What we did on 11.10.17

Introit – Thank you everyone who had a hand in organising the Ceilidh last Saturday, it was brilliant and a long overdue opportunity for us to meet for a different kind of fun! Good to see so many choir members and partners there; I hope we can do it again soon.

Thanks too for my wonderful present – Peter’s Music Tree – a specially commissioned sculpture. I was proud and humbled to have 20 years of conducting the Society honoured like this, and had a great evening. Congratulations and thanks to faithful singers and a strong team – particularly Bernard and Shauni – for making CNCS the friendly and high-achieving organisation it is! We love what we do and there is so much music out there that to quote Siegfried Sassoon “…..the singing will never be done.”

Wednesday’s rehearsal was tough and we covered a lot. Qui tollis – the notes were learnt well and the next challenge is to get the right style – legato and very expressive. I imagine this movement as a slow motion relay race in which each voice hands the baton to another voice and the music is a continuous line. The only bars in which everyone sings the same rhythm together are at the end (bars 47-50); very important that the voices blend – matching vowel sounds and expression. Remember 2 things: 1) Shape the phrases so we get Qui tollis pecata mundi (lean on ‘to’ and ‘ta’) and Miserere nobis  and deprecati onem  2) always crescendo slightly on the long syllables: pecaaaaata and oooonem so that music grows towards the suspensions (mostly coming after a tied note). Enjoy!

Cum sancto spiritu – Bravo! This is a long movement but broken down to its component parts, which repeat in some way, it doesn’t seem so daunting:

Bars 1-21 – Introduction opening fanfare (in Gloria Dei Patris motif appears a little later on and ‘pre-echos’ the fugue tune)

Bars 21 – 37 – First appearance of semiquaver runs and sequence patterns (First motorway junction bars 34-37, take the exit!)

Bars 37-64 – Fugue tune introduced

Bars 68-81 – Repeat of opening motif and sustained chords – choir sings in rhythmic unison

Bars 81-111 – ‘Development section’ where the fugue tune and other motifs are thrown around all voices (see bars 85/6 as an example)

Bars 112-end – Return of original motif leading to a ‘coda’ featuring the runny stuff from page 97 which climbs up & up on page 112 towards a thrilling finish!

Keep the singing very light and nimble – it makes life so much easier.

We also sang through the Sanctus, Pleni sunt & Osanna at the end – along sing, but they came together well. Please work on the sections you found troublesome. Thank you.

What we will do on 18.11.17

The AGM will be held at 8.45 with a proper rehearsal from 7.30 prompt

Credo I & II


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What we did on 04.10.17

Tenors and basses divided – we now have two separate SATB choirs!

Osanna (p217) – sectional work then put together. We worked hard on making the sound very light and staccato for every syllable: O-sa-nna in eck-schel-sis; this will help considerably at speed. I encouraged everyone to look out for patterns in the long passages and find ‘anchor points’ to stay on track. For example look at the choir 1 sopranos line starting in bar 17 – the first note of the semiquaver run is the same in bars 17 & 18 (B), then again in 19 & 20 (C#), and again in 21 & 22 (D). Examine the alto, bass and tenor lines – same pattern. Anchoring these notes will keep the harmony and pulse grounded, helping the notes in between to fall into place over time with increasing accuracy (unless you are brilliant and get them spot on first time of course, in which case, brilliant and thank you!). Look at your own part – can you find similar patterns and does it help?

Dona nobis pacem (page 236) – Sang through and checked various places. Remember it is the same music as the Gratias (p61) but with different text.

Gloria & et in terra pax (p36) – Gloria was good and sounding quite confident, Et in terra less so. Worked on it, particularly the entries which are often off the beat and need to be in tempo (breathe in good time).

IMPORTANT – We are NOT SINGING pages 45-47 – the soloists will take these. Choir comes in again on page 48 so look out for the page turn! Also – the soloists sing the Crucifixus (pages 149-152)

Kyrie 2 – sang through and worked on some corners. Page 35 needs due care and attention, particularly at the top of the page.

Learning support: Check out this resource – google gerubach mass in b minor. It enables you to listen to a recording whilst following a scrolling score. This is useful for when you feel fairly confident and want to sing along with a proper choral sound around you.

What we will do on 11.10.17: Qui tollis (p75) and Cum sancto (p94)

What we will do on 18.10.17: Credo (page 114) and Credo/patrem omnipotentem  (page 120)

Thank you all. Peter

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What we did on 27.09.17

Altos divided into 1 & 2. Anyone not at this rehearsal please check in with me next week so I can be sure numbers balance.

Note to all: If you are a 1st – you sing Choir 1 in the Hosanna; 2nds sing in Choir 2. The tenors and basses will be divided next week.

This week we tackled the Sanctus and Pleni sunt – good progress all round, well done.

