On cue, the nearly 50 booming voices stopped, leaving several seconds of absolute, eerie silence.
Then came the downbeat, another cue, and up they roared again, filling the University of South Florida concert hall with song — Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45, to be exact. The performance, recorded at USF’s music hall this summer, was just nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance.
For 20-year-old Alex Solomon, the experience was overwhelming.
“The musical greatness that I was surrounded by in this performance, in this recording, was uncanny,” Solomon said. “It was gorgeous.”
Solomon, a music performance junior, was one of 30 students, and nine from USF, who sang on the classical recording. It’s the product of a two-week intensive training program between USF and Miami-based professional choir Seraphic Fire, produced by artistic director Patrick Quigley and USF choral studies director James K. Bass.
“The whole thing is kind of like a daze to me,” Solomon said. “Did we even do this?”
They did. And it’s not the first time.
Last year, longtime USF jazz professor Chuck Owen was tapped for a Grammy in a jazz category. That one didn’t win, said spokeswoman Ashleigh Gallant, but “as they say, just being nominated is a huge honor.”
The choral group feels the same way.
“It’s sort of like your football team going to the Super Bowl,” said Brad Diamond, a USF assistant voice professor who helped coordinate the partnership. “This is a big deal. It doesn’t happen every now and then.”
For Solomon, the experience was the first in what he hopes is a long, successful career. He has recorded other performances before, but nothing like this. The CD is now available on iTunes and Amazon.
“It’s still kind of bubbling in me,” Solomon said. “I’m still mulling it over, like ‘What does this mean?’ ”
Now, it means a lot of attention. People have been posting the news all over Facebook, Solomon said, and passing along congratulations in class.
Diamond, the assistant professor, said it’s a validation of many hours of long work.
The June intensive lasted two weeks, with six to eight hours of work each day. Students from all over the country auditioned to be part of it, coming from as far as Michigan, New York and Utah.
Those who made the cut had to come prepared to sing the whole hour of German in harmony. They had to stand on their feet for hours on end.
After the first week, the Seraphic Fire professionals showed up, and, “We were just kind of like blown out of the water,” Solomon said.
Diamond said the organizers chose Johannes Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, or A German Requiem, because it was a piece that hadn’t been recorded much before. “It had an aspect of originality to it.”
As gratifying as the Grammy nomination is, watching the students perform was perhaps the best part.
“When that little red light goes on, the world kind of changes,” Diamond said. “Their eyes get really big, and you can just feel the energy.”
He said USF president Judy Genshaft would go to the award ceremony on behalf of the group.
The singers, he said, will be watching from home — feeling like they’ve already won.