Part 2—Carrying On the Tradition: Norman Mackenzie
In part two of a recent interview for the Weill Music Institute in which Director of Choruses for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Norman Mackenzie, continues his discussion about the 20th anniversary of the first Robert Shaw workshop at Carnegie Hall and how the Shaw continues to inspire generations of artists. Part one was posted yesterday.
Carnegie Hall: What opportunities do projects like this choral workshop present to participating performers?
Norman Mackenzie: Through the vehicle of the Carnegie Hall choral workshop of the 1990s, Shaw was able to mold, influence, and inspire an entire generation of choral singers, conductors, and educators. The participants were able to observe the effectiveness and efficacy of his methods and techniques in rehearsal, and watch him direct the preparation of a flawless performance of a choral masterwork from start to finish. But perhaps even more important, they were able to hear him articulate his extraordinary vision for the future of the creative arts in today's fractured culture. Shaw often described great art as being "... not the luxury of the few, but the necessity of the many." I hope there will be similar opportunities for discussion and dialogue in the upcoming Berlioz workshop.
CH: What should audiences know about Berlioz's Requiem?
NM: In every sense, the Berlioz Requiem is a Mount Everest of artistic expression. Its musical, philosophical, and emotional complexities are unique. Its grandeur and drama are unparalleled—how many works feature a full Romantic symphony orchestra, more batteries of timpani than can be fit on any stage, a 200-voice chorus, and four offstage brass bands?
CH: How will you prepare a chorus of students and professionals for a performance of this masterwork?
NM: Any success in performance and in communicating the composer's intentions beyond a raw realization of the notes on the page requires the highest degree of interpretive skill, vocalism, musicianship, and superb metrical and ensemble disciplines. To have the opportunity to scale these musical heights with a combined chorus of talented adult professionals and high school students is certainly one of the most fascinating, daunting, and rewarding possibilities imaginable. And it will require nothing short of our utmost intellect, devotion, and commitment—combined with a good deal of just plain hard work. In short, it is an ideal vehicle for exploration at this 20th anniversary workshop.