Every rehearsal at the opera is accompanied by music– whether a dance rehearsal, a staging, or a choral rehearsal. It is impossible to require the entire orchestra to be present at every rehearsal, so, in the initial phase of rehearsals, a pianist is present. Employed as Assistant Conductor in 2016, Noah Lindquist accompanies all chorus rehearsals at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Noah is one of the unsung heroes of Lyric Opera of Chicago because of his commitment to excellence, his virtuosity as a pianist, and his unfailingly positive attitude.
Maestro Michael Black, Chorus Master, notes that the job of chorus accompanist “involves amazing piano skills, an uncanny ability to follow my conducting, a willingness to sing cues loudly and accurately and the exact preparation of the piano/vocal score. In addition to the usual superhuman skills Lyric music staff need to possess, the music staffer attached to the chorus also needs to be able to find the second tenor note at the same time as the first alto word while playing the bass line of the orchestra for the rest of the chorus.” Noah is able to perform these skills while maintaining a professional and joyful attitude, making the process seamless and enjoyable for all involved. In addition, Maestro Black has observed that Noah is able to understand directions mumbled with an Australian accent, and enters, miraculously, when the downbeat is given, in exactly the right place in the musical score!
LOSA was honored to interview Noah Lindquist, and to find out a bit about his process, and background:
Q: What do you like about playing opera?
Lindquist: Well, it’s a uniquely beautiful art form, with some of the most exquisite music ever conceived. To help build that music in the rehearsal room, then see it on the stage with some of the greatest artists in the world – to have contributed to that beauty is a real joy.
Q: How is playing an opera different than other types of piano playing?
Lindquist: Well, in solo and chamber music, the piano often evokes the spirit of other instruments. But playing opera, we’re trying to truly be the orchestra, in all its colors and attitudes.
We’re also trying to establish a musical and rhythmic architecture that will last. The goal is to create a musical world that feels complete, and that takes enormous energy and focus – and yet, that’s not all we’re doing! Our mind is attuned to what’s happening in the rehearsal room, if there are things that can be adjusted and improved – we’re taking it all in. It’s a thrilling process.
Q: How old were you when you started playing piano?
Lindquist: I started lessons when I was 7. I liked the piano, but my first musical love was chamber music. The repertoire is gorgeous, and you get to make music with your friends! It wasn’t until college while studying chemistry that I fell in love with great singing after hearing it up close. But once I did, that was it.
Q: How did you come to apply for this job?
Lindquist: I auditioned in the spring of 2016. The day I received the invitation to audition was actually the same day I returned from a long trip without email access. I was lucky I didn’t miss the chance!
Q: How much do you practice every day?
Lindquist: In the “off-season”, when I’m learning the music for the season, a few hours a day will be spent at the piano, and then more doing language work, consulting full scores and different editions. During the season, if we’re in rehearsal for 6 hours a day, there will be some time getting ready for those rehearsals, and usually some time afterwards as well.
Q: What do you do when not at the opera house? Do you have other hobbies?
Lindquist: I enjoy cooking, although I’m not great at it! I also really enjoy getting over to the Art Institute of Chicago.
Q: What is your educational background?
Lindquist: My bachelor’s degree is from Williams College in Chemistry and Music. In our family growing up, science and art didn’t represent a divide – that was just what we valued.
I also have an M.M. in Collaborative Piano from the Mannes School of Music, where my teachers, mentors and colleagues were truly extraordinary. From there,it was straight into the Merola Opera Program and then the San Francisco Opera’s Adler Fellowship.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
Lindquist: After growing up in NYC, I definitely did not expect Chicago pizza to grow on me the way it has….