There is a little bit of irony in ending with the start. Erin Freeman’s farewell live performance is Haydn’s “Creation,” an oratorio primarily based on the primary, world-building chapters of “Genesis.”
For the previous fifteen years, Freeman has led the Richmond Symphony Chorus, an award-winning, 150-member volunteer ensemble. Her subsequent position is as creative director of the City Choir of Washington (see our story on her leaving). Given the size of Freeman’s creative actions, possibly “The Creation” makes excellent sense.
Leading massed voices is a delicate artwork. Filling the area of a live performance corridor requires greater than a giant group of proficient individuals singing the proper notes. “The impact of the sum is greater than the parts,” Freeman says. “The reason I love the Rockettes is not because they’re the best dancers in the country- because they probably aren’t. But they are better because they are absolutely in unison. A successful chorus is like the Rockettes of the vocal world. The unanimity comes from total alignment of old-fashioned vowels and final consonants.”
Alignment of pitch permits clear overtones, the harmonics that play an enormous position in how music is heard. There are tips to that as properly. “Sometimes a rich bass passage is almost inaudible,” Freeman says. “So, I get the best singers in the section to sing that part a bit softly and an octave higher. It’s not in the score, but it makes a big difference.”
That trick isn’t obligatory for “The Creation,” however Hayden’s masterpiece has its personal epic challenges. Where the skilled gamers within the symphony could focus intently on a program for a few weeks, it takes months to arrange throughout the 2.5 hour weekly nighttime refrain practices. “It’s your job as a conductor to take people from where they are, and with positive support to take them to the next level and then push them a little farther,” Freeman says.
The Richmond efficiency contains a new English libretto, changing the unique German translation of the King James Bible, which inserts the meter however in earlier variations turns into notoriously awkward when translated again into English. Like the Biblical textual content, the oratorio begins in chaos, a gradual sonata in an ambiguous C Minor that resolves to a gloriously definitive C Major with the phrase “Light.” Sections element the Genesis sequence, pausing for an early reference to “Paradise Lost” and day-ending angelic celebrations.
Where the primary part covers the inanimate world, the earth, ocean, solar and moon, the second covers the explosion of life, fish, birds, beasts, and finally mankind. The last part is ready within the Garden of Eden. “Adam and Eve sing of their love for each other, and for God, and for the Garden, and yada, yada, yada,” Freeman says. “But before the big happy fugue that you expect to end a good, old fashioned large work for chorus and orchestra there just a bit of a warning in a minor key — because we know that there’s about to be a snake and a whole bunch of problems. Of course, Haydn never wrote that part. But I love that little bit of shade before the joyous finale.”
The piece was chosen lengthy earlier than Freeman knew she was leaving. But the hopefulness of the piece resonates with this second of recent beginnings. That there may be bittersweet tinge is ideal, too.
Erin Freeman will conduct the Richmond Symphony and Chorus in a efficiency of Haydn’s “The Creation” on the Carpenter Theatre on Saturday, April 9 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 10 at 3 p.m. For tickets and information, go to richmondsymphony.com