the chorus

we heard the cows breathing

Getting to use chorus techniques as part of a callback session on Sunday (for someone else’s callbacks) was great. There were 16 people there, with this text memorized from Gao Xingjiang’s THE OTHER SHORE:

“We set off before dawn. The morning dew was thick and in the dark we heard the cows breathing while they were chewing grass on a small hill nearby. In the distance, the river bend was enveloped in a shade of deep blue light brighter than the sky. ”

This is how we proceeded:

90 minutes: broke into groups of 3-4 people and focused on vocals only, developing both a good unison and a good non-unison variation version for a previously memorized 8-line piece of text. They each got 15 minutes. We had a musician there but he didn’t play for this part.

30-40 minutes: enlarged groups to 5-7 people and added movement and music, building towards a larger chorus. Specific intention. Repeating text once or twice, still in linear narrative form.

last 30 minutes: megachorus with entire group, both text and movement. With music. At very end, abandoning linearity of text and permitting other pieces of text, too.

These things happened that had never happened before:
– The director encouraging me to ask for feedback at the halfway point, which is a great rehearsal technique. I should use it more, instead of just saying “Questions?” People told me how helpful it was to have circumstances, which I should remember. I wrote down these words from the responses:
deconstruct (how difficult it is to work like this)
situation (need one)
different groups (how quickly the personality of one chorus vs. another forms)
present/responsive (you have to be)
and subconscious (it taps into that.)

– An actress was at the callbacks who had done my chorus work before, but not with me — she’d actually learned it from someone else. This was awesome.

– One particular setup. A four-person chorus going through the text in linear unison with a two-person chorus next to them overlapping/doubling/echoing. You’d think I’d have thought of this before, but I haven’t. (And I didn’t think of it this time–the actors did.) I’ve always jumped to “Anyone can overlap, anyone can be in linear unison.” But incorporating the restriction by group helps.

It was good work. I was exhausted at the end of it, and I’m sure the actors were, too. Reminded me of how rewarding and draining the MOH&H rehearsals were.


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