‘Of course I’ll do it!’ I told maestro David Fallis. I remember the morning well, Sunday Dec 8, 2013 because it was the day after Cantores Celestes, the women`s choir that I direct, sang Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria‘ and R. Murray Schafer’s ‘Snowforms’. Murray was celebrating his 80th year and Cantores Celestes marked its 25th Anniversary. Unbeknownst to me, David came to hear us because he was looking for a women`s choir to participate in the Luminato performance of Schafer`s `Apocalypsis`. I loved performing Schafer`s music and also was taken with his biography and novel, so when David said he thought we`d be a good fit for a work that rivals the forces of a Mahler Symphony, and that I`d have a chance to join some of the best musicians in the city, I was giddy as a school girl. To me, it was a no brainer if there ever was one.
Then the conductor’s score arrived. My first thought was ‘This is gorgeous. A work of art, and WOW what an honour to be involved with this epic production.’ But as I looked more closely, my heart raced, my chin dropped to my chest and my second thought was: ‘Oh my. I have no idea that these drawings mean. Am I mad?’ Then, after counting over 13 high Bs scooping up past high Cs in a row, I also wondered. `Can I do it? Can my choir do it?` Lots of sleepless nights ensued.
David Fallis joined Cantores Celestes in January for a workshop and gave the `Women of the Apocalypsis` the guidance and assurances we needed that we could do it. As the pages of the calendar flipped forward, momentum started to build.
As we started memorizing our score and being fitted for costumes, it was becoming increasingly real. Then when we all joined forces at the end of May to begin our joint rehearsals in the COC rehearsal space, it finally started to make sense.
We learned how to walk on stage, how to act, and to be still. (Not an easy or natural state of being for women who like to share and laugh!)
Deep down, I hoped that this would be a chance to fulfill a childhood dream of being on a world stage conducting in my finery and sparkles, looking quaffed and every bit as glamorous as a conductor should be. The reality much more humbling – but still makes me laugh. In keeping with Lemi’s direction and vision, our outfits were black pants and jackets that were good-will specials.
No make-up was to be worn, and hair was to be pulled back in a bun. This was a big problem, because my naturally curly hair refused to be tamed into submission. One day my hair was cut and gelled but before I could make it home Orphan Annie reappeared. In the end, it was a fist full of bobby-pins that finally did the trick.
When I think about my Luminato experience, I feel honoured and privileged to have had an opportunity to work with such a great Luminato team that included Caroline Hollway, Naomi Campbell, and of course the upbeat and unfatigable Artistic Director Jorn Weisbrodt, and visionary, Director Lemi Ponifasio. The friendships forged with working with all of the singers who were so giving of their time and the kindness and camaraderie of my fellow conductors of the first half – Stephanie Martin, Christine Duncan, Zimfira Poloz, Anita McAlister, Dallas Bergen, Richard Foty, Ryan Scott and Anastasia Tchernikova – will also stay with me for years to come.
Finally, I cannot say enough wonderful things about Maestro David Fallis. I do not think there is anyone who could have been so focused, kind, smart and calm as the end of the World was drawing near. Thank you David, Murray and Luminato for the gift you have given me and Cantores Celestes.
Director of Cantores Celestes Women`s Choir