Student Post: Maggie Bell
19, November 2008 § Leave a comment
I am from outside of Cleveland, Ohio and I am a junior from Dartmouth College majoring in Classical Studies and European History. After spending the past calendar year with a full academic load, I chose to take the fall quarter off from school and try something completely new. The Aegean Center Italy & Greece program gives me the opportunity to combine my current academic interests with the fine arts, which I have not studied since high school. I am taking courses in digital photography, basic camera usage, photo history, Greek art history, Greek literature, Greek language, and Greek dancing.
Throughout high school and college I have been involved in vocal performance in school choruses, church choirs, and an all female a cappella group. I am particularly lucky here and get to continue singing this fall with the Aegean Center Vocal Ensemble. The Vocal Ensemble is comprised of five students and nine Paros residents. While we were in Italy, Orfeas, the Ensemble’s director, worked with the new students on some of the basic technique we would need once we joined the rest of the ensemble in Greece. These lessons included work on vowel pronunciation, breathing technique, and blending our sound.
The Ensemble practices twice a week, for two and a half hours at a time, preparing our repertoire for the winter concert. During the second week of December, we will perform our concert for the public once in Naoussa and twice in Paroikia. The program includes four Medieval church songs, seven French Renaissance court songs, and three contemporary pieces. We are expected to learn the basics of our music on our own so that we do not waste rehearsal time reviewing basic intervals and parts.
Each rehearsal begins with a 30-minute warm up of physical and vocal exercises. These often focus on more than just our pitch, such as our ability to blend as a group and make one, uniform sound. We then fine tune our songs, focusing on dynamics (when to sing louder vs more softly) and on memorizing. Our Wednesday rehearsals are spent doing run-thrus of the entire concert. It has been great to hear not just the group pieces, but the many solos, duets and trios that are part of the repertoire. Another student, Emily Oglesby, and I are performing a French Renaissance court song as a duet, and singing it in front of the group each week will hopefully help me get all the nervousness out of my system before December.
The Vocal Ensemble is definitely a lot of work, but the atmosphere of rehearsals is also a lot of fun, and not simply intense. It is a great opportunity to meet and interact with more Paros residents then we might otherwise, and there is always some time during rehearsal to laugh at something ridiculous that someone says or does. The Ensemble is a great way to work toward a final product that is very different from what we are producing with our studio work, and I can not wait to see, or rather hear, how all of our hard work pays off at the concerts.