...with kind permission of the author MISS SABLETHURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2012
Painting the Nightingale
When I'm not singing with Pro Coro, I'm thinking about the next time I get to sing with Pro Coro. It's been hard for me to articulate why; however, this evening I had a moment of clarity. I realized why I am addicted to singing Ugis Praulins' "The Nightingale."
When I first began listening to the recording, it felt like I was admiring a spectacular piece of artwork in a museum. I was simply an observer. I stood there... gawking at the beauty of the soundscape and the interwoven colours on the canvas. I drank in the sight of the whole painting. I subconsciously recognized that there was detail in the work but it all coalesced into this one artistic entity.
Singing "The Nightingale" is an entirely different experience because it feels like I have been transported into the painting itself. I am plucked out of the art gallery corridor and inserted into the Emperor's court. Suddenly, I can see the timid kitchen maid crouching behind the door, I follow in the footsteps of the men searching for the Nightingale in the wood (there are cows mooing on my left and frogs croaking on my right), I hear the haunting echo of the Nightingale's song, I squint at the sparkling porcelain walls of the Emperor's palace, I gawk at the opulent artificial bird playing its one song, I am wary of the good and evil apparitions beside the Emperor's deathbed. It's overwhelming how real everything feels. When I'm singing the Nightingale, I enter into this fairytale world and seamlessly become one of the characters. I look around me to see if anybody notices I'm a modern-day imposter. Nobody does. I breathe a sigh of relief. I am free to wander within this world and admire, in detail, the intricate details around me. It's like a fantasy realm that only appears when all musicians are performing together. It is like when the Twelve Dancing Princesses wait until nightfall to cross the lake and dance until the soles of their shoes are worn through... that's what waiting until the next Pro Coro rehearsal feels like.
In many ways, I feel like I have one of the best vantage points of the painting. That is the luxury of actually painting the work. The challenge will be for Pro Coro to translate this artistic perspective for the audience. It will be exciting for listeners to visually and aurally consume the painting we are composing. Until then, I cannot wait until the next rehearsal where I get to explore the realm of the Nightingale once again.
AUDIO: listen here...
Pro Coro sings Praulins' THE NIGHTINGALE
Andersen's Nightingale...the plot
The Emperor of China learns that one of the most beautiful things in his empire is the song of the nightingale. When he orders the nightingale brought to him, a kitchen maid (the only one at court who knows of its whereabouts) leads the court to a nearby forest where the bird is found. The nightingale agrees to appear at court. The Emperor is so delighted with the bird's song that he keeps the nightingale in captivity. When the Emperor is given a bejeweled mechanical bird he loses interest in the real nightingale, who returns to the forest. The mechanical bird eventually breaks down due to overuse. The Emperor is taken deathly ill a few years later. The real nightingale learns of the Emperor's condition and returns to the palace. God is so moved by the nightingale's song that he departs and the emperor recovers. The nightingale agrees to sing to the emperor of all the happenings in the empire, that he will be known as the wisest emperor ever to live.
Praulins Nightingale...the music
For his setting of The Nightingale, Praulins selected portions of Andersen's original text, rearranging them into a series of eight tableaux and a reprise, creating a 30 minute concerto for recorder and 20 solo voices. Throughout, Praulins’ choral writing calls for virtuosity of the highest order, and exceptional vocal ranges - from a deep, basso profundo cello "D" to a shimmering high soprano "D" four octaves above. From the opening "misterioso", with its rising glissandi, fragments of sung and spoken text, to the work’s climax with the return of the Nightingale, singing in her full glory, Praulins has seamlessly woven a colorful sequence of episodes, in a variety of moods, styles and textures, that perfectly convey the feeling of “Once upon a time...” and “Long, long ago...”