Tackling the "Gloria"

What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way?

The pianist plays the final chord, the conductor lowers her hands, and the audience pauses in awe before applauding the beautiful rendition. Three hundred pairs of eyes relax and slowly look around, secretly celebrating what has just been accomplished. After hundreds of rehearsals, four months of practice, and 12 movements to learn, we have performed Vivaldi’s “Gloria.”

Months earlier, my teacher had placed on my lap a score with almost 1000 measures in it. I remember staring at the foreign object in my hands half in fear and half in excitement, wondering where it would take me. The longest piece of music I had ever sung was no more than six minutes long, and here I was holding a thirty-minute marvel. As I flipped through the unfamiliar pages, I became increasingly invigorated and resolute. I could do this—no —I would do this.

For countless hours every week, I put “Propter Magnam Gloriam” on repeat while doing homework to learn the melismata in the movement. I listened to the imitative polyphony in “Domine Fili Unigenite” while exercising to memorize my entrances. The Vivaldi "Gloria" became my life for four months, and in those four months I learned more about music than in all my life before. In the first few minutes after...

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