Pre-Start Conductor’s Notes

Good morning friends, I hope you’re well and have had a good start to the week. It’s been all go here, and we’ve had a really great start to the term, covering all the music (some of it already in good detail) in the first 2 weeks!

What we did – Wednesdays 17th & 24th April

In the first 2 rehearsals we saw all of the music, so the most important thing to do, if you missed either, is to sing through the pieces with a recording, and get used to how they’re structured.

  • In week 1 we went through the booklet, looking at some of the new pieces, and understanding how they work. Particular ones to note are Parratt Give Rest, O Christ, which asks for a flowing, chant-like movement; Cusins Of Old Sat Freedom, where we had some awkward key changes; and the psalm settings in A Short Requiem by Walford Davies.
  • In the psalms, we learnt how to read the chant and how it related to the text, but we also began to feel it though it was speech – I’ve written out the ‘rhythms’ of the text to help, but it’s a fun challenge to be able to use the psalm as written.
  • In week 2 we sang through the Elgar From the Bavarian Highlands, getting to grips with all the styles and really beginning to put in some good detail from the start! Elgar is one of the first major composers to include EVERY detail in his music, so we must follow it all!

To catch up: If you missed these rehearsals, please sing through as much of the music as possible at home.

What we’ll do – Wednesday 1st May

Goodness me, May already!

We’ll start with My Guardian Angel by Weir, and then we’ll look at The Marksmen, and bash through some notes and entries in that. After the break we’ll look at Of Old Sat Freedom, and end with the 1st and 2nd movements of the Elgar, and finish with a sing through of Parsons’s Ave Maria as a whole choir.

I’ve been asking for volunteers for a small semi-chorus to perform the Parsons Ave Maria, and to support the audience in the Weir. We’ve had a good number of volunteers, but it’s not too late to join.

We’ll spend 15 minutes after the rehearsal (and our whole-choir run through) going through this, so thank you for staying on.

I’ve got the below people down to sing – apologies if I’ve missed anyone, please do drop me an email and I’ll update it!

Semi-Chorus

Sopranos:
Juliet W
Katie N
Catherine W
Sian T
Rachel S

Altos:
Kipper C
Caroline S-B
Corinne T
David N
Susannah H
Livi M
Emma C
Deborah J
Bobbie K

Tenors:
Ruth N
Richard T
Gareth W

Basses:
Jonathan T
John N
Eric C
Callum S

Marked Scores

You’ll notice all the markings are in the booklet for you, so you only need to mark up the Elgar!
I’ve tried to help with the number of markings by putting ‘essentials’ in red, and ‘desirables’ in blue.
Thank you for putting the markings in, it really does help with rehearsals.

A lot of learning guides for this concert are available online.

From the Bavarian Highlands (and a lot of the other music) is available FREE OF CHARGE on John Fletcher Music, HERE.

As always I try to provide good recordings for you to listen to to help with the learning.

Most of the music can be found on my Spotify playlist HERE.

If you don’t like Spotify, you can find all of the music on YouTube, including a good recording of the Elgar (accompanied by orchestra) HERE.

Cotswold Youth Choir

We’ve had our first two rehearsals, but it would be great to get more kids along – please keep publicising this!

Future Events

I’m running a G&S Come-and-Sing with the Cumnor Choral Society in a few weeks! It’ll be a great day, and would be lovely to see some Chippy friends there!

This Week’s listening

Last night I played in a chamber concert in Oxford – it was great! The piece I was in was Beethoven’s Octet for Winds and it’s absolutely fiendish in places, especially on modern instruments. Have fun listening to the piece HERE.

See you all on Wednesday 1st May!
Ben

Continue ReadingPre-Start Conductor’s Notes

Pre-Start Conductor’s Notes

Hello everyone! I hope you’re all well and have had a lovely Easter break? I was hoping to get these notes out to you sooner but end-of-term-itis, a busy Easter, and a much needed break meant I never got round to writing these, so thank you for your patience.

Below is feedback for the Spring concert, information about next term, some exciting events coming up, and plenty more! Thank you for reading these notes, and I look forward to seeing you all on Wednesday 17th for our first rehearsal back!

Concert Feedback

Well, what can I say about that concert other than “Wow!” – it was amazing! A huge well done to you all for pulling it out the bag. From the beginning I’d been saying ‘I’ll all come together with the band on the day’, and I was right! You all absolutely nailed it!

