Masters of Illusion


This week, Verdigris gears up for its final full length performance of the 2017-2018 season. Presented in partnership with Open Classical, we are bringing the Consolation of Apollo program to the UT Arlington Planetarium where, as we sing, the audience will travel the path that the astronauts took, seeing the solar system from the same trajectory as the Apollo 8 craft. Mark Landson, the director of Open Classical, has been a admirable advocate for the ensemble, working with Sam to organize one of our most exciting concerts of the season. On Saturday we will gather for a few hours of rehearsal to bring the music back to life and then we join our audience for a journey to the stars.

Since I want this blog to be a chance for you to see behind the scenes of this art form, here’s our current backstage conundrum. While we anticipate a thrilling concert experience, we are also facing some logistical challenges. Spaces built for sound systems (think movie theater) are not often welcoming for acoustic instruments which thrive in acoustically live, reverberant spaces. As classically trained singers, we have spent years learning to use our unamplified voices in ways that can fill a room with rich, warm sound. Mention mics in the presence of classical musicians, and you are likely to be met with varying degrees of indignation.


On Saturday in the planetarium, we will be singing in a space similar to a movie theater, built for a sound system and control of sound overspill. In order to mitigate the dry acoustic, Mark will be helping us set up a few mics amongst the singers, not to amplify individual voices, but to create the illusion of reverberance. (Thankfully, the Verdigris singers are both flexible and adventurous.) This electronic acoustic should create the spacious sound that should accompany this journey into space.

I’m finishing this blog post while sitting at cafe near Church of the Incarnation with Barrett, David, and Lauren after singing a funeral together this afternoon. I wanted to get their reactions when they learned we would have some amplification at our upcoming concert. Barrett says, “You have to be adaptable. If it enhances the performance, and the acoustic calls for it, then I have no problem with it.” Lauren says that, as a signer, it can be “less fulfilling when you’re used to singing with other naturally resonant human voices.” But, she added, when the space calls for it, it can be a necessary improvement to the acoustic. See? Flexible and adventurous. Sam built Verdigris around experimentation. Thankfully, he’s found a group of singers that are willing to experiment along with him.

So Saturday afternoon we sing. Saturday evening after we bid our audience goodbye, we party. Katrina will host the Verdigris sixteen (plus Sam and our pianist Jordan) for our end-of-year singer bash, and there will be paper plate awards and toasts abounding.

If you haven’t bought your tickets already, you still can. This will be a really cool concert. Certainly unlike any this group of singers has sung in this city recently.

Erinn Sensenig