Exciting update! I just discovered that the words to my least favorite track (see below) are in the hymnal, even though it’s not a chorale. Hallelujah!
The Tanglewood Festival Chorus is performing Bach’s St. John Passion in April. Since I’m preparing six recitals for April (awesome/oh shit!), I decided to get an early start learning the Bach. This is my typical routine:
- Flip through the score. Estimate based on the number of pages how long it will take to memorize. Good news: Our score, the Stuttgarter Bach-Ausgaben Urtext edition, is deceptively long. Pages 150–183 are an appendix. Woot!
- Listen to the recording a few times. Decide on my favorite and least favorite tracks.
Favorite: CD 2, Track 35
Least favorite: CD 2, Track 41 (slow tempo with long rests = off-book torture)
Least favorite runner-up: CD 2, Track 25 (keeping the weg and mit dem straight will be a nightmare)
- Recite the text in rhythm with the recording two or three times.
- Sing the piece at the piano straight through from beginning to end, mistakes and all.
- Work on individual movements.
- Memorize. I do this by repetition out loud and in writing. Since I spend a lot of time waiting for and riding public transportation, I am the crazy person mumbling in foreign languages to myself. My colleagues have their own memory tricks and devices. The funniest are mnemonics; for example, “Frieda shoulda gotten funky” for “freude schöner götterfunken.”
- Test myself by singing along with the recording.
Steps 1 through 4 take one week, step 5 will take about two weeks, and step 6 will take an eternity. Luckily, since we performed James MacMillan’s St. John Passion in English last year, that saves me from looking at the translation.
See you in April!