First Masterworks

by Sarah Goraya

Monday, December 10, 2018. Also known as every HB ensemble performer’s favorite day of the year:

Masterworks!

It is known as day filled with enthusiasm and excitement and perhaps the one day a year where everyone has a genuine appreciation for classical music, but what is it really like? Keep reading for the inside gist.

This year was my first Masterworks, as an HB Singer. I wasn’t able to make it to the performance last year when I was in Orchestra and would have played the piano and chimes. This year, I was in charge of an even more vulnerable instrument: my voice! The prospect of standing in the middle of a stage, blinded by the spotlight, having to not only sing but sing in tune (!!) and act the words you’re singing was both intimidating and insanely awesome.

I was initially excited hearing that I would miss the last two periods of the day for the concert, then, surprise surprise, one of those periods ended up being a free. Of course. Crammed into multiple buses, we made our way to the venue. This year we had switched from performing at Tri-C to the Maltz Performing Arts Center (NOT the Maltz Museum, as Ms. Webster had us recite countless times), aka the most LEGIT looking place to perform classical music you’ve ever seen. Just look at that dome!

Maltz Performing Arts Center, Case Western Reserve University

Instead of the grand stage though, we were first led to sit in a side room where we warmed up, rehearsed a bit, and then just ate and relaxed for, you may think, maybe an hour until it was time to perform? But nay! We were in that room for FOUR HOURS. By the way, there were no chairs and no clock either, which meant that was also four hours of a complete orchestra and choir with all their instruments, outfits, and bags splayed on the floor with no concept whatsoever of the time passing. After a lifetime though, suddenly, the time had come. This was it! In a scramble of throwing out food, yanking on dresses, squeezing into heels, tuning strings and constantly tripping over various twitching bodies, the Singers were ready to stride out onto their stage. Or in my case, wobble, as I realized just before the performance that a random pair of my mom’s heels I had grabbed on the way out of the house actually didn’t fit me, even wearing a double layer of Saucony athletic socks covered with pantyhose. Back to the stage though — did I mention LEGIT?!

MPAC Maltz Photo By Roger Mastroianni

And we were up there! Our set list included two of Eric Whitacre’s Five Hebrew Love Songs, Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel, and Hallelujah. Let me reemphasize: two love songs, a blues-y spiritual, and a full-on opera-like piece. And remember, we had to act too! Acting to be in love, to be jazzy, and to be a 16th century opera star in a span of like ten minutes in front of such a large audience seemed that it would be the most awkward thing that I would attempt, but surprisingly, it actually wasn’t. Or at least, it was until you realized that everyone else looked ridiculous too, meaning that no one actually looked ridiculous! Suddenly there was this beautiful sense of community, all of us there with our heavy black dresses sweating under the stage lights, and it wasn’t weird at all. In fact, being more into the music made it more fun!

We got through Hebrew and Daniel – then came the monster: Hallelujah. Passionate Christian opera, and an HB tradition we couldn’t get wrong. What a journey. I quickly got startled when we started, as I stood there singing the alto part, really low hardcore religious stuff, right next to the soprano section, with their astonishingly soaring notes and octaves. By the way, the middle school was squished between us too. But, “the more the merrier” certainly turned out to be true. This mash-up of two divisions plus the fact that there were teachers among the choir made the whole experience unforgettable. Then, in a flash of intense orchestra, and even more intense singing… it was over.

All of a sudden, it was time to leave the venue! First though, we had to wait for even more time because the middle school had to leave before we could go. Which, evidently, I forget approximately 20 seconds after we were told, meaning I’m eventually trying to smuggle myself out with the middle schoolers, which would probably have ended up fine if I also hadn’t forgotten where the exit was. Meaning, I go up to Ms. Webster, who twenty seconds earlier had told us both where the exit was and that I was NOT supposed to be leaving yet, and who now has to re-inform me that I’m not supposed to be leaving yet. But, convinced I had been good to go, I was already packed up, so then yet another lifetime ensued of standing until the middle school was out. Finally, I found my mother and we left.

Once again the sense of community was surreal, seeing your friends and their parents also leaving from the same performance, driving home with the silhouette of the imposing gallery in the background. At home, I immediately slumped into bed. You may be thinking, but Sarah, didn’t you do your homework when you got home? And my answer is, no, actually, because we were in that equally annoying and magnificent legit building for MORE THAN SIX HOURS and then we had to sing ACTUAL HALLELUJAH and I just wanted to sleep after that. At the end of the night, I drifted off to echoes of singing and orchestra trills and the low, resounding heartbeat intertwining us upon the stage.