When I lived in Newbury, it just so happened that one of the oldest amateur choirs in the country rehearsed every week 10 minutes walk from my house. It was the type of choir that took itself terribly seriously, hired the best conductors they could afford, gathered soloists from the world-famous early music vocalists, "The Sixteen", and had "Seasons". All terribly serious and very fantastic.
Now, they say that being able to read music isn't a requirement. Hmm... beg to differ! I can read music well, and struggled. Those early rehearsals, I didn't know if I was coming or going. These were dead serious pieces we were learning, that first concert I prepped for was "opera choruses", just to give you an idea.
To sing in English was unusual to say the least. We did a lot of Latin, a lot of Italian, some French, some German, and some English if we were lucky! I loved the Latin and Italian and actively disliked the German, too hard and not phonetic!
Now, ticking away in the back of my head were those pieces that I've always wanted to do... and if I was ever going to get the chance... it would be with Newbury Choral.
I started strong by ticking off 'Va Pensiero' in that very first Opera Choruses term. A nice, relatively easy one to start with, as most of it is in unison across the four voice parts*. I always loved the little staccato quartets and the sudden dynamic changes.
Quite a long time after... after a year or more of works I didn't love, we did Handel's 'Messiah'. And woe betide anyone who dared to call it 'The Messiah'!
There are a number of fantastic pieces within 'Messiah', but by far the best, and most exciting to sing is the 'Hallelujah Chorus'.
Then, the next season, it was the most exciting one yet! Possibly the most dramatic, exciting piece of choral music out there. 'O Fortuna' from 'Carmina Burana'. Starts quiet, gets MASSIVE. One of those pieces where, if your vocal chords don't ache at the end, you're doin' it wrong.
1:39 on this recording... gets me all a fluster. Then at 1:59, you have to find a little more to ramp up the volume a jump more. This is the one piece I know of where you teeter right on the edge between singing and screaming. To sing this, sitting right next to the drums... Amazing.
Then, I had to leave Newb Choral to move house. I thought I wouldn't get a chance to do the final piece in my choral bucket list... But I was wrong. I was invited back by a friend to take part in a 'Come and Sing' event. One of the pieces we performed was 'Zadok The Priest'. Otherwise known as the coronation anthem. It's just a really beautiful piece and gives you that little burst of patriotic zeal.
With that, I'd ticked off my "big 4" of the pieces I'd always wanted to sing. I remember doing all 4 so clearly. Each one was very much a life highlight. It doesn't get much better to realise as you are singing, that you're in the middle of a bucket list moment. It's very special.
* When in four voice parts, I was always alto. When we worked in eight parts, I did alto one, or very occasionally soprano 2.