What we did on 29.11.17

This was a very encouraging rehearsal: we sang through a lot and picked away at some tricky corners and some joins between movements.


We covered the following movements:

Both Kyries, Cum sancto, Et resurrexit, Sanctus (inc Plenisunt coeli) and Osanna

All of the STANDS/SITS were written in – please make sure you have them marked in if you missed this rehearsal.

Please note that there are two versions of the solo aria Et in Unum sanctum. We will be performing Variante zu 3 which starts on page 135. I suggest you clip together pages 126-134 so you bypass the first version!

Osanna – Remember that after the solo Benedictus which follows this (p228), you REPEAT THE OSANNA. After finishing the repeat you sit again and the solo Agnus follows (page 233)

A general point which was troubling me a little was the vowel sounds – mainly the ‘a’ vowel in words such as pax, sancto & sanctus, dexteram, sabaoth and terra. Remember these must be pronounced ‘ah’ with the cheeks lifted to prevent them sounding too dark. THEY MUST NEVER SOUND LIKE CAT!

The inconsistencies (and often wrong) in pronunciation are most noticeable when voices are heard alone at entries eg pages 100/101 and 207, so take care please.

What we will do on 06.12.17

  • Practise the joins between movements – making sure we are confident with new keys and starting notes etc
  • Reset our vowel sounds!
  • Kyrie opening, Glorias, et in terra pax, Gratias, qui tollis, both Credos, Et incarnatus, Confiteor at least!

Very many thanks – this really is the home straight and the Service Station is in sight!

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What we did on 22.11.17

A very encouraging rehearsal – it’s all sounding much more confident and stylish.  We started gently with Qui tollis, after welcoming a real-life Francesco in an appropriate manner.  Keep remembering to grow through the tied notes & you need to keep a sense of movement right through the longer phrases, even though it’s slow.  Sopranos, keep your vowels bright to help with tuning.

Then we had a quick look at the Gloria, really gripping the opening consonants.  We tidied up some notes in the Et in terra pax, in particular p.43.  Do make sure you know which beat your entry is just after.  In the final section, from p.49, keep runs of semiquavers light at all times – style is more important than concentrating on every note, and it allows the ‘et in terra pax’ tune through.

The Confiteor started off light and stylish, but don’t let yourself get bogged down several pages in.  Basses need to be ready for the entry at the top of p.182 – it’s structurally very important, and much better when you prepare it.  In the Adagio (p.186-8), particularly when you get quieter on p.187, keep the ‘expectation’ there so it doesn’t sag.  And no extraneous noises in bars 137-8 when it’s meant to be just the 1st sops!

We ran Cum sancto spiritu.  Again, stay light when you’ve got long runs of semiquavers to let the fugue subject come through, and to save your energy.

As promised, we had a random selection to finish with: Dona nobis pacem needs you to remember to keep counting when you get to the end of runs of quavers and back into long notes – like the Highway Code says on leaving motorways, your speed may be higher than you realise.  Kyrie 1 needs everyone to remember to slur the pairs of quavers in the fugue subject every single time; also, keep your throat open on the ‘eh’ vowel, particularly in the middle of ele—-ison, and especially when singing higher.  Lots more initial consonant on ‘Kyrie’ would be good.  We finished with a sing-through of Gratias agimus tibi.

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What we did on 15.11.17

Thought for the day….

Dr Sam Wells, speaking about the Reformation at a recent lunchtime concert in St Martin-in-the-Fields:     “The Reformation for many people was not a good thing – 60 years of war, destruction, menace and suffering. However it did give us J S Bach.”

After posing for photographs, beautifully attired, we covered some awkward corners in Et resurrexit – pages 160/161. The entries here can catch you off guard. We agreed that a) you would not ever be ‘off guard’ and b) the text needs to be really energetic to make the entries strong – aSCENdit and Sedet.

I thanked Bernard for taking rehs in my absence – much appreciated.

Confiteor – Sang through the first section then thoroughly sorted the change to the adagio section beginning on page 186. Here’s the plan: Rallentando (slowing down) starts in bar 119 and goes into 4 in bar 121 and continues slowing (Altos watch here!). Also, diminuendo to mf. Sing ‘-rum’ in bar 123 as a crotchet. From here it is at the slow tempo and very sustained. In bar 135, diminuendo again to p by bar 137; again sing ‘-rum’ as a crotchet. Final stage in bar 145, dim. again and slow to bar 146 (sing ‘-rum’ in bar 146 as a very short note). From here we return to the original tempo – 2 in a bar – 1st sops be ready!

Once we had learnt the 2nd half of Confiteor (pages 190-end) we congratulated ourselves on having now worked at every note in the Mass – we had conquered the mountain and planted our flag at the summit! Brilliant achievement; now we have to consolidate and polish…..

Sang through Credo I, Et incarnates est and Pleni sunt


What you will do with Bernard on 22.11.17

Cum sancto (p94), Gloria/Et in terra (p36) Remember soloists sing pages 45-47). Look out for re-entry top of 48, Qui tollis

Re run of Confiteor (only stopping for collisions at junctions) and possible random selection if time…


What we will do on 29.11.17

Sanctus, Hosanna, Dona nobis pacem, both Kyries

Looking ahead:

On 06.12.17 we will sing through  the choruses not covered recently and top/tail anything else. On Friday Dec 8 we will rehearse in the church from 7.30 – 9.00 to sort seating and get used to the different acoustic, and cover any real emergency corners/junctions. This will not be a long or tiring reh as we have a lot to do on Saturday and you will need a good night’s sleep!



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What we did on 01.11.17

Thanks for a brilliant rehearsal last week.

We did some serious work on Et resurrexit. A reminder that the bass line on pages 162-164 is for the soloist and choir rejoins at the bottom of page 164. The trickiest section is pages 160/161 – lots of jumping about and off beat entries – please look at this bit thoroughly.