Some general points:

  • Vowel sounds – really important that these are pure and clear – Sah-nctoohs Doh-mee-noohs Deh-oohs sah-bahort. There are only 5 vowel sounds to make and they are always the same: Eh Ee Ah O (as in ‘hot) Ooh (as in Donald Tusk!)
  • Every time a word is repeated (e.g. Sanctus, sanctus) separate the middle Ss, otherwise elide the words (Sanctus~Dominus~Deus~Sabaoth  joining the end consonants together so that the line sounds legato and smooth
  • Look out for the ‘tough corners’ – usually towards cadences or ends of phrases, where a lot happens in each voice part (e.g. bar 5, 23/24, 28/29, 46/47) as opposed to the longer passages where the music flows (e.g. bars 7-15). Get hold of these corners and the longer sections become easier.
  • Pleni sunt – Pleh-nee-soohnt cheh-lee et teh-rah  een gloreeah eh-yoohs
  • Avoid eliding coeli and et so it becomes coeliYet! More effort is required on the word et to keep is distinct from the coeli
  • Keep this very light

I emphasised again the importance of practising for yourself – always good to consolidate what we’ve done each week, then work on the difficult bits – make a note on them in rehearsals. Very encouraging to see quite a lot of people use  cyberbass.com and choraline.com to practise with. Also very useful to just listen to a good recording. The following are available on amazon.com which I would recommend. The style and clarity of singing will be helpful. Older recordings (such as under Herbert von Karajan), good though they are, won’t match our interpretation so closely.

Any conducted by John Elliot Gardiner – some available at £6.97 or £2.91; The Tavener Consort conducted by Andrew Parrot (Used at £5.50 or new for £3.84); The Sixteen (£13.06)

What we will do on 04.10.17

Divide tenors and basses into 2 parts and establish 2 choirs

Osanna (page 217); Donna nobis pacem (page 236) and sing through Gratias (page 61) – same music! We will also sing through another movement to keep them on the boil.

Thank you



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What we did on 21.09.17

A huge thank you to Shauni for taking Thursday’s rehearsal, and to the large numbers who attended – it was a good turn out. The feedback I had was that everyone worked very hard. Shauni made the following points for everyone’s attention:

We got through the second Kyrie and Et in terra pax (in its entirety),
running it through from the beginning of the Gloria right at the end of
the rehearsal.  We ran the first Kyrie as a warm up.  I am afraid we
just didn¹t get to Confiteor.

 I put emphasis on singing lightly, as you did in the previous week, making it a dance.   Text: Et (not etin) in terra paax (h)om-ee-n-ee-bus bone (not eh) vol-oon-ta-teece

It¹s a tricky place to rehearse because it¹s so bathroomy! So well done all!

Shauni also emphasised the importance of all the work you can do between rehearsals – listen to the pieces constantly (in the car, whilst ironing….), use the practice resources if you have them and follow the score, play your own lines over and over on the piano (if you are lucky enough to be able to) until the notes begin to stick. It is not possible to rely on weekly rehearsals only to learn this piece, the conductor can only do so much! Hard work, but really worth it!


What we will do on 27.09.17

Play about with triplet rhythms!

Divide the altos into two parts

Learn the Sanctus (p199) and Pleni sunt (p207)

Read through Confiteor


What we will do on 04.10.17

Divide tenors and basses into two parts

Learn Osanna (p217) which is in two choirs!

Dona nobis pacem (p236) Same music as Gratias which we know well!

Thank you


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What we did on 13.09.17

ALERT – The next rehearsal is on Thursday 21st in the Methodist Chapel opposite the Fox/Town Hall. Thank you Shauni in advance for taking this.

Yesterday’s rehearsal was excellent, thank you everybody. We got through two new choruses (Kyrie I and Gloria up to et in terra pax) and revisited Gratias. Sopranos are now divided into 1st and 2nds; any sopranos not there this week, please join the 2nds when you come next week.

The main points to be emphasised are:

  • Keep the singing light and quiet to give it energy and focus, and to avoid over singing. We must avoid stodginess!
  • Text: It’s Kyrie eleiZon
  • Take every opportunity to breathe or ‘lift off’ at the commas. This not only gives the music some space, but enables you to be clear about consonant beginnings (e.g. Kyrie & Gloria)
  • The Gloria is very light and staccato; be sure to make it bounce along and stress the beginning of the word. Don’t bump the ‘a‘ at the end (e.g. in bars 79 and 83)
  • Remember ‘in excelsis’ is prounounced een exchelsees. Always lift your cheeks and think ‘happy Italian’!


What we will do on THURSDAY 21st

Kyrie II Page 30

Et in terra pax Page 42

Confiteor Page Page 176 (up to bar 146)

Possible sing through of Kyrie I and Gloria


What we will do on 27.09.17

Play about with triplet rhythms!

Divide the altos into two parts

Learn the Sanctus (p199) and Pleni sunt (p207)


What we will do on 04.10.17

Divide tenors and basses into two parts

Learn Osanna (p217) which is in two choirs!

Dona nobis pacem (p236) Same music as Gratias which we know well!