The Shearing was great fun, and an excellent way to start the concert. It all felt relaxed and joyful, but committed and exciting at the same time. The first two movements in particular I thought were brilliantly sung, and the balance between parts was spot on; the text was really clear too, in the T/B section of Live with me, and the soprano solis in When daffodils. It was a lover was full of life and just a pleasure to romp through with you all – I could feel the audience’s smiles through the back of my head! Who is Silvia was just stunning! So beautifully sung with a real sense of line and phrasing. It was genuinely incredibly moving to conduct such a lush sound coming from 80 people, all committed to making the best quality sound possible. The ensemble was great, and really paid off doing all that work in rehearsals. Fie on sinful fantasy was short and sweet, but incredibly accurate! Thank you to Callum for his excellent glissando in this one, haha! And finally Hey, ho, the wind and the rain wrapped the Shearing up brilliantly, and everyone’s bright faces at the end perfectly encapsulated the piece. It would be impossible for me to talk about the Shearing and not mention Rowena, who’s accompanying in the concert, and through term, was impeccable! We’re so lucky to have you Ro, and it was a pleasure to perform the Shearing with you in-concert! Thank you for all your hard work in rehearsals and sectionals – we’d be lost without you!

A massive thank you also to Karen and her quartet for playing so wonderfully in the concert! What a joy it was to hear you in your element in that set you played! Most of the choir will know Karen in her capacity as an alto in the choir, but how incredible it was to hear you ‘do your day job’ and play for us! Thank you also for fixing such a good band – the solos were so much fun to watch, and everyone accompanied the choir so respectfully, supporting us throughout the Todd expertly!

The highlight of the evening was, naturally, the Todd! You absolutely smashed it!! So much energy. So much focus. And all the hard work you put in over the term paid off immeasurably in the final performance. I thought the opening of the Kyrie set the mood for the work, feeling confident and committed. The energy continued to build in the movement, and although there were a couple of less-confident moments, you captured the style of the movement perfectly. The Gloria was on the whole absolutely excellent, and each of the sections were handled brilliantly. I particularly enjoyed the 5/8 section which had an awesome lilt and felt playful yet grounded at the same time. The Credo was a lot of fun and we really gave it our all in that heavy bluesy style. The softer bits too were very well sung – looking back on it we could have maybe made it a bit quieter, but that’s something to work on for next time. All the fast stuff felt, on the whole, secure, so well done for this! My word, the Sanctus was beautiful! Sops and altos in particular, well done for the opening, it was so lovely! I want to commend you in particular for your direction in this movement; it felt like there was a great structure to it, and took us on a well-rounded journey. Then the Benedictus was, of course, amazing fun. From the off you could tell it had a fun and somewhat cheeky mood, so thank you basses for getting us going with that! With each entry it got more and more raucous, and the audience could feel that electric energy! All the key changes worked perfectly, and the “Hosanna”s had a really exciting buzz to them, leading to an epic climax at the end. And finally the Agnus Dei – this movement always felt ‘lacking in direction’ to me, and to those I spoke to about it. However, with the band, and the energy you all brought, it really came alive and made sense! What an amazing way to end the concert. I must apologise to those who have said they felt that the final fast section was quick... it was... I just got way too excited because it sounded so amazing!

And a final huge congratulations to Becca Wilkins who sang so brilliantly in the Mass. So many people have commented on how great it was to have Becca with us, all of which I’ve passed on to her. She’s so grateful for the love and support, and if you’d like to stay in touch with what she’s up to, sign up to her mailing list HERE.

A massive thank you to all the Committee and helpers who work so hard to make these events work. Without the dedicated team of people who run the concerts and help with the logistics of everything, we really couldn’t do any of this. We have such an amazing team of people who work behind the scenes, so next time you see one of them doing their hard work, please thank them!

Another great concert everyone, here’s to the next!

Summer Term

We begin rehearsing for our summer term this week, and I can’t wait to introduce you to some fun and exciting music. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and as you’ll see from the music we’ll be trying some new things.

Rehearsals begin on Wednesday 17th April.
We’ll take a break for half term on Wednesday 29th May.
We’ve got the Friday evening rehearsal in the church on Friday 14th June.
The concert is on Saturday 15th June in St Mary’s Church, Chipping Norton. The rehearsal on the day will be 2pm-5pm.
This concert is like the previous summer ones with me, so bring a picnic for the churchyard, and expect lots of Pimms!

We’ve got another performance opportunity on Sunday 30th June as part of the Chipping Norton Festival. The performance will begin at 13:45, and will be a chance for our new Cotswold Youth Choir to join us. Please save this date in the diary!