As promised we sang through all of the choruses listed in last weeks blog (apart from Donna nobis which is a repeat of Gratias anyway). Everyone will have their own memories of what went well/badly and have a list of pages to look at again. Overall these choruses hung together well and some were sounding `quietly confident’ for this stage. The same advice applies to each one – don’t sing too loud and keep it light. Energy in the rhythm and crisp words will produce the desired effect.

The two choruses which were the weakest were both first rehearsed on October 4th – Pleni sunt coeli and Osanna. The first credo was also untidy, but it was evident that a lot else had been well learnt and is beginning to stick. well done.

What you will do on 08.11.17 with Bernard

Revisit Et incarnatus as the warm up

Start first section of Confiteor (pages 176-188). Watch out for the Adagio section on page186 and speeding up again on  page 188!

Sing through Pleni sunt coeli and Osanna – gently and under speed to refresh memories about notes, stopping to note-bash catastrophic moments only.

My thanks to Bernard in advance for this. Good luck.

What we will do on 15.11.17

Et resurrexit, Confiteor re visit and 2nd half (p190-end), Credo I, Et incarnatus

Thank you,


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What we did in the Methodist Chapel on 25.10.17

Thank you to everyone who made this extra rehearsal – it was well worth it as we covered a lot of notes and odd corners. I am grateful to Bernard for coming too. Everything suffered a little because of the change of acoustic – difficult to hear each other – but there was very good progress overall.

Credo I: This is improving. The notes are coming on, 1st sopranos need to check out a few, but well done to them last night in general as they were under-represented. The biggest challenges are still:

  • COUNTING: Remember the pulse (what I’m conducting) is 4 minims per bar and this sometimes causes momentary confusion with rests and tied notes. The minim rest (1 beat) is the black rectangle that sits on the line of the stave (think M for Mouse); the semibreve rest (2 beats) hangs from the line (think S for Spider). Please write 1,2,3,4 over each beat of the bars which cause problems. On the last 2 pages count the long notes carefully. Basses take care in bars 41-43!
  • LOOKING AHEAD: Some entries take you by surprise – turn pages quickly. Page 115-116 has a nasty surprise for everyone except altos (who hold a note) and tenors (who aren’t singing at this point, although even they…… no I’ll resist a cheap joke at their expense. They were brilliant this week)

Credo II: We worked hard on the fugue tune, particularly the low note on -tem, concentrating on hitting the top note of fa-cto-rem accurately and with energy. We done good in the end!

Cum Sancto Spiritu: Again coming on well. Main challenges are pages 106-111 where everything is very contrapuntal and ‘busy’. Look at your own corners.

What we will do on 01.11.17

As promised – we will sing through everything we have practised so far just to test our retention rates!

  • That is: Both Kyries, Gloria (+ et in terra pax), Gratias, Qui tollis, Cum sancto, both Credos, Sanctus, Pleni sunt coeli, Osanna and Dona nobis.
  • We will leave out: Et incarnatus (not seen it since first rehearsal), Confiteor (not seen it at all yet!)

After a well-earned break, we will start work on Et resurrexit – good luck with that!

What we will do on 08.11.17

Revise Et incarnatus and start on Confiteor

I quoted William Blake last night – ‘You know if you’ve had enough, when you’ve had more than enough’     I don’t know why, but there was something about slogging through Bach that brought it to mind….

Well done all.  Peter

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What we did on 18.10.17

This was a short rehearsal due to the AGM – thank you to everyone who stayed for it. We raised the probability of holding another repertoire ‘post-it’ session to gather ideas for future programmes from members – more of this next term. What have you sung elsewhere that we might consider?…….

REHEARSAL AIDS: I referred again to the Gerubach website – some people are finding it useful but altos need to be aware that their line is written in the alto clef (the one used by viola players mainly and older choral scores). That’s why it looks completely different from your scores! Sorry if this means it’s no use to you on this occasion. Interesting that the sopranos have their own clef (Treble = soprano or G clef), the basses too (Bass clef or ‘F’ clef), the altos do (alto or ‘C’ clef). What do the tenors have? They borrow the treble clef with an ‘8’ dangling from the bottom to indicate that pitch an octave lower. Actually they also use the ‘C’ clef in some manuscripts (as do cellos and bassoons sometimes), but in a different place on the stave. A fascinating topic……

To music…..

We worked on Credo I and sang through Credo II in the hour we had. Credo I is particularly tricky because it’s set consistently high-ish for sop 1, tenors and basses and their are a lot of ‘leaps’ in the melodic lines. The piece does not sit quite so comfortably as most of the others do so there is not the same flow. However it’s quite short and the sectional work seemed to help. Credo II does not suffer from any of these challenges but we noted the following:

  • The main melody (basses bars 1-6, tenors bars 7-12, altos 11-16 and sops 17-22) has the leap of a major 7th (on ‘potentem’). Practise this to get it clean, but don’t hang about on the lower note.
  • Keep the singing very light and bright.
  • Sops bar 63 – let the end of that quaver run go and hit the ‘Patrem’ in bar 64!
  • Everyone bars 69-71 – piano please with a crescendo at the top of the next page.
  • In general when you have successive syllables without a consonant (e.g. ‘coe-li et…’ or ‘De-um in u-num’) be sure to separate the syllables with a glottle stop (ask me at the next rehearsal…) so they have the same attack as the consonants do.

What we will do on 25.10.17 IN THE METHODIST CHAPEL

Return to the two Credo movements and also Cum sancto (p94)

On 01.11.17 we will sing through all the movements we have covered so far and tackle the Et resurrexit (p153).

Thank you – we are making excellent progress for half a term – keep up the good work.


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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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