What we did on 07.11.18

Thank you for a shorter rehearsal and the AGM which was very business-like and positive. The choir is in good shape, high membership, good income, lots of friendly support and energy and a very exciting four-year programme.


  • Final concert rehearsals – in addition to Wednesday 12 December, there is an extra one on Thursday 13 in St Mary’s Church, Banbury at 7.30.
  • On concert day – Saturday 15 – we rehearse with the orchestra from 2.00 – 5.00
  • Christmas – We are not participating in the Town Carols (too near the concert ahead of a busy week). Chastleton House has invited a group to sing for them in the morning on Sunday 2 December. We will collect names over the next two weeks. There will be a rehearsal for this on MONDAY 26 November in the Methodist Church – programme will consist of some trad carols and simple arrangements we can get together quickly (same pieces as for the ‘snowed off’ event last year)
  • Next term – We are preparing the African Sanctus by David Fanshawe. This is an interesting, rather quirky but seminal piece of 20th cent choral music, an early attempt at ‘fusion’ – mixing extracts of recorded music from Africa with composed ‘western choral style’. It predates the explosion of ‘Roots music’ – the shared interest and familiarity with indigenous world music and ‘crossover’ styles which mix it together. Below are links to a rather wooden performance from Poland which clearly shows what the set up is and how the choir sings with the recordings and the 1975 BBC documentary about the making of the piece – the quality is very poor but it gives some insight to David Fanshawe’s mission. There are a few decent CDs of the piece too.

Rehearsal: RVW pages 54 to 67

What we will do on 14.11.18

We must press on through a lot more to get it covered, so ambitiously we will attempt the following – any prep you can do will help a lot.

RVW: Pages 40-46; pages 67 & 68; pages 22 – 28; sing through pages 30-39 (for the following week)

Elgar: Sing through pages 32-40 and 42-45 (for following week)

African Sanctus links

Whole performance – Music starts at 7′ 30″!:

BBC 1975 Omnibus TV documentary. dreadful quality (bootleg recording probably) but shows how Fanshawe collected his material and inspiration. If you get as far as his comments about English traditional music (i.e. we’re losing it and no one knows any) – is he right?!



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What we did on 31.10.18

Thanks to Chris Brown for playing, and to Brian for the wonderful posters and bookmarks!

This was a tough rehearsal with a lot of ‘fracking for notes’ and not as rewarding as we would have liked, I’m sure. VERY necessary and useful however and covered the following:

Elgar: Pages 18-31. Look out for the frequent changes in tempo and character, and extreme dynamics!

RVW: Pages 17 & 18 – tricky, particularly page 18. We sang through the whole section from page 6-20 following last week’s detailed exploration. The wheels didn’t come off but it had lost its energy so just needs singing many more times.

We ended the evening by singing pages 60/1 to get used to the big tune which dominates this last section.

What we will do on 07.11.18

Work from 7.30 – 8.40, followed by AGM from 8.50-9.30

Music: I have done a careful ‘audit’ of the first half term’s achievements and we are generally more familiar with a lot more of the Elgar and less so the RVW.

This week we will nail RVW pages 54-66 (some of which we have worked on) and pages 40-46 (first seen in the auditions) and NO ELGAR!

Many thanks, Peter


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What we did on 24.10.18

We worked really hard on the RVW movt 2 from pages 11 to 20 to join up with pages 6-11 that James had started a few weeks back (we did not quite get figs 7-8 done). The key to success in this movement is to make everything very short with strong consonants – beaT beaT drumZ, BLow  etc and on page 7 – forSS. Breathing: p8 – not after ‘church’; p9 – not after ‘peace’ but yes after ‘field’. BIG voiced ‘N’ on ‘grain’ P 13, T&B, quick one after ‘day’.

Then we did a remarkable thing – managed to sing through great chunks of the Elgar – Pages 42 to 73. Check this out to see how confident you are! Then we looked again at pages 5 to 17, taking p9 onwards at quite a lick – this is now sounding quite strong.

Well done everyone on a very successful half term, lots of musical progress and a new accompanist in place. Thank you for all your hard work.

