Posted by: facetothewind | May 16, 2012

Going for it!


I just got back from seeing Dr. Chamberlain. He was great — friendly and encouraging. We basically re-created the audition without all the pressure of strangers waiting. We took things slower. I would say I definitely performed better but not flawlessly. But the outcome was similar. He thinks I have some bad habits with consonants and I’m not even sure how to describe this but the placement of consonants in a particular place. For example the say, you’re singing Ben. You could sing BeeeeeeeeeeeN. Or you could sing BennnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnN. I was doing the latter and he wants the former. So we had to re-do everything I sang with those closing consonants on the downbeat of the next measure. Seems simple right, but try re-learning to spea klike thi swhen you vebeen speakin gthis way your who life. No tso eas yis iiiiT?

That was problem no 1…lack of training becoming evident. Then he said I have a hard time getting quickly to head voice. In other words, the high notes are a problem for me. Essentially if all I want to do is sing those lovely low notes I can do so well (which were not really all that fascinating to him), I need to give up the general classical literature and sing just in a Russsian Orthodox choir. And maybe I will.

After running through all of these musical tests, Bruce sat me down at the piano. “Let me be frank with you. You’re not going to be able to sing the Messiah. It’s full of melismas that are too high for you. You’ll have a hard time with it and will be essentially no fun. But I think you can do the Fauré Requiem. It’s not that challenging. So let’s do this…after 3 rehearsals, we’ll sit down and talk about your progress and see how it’s going. If you think you’ve got it, we’ll keep you. If you’re stressing — the rehearsals are fast and demanding — then you can opt out at that point. And as far as future participation, we’ll evaluate your skills according to the piece coming up.”

So it’s a conditional, limited acceptance. I’m in for the Fauré (which is what I really wanted!). I’m out for the Handel. Fine by me. The Messiah is a bitch to sing and I could do without all the melismas.

Now, on top of all that, I was singing while in pain. I wrecked my bike after hitting a pothole in the dark. I flew over the handlebars and crashed pretty hard. I’m still finding bruises. I don’t have any broken bones, but my leg is a mess and I had to hobble in to the music building in bandages — thanks to John for taking me!

And there you have it. I don’t quite feel exhilarated or a sense of total belonging to the choir. It’s going to be a little odd to have to step off the risers and explain that I’m not allowed to sing the Handel. But I’ll take it and for now I’m grateful.

November 10 & 11 are the Fauré concert dates, FYI.

Here’s a little carnage photography from my wreck. Life is not always pretty.


Well, I spoke to the Symphony’s choral conductor on the phone today. I had written to him for feedback and told him that I was too nervous to perform well. He said to give him a call. I was surprised how accessible he made himself. So I called him.

He was a good listener and he totally understood how an audition might not really be a fair litmus test of one’s ability to be a solid chorister…that it would be a good litmus test of one’s star quality or ability to perform under pressure.

I told him that I felt that I am actually a very diligent, hard-working and earnest chorus member who shows up prepared and delivers, and those qualities are just not evident from an audition in that format. He agreed. He also said there is a lot of pressure on HIM in those situations because he has a lobby full of people waiting and it’s like a factory. Really? I thought conductors savored the power dynamic of having people tremble before them. I don’t think he does.

So he invited me to come to his office at the music building to sit with him and chat, and sing with him at the piano. One-on-one. He said he’ll work with me on a few things and then be better able to determine if I’m in over my head or if the TSO is within my reach. If I fail that, then I will walk away knowing it is truly out of my reach, though I’m certain that singing Fauré’s requiem is not beyond my grasp. I’ve sung harder pieces than that. But if I fail that one, I will just know that he has higher standards and I’ll know what to work on and try it again next year.

I’m thrilled to have that chance and am totally reversing my preconceived notions that Dr. Chamberlain is a bully. I think he’s a perfectionist (as I am), he’s extremely knowledgeable and is under a lot of pressure himself as head of the UofA’s choral dept as well as being the TSO choral master.

But what I had not considered is that he is a father and a teacher. And I can see that he’s actually interested in helping develop people and their voices and to have them succeed rather than laughing at their failures or being simply output-focused. I think he’s actually interested in the process. He has been very responsive and kind to take the extra time to give me a fighting chance at getting in.

And Monday morning at 9 am I’ll be there!

