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The Nuances of Languages

We are back into our weekly practices for the Higher Ground Ensemble, and this season’s repertoire includes a wide range of pieces. Two of these pieces are written and sung in Spanish.

At Tuesday night’s practice, we were privileged to have Alina Oraca, a renowned choir conductor from Cuba, join us to help us with our pronunciation and intonation for these pieces.

Como Fue is a shorter, rhythmic, two-page piece that has some repeating phrases and a breathtaking solo piece over top of the chorus harmonies. It is a lovely romantic ballad.

The second piece, Para Vivir, is a longer and more melancholy presentation, or as Alina’s interpreter, Juan put it, “sort of like a divorce song.”

Translated into English, the lyrics are filled with sadness and despair of a love unrealized. It has very few repeating words and many places where the choir needs to insert multiple (MULTIPLE!) syllables into short quarter and half-beat notes. Even Alina said, “This has a lot of Spanish in it,” which Juan translated to mean “a lot of complicated Spanish wording.” Whew, that made us feel a bit of relief as we struggled through her intensive direction on wording and feeling, directing us with a passionate drive for improvement (some might say, “perfection”).

Practice Session

As well as working through these selections, we also performed a few of our new season pieces for Alina and a few other guests who joined us that evening. We were relieved when Alina mentioned that she had tried to teach one of the pieces we had just sang for her, to her own choir in Cuba. She told us that they struggled terribly not only with the pronunciation of the English wording, but also with expressing the meaning and feeling of the lyrics. She said they could “mechanically” sing through the piece with the correct wording, but the feeling wasn’t there. So, as they had struggled with not just the translation but also the interpretation of the English score, we too were struggling with the same in the Spanish pieces we are preparing.

At the end of the practice session, I think most of us had a new comfort with the nuances of the language and were at least on track to improve on our delivery of the lyrics.

It was a great honour to have Alina work with us and to continue our refinement of these pieces.

You will be able to hear us perform these pieces, and many more, at our Spring Concert which will be held on Sunday, May 24 at Mulgrave School. This will be a matinee performance and details will be announced soon, so stay tuned for ticket information.

-Pamela Hollington

Pamela sings second soprano and when she’s not singing with the group, is engulfed in card-making and art journaling adventures!

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