What we will do on 31.10.18

Welcome James Speakman to the piano…

Elgar: Pages 18-31

RVW: Pages 6-20 (briefly to consolidate this week); pages 54-61

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What we did on 17.10.18

Welcome to Terry McNamara who accompanied us for the evening, nice to welcome him back.

We did excellent work on Elgar pages 68- 73, then joined it up from page 60. It was beginning to sound much more confident, and the words clearer. Placing the end of the notes – whether with a consonant or not – is noticeably weaker than other aspects, so please think carefully about this. They always end on a beat, so should be easy to place. When a note is tied to a quaver, we are nearly always placing the end where the quaver is (so cross it out and imagine it’s a rest, like most endings!) The exceptions to this rule will be noted as we proceed. Everyone note crotchet rest on p67 at fig 77 out of ‘ye‘ (inc sop 2); no breath after dreaming‘, but there is a breath after the ‘dreaming‘ in the bottom line.

We did not get onto Elgar pages 26-31 (which Matthew did in auditions) so we need to catch up…..

RVW: Good work on Beat drums p6-11 – full of energy, well done.

What we will do on 24.10.18 IN THE METHODIST CHURCH

Bernard’s last rehearsal 🙁

Note – slightly altered from rehearsal schedule published a few weeks ago.

RVW: Pages 11-20, then add to pages 6-10 to complete the whole movement

Elgar: Pages 26-31; run what we did last week p60-73

Thank you

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What we did on 10.10.18

We held the second round of accompanist auditions – thank you all very much for making this process work so well. There were four strong candidates, giving us a difficult decision to make. The result will be announced shortly.

I am grateful to the candidates for their thoroughly professional approach to this, and for their engaging rehearsal work with the choir which was also helpful in preparing our programme! I would like to wish them all the best of luck for the future.

What we will do on 17.10.18

Back to normal, we will work on the following:

  • Elgar – Pages 18-31 and 68-73
  • RVW – Pages 6-20

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What we did on 03.10.18

Thank you everyone for an excellent set of auditions and interviews for the post of accompanist and assistant conductor. The process worked well and we are looking forward to meeting the remaining candidates next week, same routine!

The music they will be rehearsing which you have not seen before is as follows:

  • Elgar pages 26-31
  • RVW pages 6-11

Please remember to bring your ‘election’ slips with you from last week, they will be collected at the end of the evening.

Thank you for your serious and thoughtful commitment to this process – proud of you all!


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What we did on 26.09.18


  • Pages 56 & 57 – the remaining section of what we covered last week. The section from pages 46-59 is now ‘complete’. Be warned – this section goes much faster than we have rehearsed hitherto! Fig 55 indicates a pulse of 152 – try it!
  • Pages 35-40 – Rhythm at fig 44 needs care. Basses – page 37, top line last bar please change the low B to an octave higher (do not inform the Elgar Society). Everyone – page turn to p38 beware of the A naturals following A#, particularly altos.

RVW: Pages 22-24, then a sing through 26-28. Lovely singing from sopranos here – well done all! Everyone else moves together and must support the tune, taking care with the dissonant harmonies – keep the tone light to prevent a ‘muddy’ sound.

What we will do on 03.10.18

First round of auditions – please be prompt for a 7.30 start. The first two candidates are:

  • Matthew Smallwood from Stratford, who will conduct Elgar pages 42 – 45
  • Christopher Brown from Chipping Norton, who will conduct RVW pages 40-45

We will also rehearse again some of the Elgar pages 5-17 and briefly look at other sections of both works as time allows, with both candidates accompanying.

Thank you.


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What we did on 19.09.18

Everyone worked very hard this week – lots of new notes and much concentration. Well done.

