Dudamel at the Greek Theatre

Hi All! The San Francisco Girls Chorus is just getting back to its standard rehearsal schedule after many vigorous rehearsals for a performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. We performed with renowned conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Orchestra of Venezuela. We also sang alongside the Chamber Chorus of the University of California and the Pacific Boychoir Academy. Singing this piece of music was one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had, but it took a lot of hard work. We learned to sing the piece just weeks before rehearsals with other musicians began.

Kevin Fox, the Director of Pacific Boychoir Academy (PBA), served as the Chorus Director for this momentous occasion. Our first rehearsal, we sang alone with PBA in Hertz Hall on the Cal campus. It was amazing to sing with young men, which we don’t do very often. The colors of their voices mixed with our very different ones, and created a giant sound that I had never experienced before!

Combined choruses rehearsing Beethoven's 9th Symphony at Cal Performances

During our second rehearsal, we were able to sing with both PBA and the Chamber Chorus of the University of California, along with the Chamber Chorus’s director, Marika Kuzma. Once we blended the sound of the Chamber Chorus with the sound that PBA and SFGC had created in the previous rehearsal, I was wowed even more. We were so excited to add that astonishing collaborative sound to the upbeat, energetic sound of the orchestra!

Our third and final rehearsal took place in Cal’s Zellerbach Hall. We met the four soloists who sang in the performance: soprano Mariana Ortiz, mezzo-soprano J'nai Bridges, tenor Joshua Guerrero, and baritone Soloman Howard. We met the members of the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, who were just as incredible as we had been told they would be. Also, we finally got to meet Gustavo Dudamel! He was the most amazing conductor I had ever met. He was so full of energy and excited about the music. It inspired us, helped us maintain positive attitudes through long rehearsals, and it felt like he brought out parts of my voice that I didn’t know. Dudamel worked on the music as if it were clay, and it felt like all of the musicians were trying to create something more spectacular than we had ever made before.

Photograph of Maestro Gustavo Dudamel ont he podium during rehearsal with the SF Girls Chorus and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela

Dudamel helped us mold our sound to fit the very passionate mood of the music. Once the orchestra joined us, I felt so overjoyed to be singing in such a grand, famous space with such amazing and dedicated musicians.

The performance itself took place in the famed Hearst Greek Theatre. Since the Greek is an outdoor theater, I was thankful that we had rehearsed that huge sound and would be able to fill the space. Before we began singing out part in the run-though before the performance, the orchestra played all three movements and got us super excited for the performance that was about to begin. After our final run-through, we ate dinner with all the choirs, and got ready to perform. Everyone was ecstatic to be singing with each other, and it was crazy to see the Greek Theatre filling up with so many audience members! The theatre fit so many people that it felt like one of the biggest performances in which I would ever take part in.

Photograph at night of the performance at the Greek Theatre for Cal Performance's presentation of Beethoven's 9th Symphony with Gustavo Dudamel, the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, the San Francisco Girls Chorus, the Pacific Boychoir Academy, and the UC Berkeley Chamber Choir

Once we got on stage, we could see the audience even better. I realized that this was the only time we were going to do this! It was very different from normal, since we usually do two or three of the same performances. It was so crazy to be living completely in the moment and to not be thinking about anything else but the music.

This performance ended up being one of the most exciting, gratifying performances I have ever taken part in, and that’s really saying something when you are a member of the San Francisco Girl's Chorus. I am so thankful for the experience I was able to have.

Elisabeth Easton San Francisco Girls Chorus, Alto

p.s. In case you missed it, here are reviews of the performance from SFGate.com, the San Jose Mercury News, and San Francisco Classical Voice. KDFC-FM also live-streamed the performance which is still available for viewing on their website.