As part of the summer term, I’m looking for a small semi-chorus to sing one of our pieces, Robert Parson’s Ave Maria. If you’d be interested in this, please let me know. You’ve got until the 3rd rehearsal to let me know (1st May).

Marked Scores

On Wednesday you’ll get a booklet with the music in, as well as Elgar’s From the Bavarian Highlands. Both are available here, so please do put the markings in the Elgar once you’ve got it (I’ve already done the booklet for you).

Just a quick note on the marked scores – if you have a hire copy, please try to only put essential markings into your copies. we had a very quick turnaround for the Todd scores, and had an amazing team of people rubbing out all 70 copies... and it took the best part of a day between 10 of us. I’ve tried to help with this in my markings, putting ‘essentials’ in red, and ‘desirables’ in blue. Thank you for putting the markings in, it really does help with rehearsals.

Cotswold Youth Choir

This week we also begin rehearsals with the Cotswold Youth Choir! It would be great to get as many young people along as possible, so please do share the poster far and wide it’s not too late to sign up!

Future Events

Some excellent events coming up, so do check them out below.

There are also 2 more amazing opportunities I’ve been asked to share:

The Music Summer School and Festival

Dartington Trust’s ChoralFest

This Week’s listening

I wanted to share with you a lovely piece from the concert I’m doing with newCHOIR this term – it’s a setting of the Magnificat by Durante, formerly attributed to Pergolesi. An excellent work filled with joy, slush, and Baroque goodness.

Listen HERE.

See you all on Wednesday to get started with our summer term!
Ben

Continue ReadingPre-Start Conductor’s Notes

Pre-Concert Conductor’s Notes

Hello everyone! The final Notes before the concert! This term has been so much fun, but certainly really hard work, so I wanted to thank you all for your commitment and dedication to making it sound amazing! Wednesday was sounding fab (more on this below), but there’s still time for any last-minute practice in order to feel really confident for Sunday. Please do check out the information below.

What We Did – Wednesday 20th March

  • It was good to start with the Shearing in order to get used to the space. We began with the last section of Who is Sylvia, listening carefully to each other for the blend and ensemble.
  • Then we worked on the text of Fie on Sinful fantasy, projecting the consonants down the church, and on watching for the rit. at the end.
  • We then did a bit of work on Hey, ho, the wind, focusing mainly on the chorus and some of the tenor/bass sections. Please make sure there’s no “with A” – the text is just “with”. Tenors and Basses, please look over your entries as we’ll spend a bit of time on this on Sunday.
  • After this we went back to the start and did the odd bit of Live with me and be my love. These included the tuning of S/A chords and the projection of the text at Letter E and F, and then a spot of note checking at Letter I. Please make sure you feel comfortable with this for Sunday as it’ll need to be confident by then!
  • We started When Daffodils, with nothing much needed here, other than balancing the lower voices a little less loudly than the melody. Careful Sopranos with the tuning on the b-e leaps in bar 23.
  • Then we did a spot check of It was a lover – please make sure you sing the correct verses at the beginning!!! I think I’ll cry if anyone gets that wrong... Careful of the rhythm on page 20.
  • After this we worked a lot on the Kyrie, ensuring the pulse was solid throughout and the entries were confident, especially in the Basses! Basses, please ensure you have a double espresso before the second half so pages 6 and 7 are full of energy!!! We also worked on the ending of the Kyrie, making sure the text was right on page 16, and the sop/alto line on page 17 was right and confident.
  • We sang through the Gloria, then went into some good detail for the final entry, and some of the T/B notes beforehand. We spent some good time solidifying the “cum Sancto” entrance on the top of page 26, and we also went through the T/B notes on page 19 (which are the same on page 25).
  • We ended with a bit of work on the Credo, working on the fast sections, filling them with energy, especially with the Tenor and Bass entrances. We also went through the key changes from page 45 to the end, and noted that they are almost identical to the end of the Agnus Dei, just down a semitone.

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please look through the above sections.

Concert Details

All the details for the concert are below. If there are any questions, please email myself or Annabel.

General Timings
Rehearsal: 14:00-17:00.
Concert: 19:30.

Rehearsal Schedule
13:30 – Set up chairs
13:45 – Choir arrive and get seated.
14:00-14:10 – Gentle but thorough warm up.
14:10-14:50 – Shearing rehearsal in order.
14:50-15:05 – Short Break
15:05-16:15 – Todd, in order.*
16:15-16:30 – Safety time.
16:30-17:00 – Quartet rehearse, choir to depart.
* NB: there will be some moments where the choir won’t be singing so can rest silently as soloist and band rehearse.