We tackled the following:

Elgar: Pages 45-59. Sang through then did some ‘analysis’ of the music to demonstrate that there are 4 main chunks of material which repeat. Each repeat is either exact or a bit varied and closely related. Recognising this makes for quicker progress. They are:

  • 1) Page 46 – The Thrilling motif’ which consists of a repeated falling semitone pattern (4 notes) shared between T/B then A/T/B. The other appearances of this pattern (varied a bit) are at: p47 bottom, p50 (fig 59), p54 bottom, p58 (fig67)
  • Chromatic lines (semitones) – Longer melodic lines which move mostly in semitones: p48 A/B, p49 T/B climbing passage, p52 last bar to 54 T/B
  • Perfect 4ths – Starts in sopranos on p48 (fig 57) and is developed bottom of page, again p52 bottom (same but higher). The interval of a 4th is a feature in many places.
  • Music makers theme – The opening passage of the whole work returns on p50 (fig 60), same rhythm (in augmentation!!) but varied melody. Again p55 (diff words)

As if this isn’t interesting enough (!) the sopranos are notable for being the only voice which has the 4ths idea, rarely joins the thrilling motif and never has the chromatic line! Instead they go ‘off piste’ with exotic and rather angular and atonal melodies such as on p46/47.

No mention has been made of pages 56/57, which we didn’t tackle, as the music here does not refer to any of the above. It is a new idea which all voices share and for the first time the music is contrapuntal (moving independently of each other) to symbolise ‘multitudes’. Clever eh?!

We also sang through opening pages 5-17 to keep them on the boil, and started to pick apart the chords on pages 12/13. This needs revisiting.

RVW – Pages 48-52. This section is basically two rounds going on at the same time. S & T sing the same tune (with a few notes altered at key changes)one bar apart; A & B do the same with an almost inverted version of the same tune. Simple and effective – gives the impression of calmness and reassurance but with an underlying unsettled feeling reflecting the ‘search’ for peace. Tension is created by the key changes (fig 32 and 33) and introduction of some chromatics (D flat bottom p 49, developed with F flat p51). ‘Stability’ and groundedness of the is maintained by the simple melodies expressed in the rounds. Clever too eh?

What we will do on 26.09.18

Elgar pages 32-40. RVW pages 22-28 + singing through some sections already rehearsed.

Looking ahead……..

03.10.18 & 10.10.18: Auditions – sections from both works. Candidates will be introducing you to new sections you have not seen!

17.10.18: Elgar pages 18-31 and 68-73. RVW Pages 6-20

24.10.18 (Half term): Elgar pages 42-45. RVW pages 40-45 + other sections revisited

31.10.18: Elgar pages 45-59 and start 78-end. RVW pages 54-61

07.11.18: AGM + short rehearsal

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What we did on 12.09.18

Thank you for an excellent rehearsal – the sight-reading this week was truly impressive!


  • I corrected the information about online practice resources – Dona nobis pacem is available on cyberbass.org. Apologies.
  • Auditions for the new accompanist will take place on October 3 & 10
  • There will be an extra rehearsal on the 24th (in half term) in the Methodist Church. This is to help us catch up after devoting rehearsal time to the auditions. Please come if you can, but understood if you other commitments this week which would normally be a break
  • Assuming we appoint a successor, Bernard’s last rehearsal will be October 31


We confidently put together pages 5-17 of the Elgar (see below for a section needing more work next week); likewise pages 1-5 of the RVW. Basses beware at fig 2 on p4 – your G is really important to create the harmonic tension – don’t stray onto an Ab to match the tenors and sops!!  It is not provided in the chord before you sing, you have to find it independently, probably from the soloist – we will practise this!

We revisited Elgar pages 60-67 and RVW pages 62-end from the previous rehearsal.

What we will do on 19.09.18 and up to half term:

19.09.18: Elgar pages 12-17 and 45-59 (red!!).  RVW pages 30-39 (repeat) and 48-53

26.09.18: Elgar pages 32-40. RVW pages 22-28 + singing through some sections already rehearsed

03.10.18 & 10.10.18: Auditions – sections from both works. Candidates will be introducing you to new sections you have not seen!

17.10.18: Elgar pages 18-31 and 68-73. RVW Pages 6-20

24.10.18 (Half term): Elgar pages 42-45. RVW pages 40-45 + other sections revisited

31.10.18: Elgar pages 45-59 and start 78-end. RVW pages 54-61

07.11.18: AGM + short rehearsal


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What we did on 05.09.18

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