Just this last week I joined the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir in two performances of the B minor Mass by J.S. Bach under the astounding direction of Ton Koopman. I am ashamed to say that this all took place on the island group of Gran Canaria. I am not proud of joining the international fleet of musicians who hop from here to there to "do their thing," and yet this seemed to important and great an opportunity to miss.
Let's be real. Ton Koopman is a legend. At 78, he is still conducting with the energy of a 20 year old. On the day of the concert, he easily gives a lecture at a local university before rehearsing and finally conducting the concert. He is well organized, having written out a plan before rehearsing so that no musicians have to wait or tire themselves out with too much playing or singing. The music making in the concert is intense. There is no boring Bach. There is an intensity and energy needed which finally adheres to what Donington writes about in his book Performing Baroque Music, and that is that nothing in the baroque was small and weak. It is big and profound. The voices were well trained and were meant to carry.
When singing with Koopman, which I have experienced for two productions now, the intensity expected of the choir and orchestra is so great, that even I have to be careful of my voice. The risk is that sheer will to elevate the music to the level that Ton wants will easily surpass the physical ability of the vocal chords.
My colleagues are the best of the best. Young and old, everyone is a highly trained expert in their distinctive fields. Especially my colleague altos Iris Bouman, Sofia Eisen, whom I stood next to, were an inspiration.
I'm inspired and informed at a much higher level than before I left for Gran Canaria to conduct this piece in three weeks.