To me this is so interesting because I get to see his humanity a bit. He gets to see mine. And a couple weeks ago I had a tenant in Hawaii approach me wanting out of her lease. She wrote to me threatening a lawsuit and that she had contacted an attorney. She never just asked. I’m not a big bad evil landlord. I don’t want someone to be unhappy in their living space and of course I would let her out of her lease. So isn’t this interesting mirroring, that I had made out the conductor to be some big bad evil guy and he’s actually not at all. All I had to do was ask for a second chance and I got it.

Will post Monday morning afterward. I suspect I’ll know right then and there. I promise I won’t be depressed because I’ll have a strategy and a realistic view of my abilities and their demands.


Well, my instinct was right. I did not make it into the symphony chorus. Everyone said they would take me so I’m a little surprised. And considering that some of the people I’ve know them to take – people whose voices are shot, I would surmise that they either don’t need extra people right now; it was a political decision since I had a personal conflict with Betsy (who works for him) years ago about her belligerence to the choir; or I simply flubbed the audition. Or some combo of the above that made me undesirable.

I don’t feel like I flubbed it. It felt like there were some shaky parts — the sight singing for example and one of the rhythm tests. Nerves really got the best of me. Had I the chance to take any of that into the lobby for just 5 minutes I could have gone back in and aced it, but that’s not how it works.

I sang my solo piece beautifully – or so I thought. And I felt like I aced all the prepared pieces. I was sure that my low notes would get me in. Ah well. Sometimes you climb the mountain and an avalanche kills you before you reach the summit. I do feel like I wasted a lot of time and energy on it. I never said I have much musical talent but I put in a lot of work to develop what I have. But guess that wasn’t enough and so I am trying not to use the “L” word on myself knowing that one just can’t be good at everything.

I may be done singing anyway. I have not found a choral group that I really love in Tucson. You know, the choral conductor may have done me a favor – the rigors of classical music can kill one’s love for it. It’s not a touchy feeling or forgiving art form.

And what I need right now is a hug.

Above is my first paycheck ever for singing. Actually it is a small stipend for singing Zelda with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra (see below in the blog).

Though this was a big first for me — actually earning money making music — I have decided to go for something even BIGGER. I have decided to audition for the Symphony’s chorus. Saturday morning, I will be appearing before the TSO’s choral conductor and his assistant with a pianist to see if I can pass muster to sing with them. I hear it’s a rigorous audition including singing a solo piece, 2 samples from Handel’s Messiah and Mozart’s Requiem, a rhythm test, a note memory test and then some readings in German and Latin.

I’ve been preparing for this for weeks now. I’ve decided to sing Giordano’s Caro Mio Ben for the solo piece. The Handel and Mozart (full of melismas and way out of my range) are sung UNACCOMPANIED! Oy vey.

The reason I’m doing this is twofold. One I really want to continue to push myself musically. Yes, it’s a mountain and it’s as far as I can go in this town, but sometimes you just gotta climb the mountain because it’s there as if you want to prove that you can do it. I get a lot of joy from singing and training my voice to do more complicated pieces each year. Secondly, the TSO is performing Fauré’s Requiem in the fall. It is one of my favorite classical pieces ever and I’d really like to take a stab at it.

Here’s a little audition eve preview of what I’m going to be doing. Keep in mind I will have an accompanist and also that the camera is sitting on the piano and you can’t really hear me so well…

So who knows if I’ll make it, but something tells me I will simply based on the fact that I can sing a low B-flat. It’s unlikely they’ll find another basso profondo in Tucson so based on my low notes, I expect I’ll be taken. Wish me luck. I’ll post something afterward on Saturday.



  1. You go, girl! Hope you make it! (My first ever choral experience was with Hilo Community Chorus singing Faure’s Requiem – so moving!) Have fun & nice for me to hear how you are thru this here blog! Aloha, Christina

  2. Beautiful, David! Break a leg!

  3. David, this is the first time I really heard you sing and how wonderful you sound and how wonderful you look with your mouth making such beautiful sounds. Good luck tomorrow, don’t be drunk, or maybe yes.
    love, ida

  4. Wonderful, wonderful!! You promised to post how it went. And?!?!
    We are proud of you, Uncle David! Love, Reed and Grant Gilmore

  5. Here is your big H U G from the Fort Myers Gilmore Clan. We love you and hope you always hear — and sing — and play — the music the world is full of.

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