Thank you


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What we did on 06.09.17

What a great first rehearsal – thank you everyone. It was marvelous to welcome so many new members and I hope you all enjoy singing the Bach. Some important announcements for everyone:

  • The rehearsal scheduled for Wednesday 20 has been moved to Thursday 21 in the Methodist Chapel (opposite The Fox)
  • The will be a rehearsal during the school half term on Wednesday 25 October, also in the Methodist Chapel. Please make the effort to attend if you can, thank you.

The rehearsal:

We sang through Gratias (p.61), Et incarnatus (p.144) and Credo 2(p.120) and worked at small sections. No need for detail yet but we highlighted some general points about singing/rehearsing which should not be forgotten! Please collect these techniques and tips in your ‘Singing Toolbox’ and get them out automatically when required!:

  • Using scat syllables is useful for learning notes and phrases. Singing ‘Da va da va da va’…. is gentle and adds some articulation to the long runs of notes and helps to keep them rhythmic. When you are familiar with the notes you can then focus on recreating the same effect on open vowel sounds using your diaphragm and glottle stops!
  • Vowels – Think Italian Pizza Chef. Recall how bright and ‘noisy’ the Italians are in vibrant conversation! New Yorkers are good at it too. For the words ‘Et incarnatus est’  smile and lift your cheeks with mouth open – this produces the right vocal colour and helps tuning.
  • Matching vowel sounds across 100 people is essential for a good choral sound. The importance of this is highlighted in a sketch from Sesame Street featuring the song ‘Oklahoma’. It also demonstrates the effect of non-compliance can have on the director (conductor!). Enjoy.


What we will do on 13.09.17

  • Warm up with ‘Oh what a beautiful morning’ from Oklahoma!
  • Consider the different vowels and what to do to make them match
  • Scat singing – into long phrases without it
  • Divide sopranos into 1st & 2nd
  • Kyrie 1; Gloria (up to bar 100); revisit last week’s music

Thank you everyone.


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Welcome to the 2017/18 season!

The new season begins very soon – on Wednesday 6 September at 7.30 in the Music Room in Chipping Norton School. I am looking forward to seeing everyone again and to welcoming new members for the term – or even longer!

This term’s programme is one of the greatest works on the planet – the B minor Mass by JS Bach and we have the privilege of performing it with some of the country’s finest players and soloists. If you have a recording of this work, it is almost certain that our concert will include players and singers that are involved in your recording somewhere!

There are 15 choruses in the Mass, some of them very challenging, and 14 rehearsals – you do the maths to work out the average we have to cover each week! It will be hard work, but worth the effort. Here are some general points for rehearsal routine, just to get you in the right frame of mind….

  • Be there every week – on time please
  • Warm up on the way (make some noises in the car) – there will be minimal time for this in rehearsal
  • Bring a pencil – and use it!
  • Depending on the edition of your music score – some page and bar numbers will be different – listen and think in rehearsal!
  • Do some homework each week – Prepare your score; practise! (Advice will be given on rehearsal support material)

Music scores: We are using the Barenreiter editions which will be loaned at the first rehearsal. There are two – an older version numbered BA5102 a (the most common which we will be issuing) and a new version numbered BA 5935-90. The music is exactly the same but the layout and printing is different, hence page and bar numbers not matching. Either will do and we can cope with this in rehearsal. There is also a Novello edition which I do not advise using – the print is very difficult to read (small and cramped) and the there are no bar numbers which will make locating places quickly in rehearsal more difficult. If you can cope with this (eg by writing in bar nos etc) then good luck.

Here is a plan of what we will attempt in the first few weeks so you can be practising and get ahead of the game! Good luck and thank you – see you soon.


Week 1 (06/09):

Gratias – page 61 (59 in the new Barenreiter score)

Et incarnatus est – page 144  (139 in the new Barenreiter score)

Credo 2 – page 120  (121 in the new Barenreiter score)

Week 2 (13/09):

Sopranos will be divided into parts 1 & 2 for the SSATB choruses and the Osanna which is for 2 choirs

Kyrie 1 – page 7 (3 in the new Barenreiter score)

Gloria – page 36 (34) up to bar 100

Revisit previous week’s music

Week 3 (20/09):

Kyrie 2

Confiteor – page 176 (170) up to bar 146 only

Week 4 (27/09):

Divide everyone into 2 choirs

Sanctus and Pleni sunt coeli – pages 199 (192) and 207 (210)

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Samson Movements

This may not be the final list, but the current list of chorus movements from Samson that we’re working on is:

p.8 Awake the trumpet’s lofty sound
p.52 Then round about the starry throne
p.110 Fix’d in his everlasting seat
p.124 With thunder armed
p.136 To fame immortal go
p.143 Great Dagon has subdued our foe
p.153 Hear us, our God
p.163 Glorious hero
p.173 Let their celestial concerts all unite

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New conductor’s notes page

As promised, here’s the new Conductor’s Notes page, bringing you updates after every rehearsal.  The aim of this page is to help those who’ve missed a rehearsal, to act as an aide-memoire for those who were there, and to help you prepare for the following week’s rehearsal more efficiently.

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