The University of UtahRedthread Home

The Show Before the Show

Rehearsal at National Theatre, Varazdin

Rehearsal at National Theatre, Varazdin

People pay to see the concerts, of course, but the real show is often at the rehearsals. It’s there that selected audiences like…me…get to see David Martin alter his solo in Oklahoma! from the more expected “Gonna give you barley, carrots and potatoes” to a more interesting variation delivered in a thick Scottish brogue: “Gonna give you haggis. Eat it with potatoes.” And where else could you see Jane Fjeldsted, Maureen Hatch, and Kelly Nelson do an impromptu but thoroughly plausible choreography (think early Supremes. VERY early Supremes) as back-up to the men singing Keep the Wagons A-rolling. And finally, for real entertainment you can’t beat Ricky Parkinson and Malia French clogging in flip-flops and sandals.

Performance at (a very, very hot) National Theatre, Varazdin

Performance at (a very, very hot) National Theatre, Varazdin

But those who come to the concerts are also richly rewarded. The performance at Varazdin (Croatia) and Brezice (Slovenia) were both extraordinary. Varazdin is the former capital of Croatia and the National Theatre there reflects that proud history. Unfortunately, it also reflects a history that does not include air conditioning, and once the concert hall filled with people it became very, very warm. I had my coat off after the first number; shoes, socks, shirt and tie by the second song; and was contemplating audience reactions if I went any further after the third. Yet the choir performed for 90 minutes in full tuxes and gowns. These men and women are professional athletes in every sense of the word; they have remarkable stamina and strength, and the drive to perform — not just perform but rather create a transcendent experience for the audience — subsumes all other agendas. And certainly the audience had such an experience Thursday night.

It was in the Knights Hall at Brezice, however, that audience members were moved to tears. The choir, with a little rehearsal coaching from our tour guide and a local cultural official, had polished the three Slovenian folks songs in their repertoire. When they began to sing Pa Se Slis there was an audible murmur of approval. When they closed the concert with two more numbers the audience was humming along, tapping their hands, and–unable to resist–one gentleman was conducting right along with Dr. Allred. When the Singers paused in just the right spot in the music the man clapped his hands together and then pounded the back of the man next to him.

Singers being lauded by Brezice vice-mayor after a moving 2.5 hrs of music

Singers being lauded by Brezice vice-mayor after a moving 2.5 hrs of music

The hall, part of the town’s  medieval castle complex, was covered from floor to ceiling with frescos and artwork, and the acoutics were amazing. When the Singers arrived, the town’s vice-mayor asked for a long concert and Dr. Allred was ready to comply. Some two-and-a-half hours later, the audience was on their feet, clapping wildly and begging for more. We crawled into bed somewhere around midnight…and then many of the choir were up before dawn to hike to the top of a nearby mountain to see a beautiful church located there.

The scenary is beautiful and the people are amazing and the choir is…well, they’re pretty amazing, too. If you have a child or a friend or a spouse in this organization, you have much to be proud of.