was anxious to try our second piece. "How Firm a Foundation" was to be the closing hymn. This would be our challenge piece. The pianist ran the gauntlet to get to the organ quickly through all of the masses of people and chairs. The string bass player got set and more singers filled in on the risers.
There were some other technical details about this piece: We were going to sing just four of the seven verses -- and we would sing the seventh verse before ending with the 3rd verse. I would turn to conduct the congregation to join us on this third verse as the sopranos sang a descant. We would even elongate the ending and have the choir finish out singing a grand "Amen" ending. Oh, did I mention that we also had a young man providing ASL signing?
So many details to keep together! But it worked! I stood as tall as I could and waved my hands high to give the cues to the distant organist. Fortunately, he is an excellent musician, and we could feel the tempos and dynamics together even across that vast expanse of time and space! Even the choir expanded to fill the risers -- about fifty singers in all! They did a fantastic job and we were all edified together!
But if there is a next time, I would really prefer the organ to be closer to the other musicians!