Concert
19:10 – Choir arrive and warm up.
19:25 – Ready to go on.
19:30 – Concert begins.
21:30 – Concert ends.

Running Order
Shearing Songs and Sonnets (omitting Number 4: As Daisies Pied).
Karen Sharp Quartet jazz set – choir remain seated on stage.
Interval, during which refreshments will be provided.
Todd Mass in Blue.

Venue
St Peter and Paul’s Church, Deddington, OX15 0TG.

Concert Dress
All black with a splash of colour (tie, bow tie, brooch, scarf, etc.)

Scores
As we’ve mentioned many times now, we have a very short turn around for getting the scores back to the hirer, so please DO NOT LEAVE WITH YOUR SCORES! Thank you.

Poster and Tickets

We’re almost there but it’s not too late to promote the concert, so please do one final share of the link to tickets and the poster with friends, family, etc.. So far we’ve sold 73 tickets, so it would be great to sell more! Tickets are HERE.

Todd Learning Guides

This is your last chance to use these Learning Guides to aid your work at home on the Todd. I know it’s a tricky piece, but it’ll be a performance to remember, so please make sure you’re happy with your parts at home!

Oxford University Press put together free learning guides for each part! Find them HERE.

You can find learning guides for the Shearing on previous Conductor’s Notes.

Forthcoming Events

Two events other than ours this weekend, both on the same day... but I think I know which one I’d rather go to...

  1. My chamber choir, newCHOIR, have our concert on Saturday 23rd March, singing some wonderful music, including the incredible Serenade to Music by Ralph Vaughan Williams, alongside a host of old and new music. You’ll see some familiar faces there too, as 2 of our current members sing in the choir!
  2. The Brackley Jubilee Choir also have their concert that day. Great repertoire accompanied by one of our old university lecturers!

This Week’s Listening...

... is just a plea for you to listen to the Todd, so it’s fresh in your minds for Sunday! Thanks all.

See you all on Sunday!

Ben

Continue ReadingPre-Concert Conductor’s Notes

Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 6th March

Good evening friends, I hope you’re all well and had a lovely weekend if I didn’t see you. Lots of good things from the rehearsal, feedback from our excellent performance on Saturday, and a load of forthcoming events... do read on...

What We Did – Wednesday 6th March

  • We started with some tutti ‘spot-checks’ of the Benedictus in advance of the Festival. This mainly consisted of the groupings of voices which sing together from figure 76 to the end, especially the Alto line at the top of page 67. We also ensured the confidence with some of the key changes.
  • Following this we did some work on the blend of sound in Who is Sylvia by mixing up in pairs to hear other parts. Well done with this exercise.
  • Then we split into sectionals to go through the Gloria from page 24 to the end. Very important to ensure notes and rhythms are secure at this stage.
  • After the break we worked in sectionals on the Agnus Dei, trying to get the independent musical lines to feel more secure and confident.
  • We put together the end of the Gloria in tutti, which was a lot more secure.
  • Finally, the smaller choir of singers for the Festival came together to prepare for the Festival performance.

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please sing ensure the Benedictus and Who is Sylvia are completely secure, and then go through your parts for the Gloria and Agnus Dei.

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 13th March

Goodness, less than 2 weeks until the concert – we’re in a really good place with the pieces, it’s just the final details now!

  • We’ll start with one moment in the Benedictus that didn’t quite work on Saturday.
  • Then we’ll sing movements 1, 2, 3 of the Songs and Sonnets.
  • After this we’ll split into sectionals to refresh the Agnus Dei opening and ending.
  • We’ll work on the Gloria ending in T/B sectionals, and the Kyrie in S/A sectionals. T/B will be with me, S/A will be with Rowena.
  • We’ll come together to go through the Agnus and Gloria at the end.

Chipping Norton Music Festival Feedback

Very well done for our performance on Saturday! I think it was a roaring success. The feedback is below for you to read (good luck), but if you were there for the feedback she essentially said exactly what she wrote.

From my point of view, I’m very happy indeed. The Shearing was beautiful, with lovely vowel qualities, a good blend of sound, and exceptionally well-controlled lines of music; especially impressive as we hadn’t even had a warm up! People said how classy it sounded, which is fantastic!

The Todd was full of life and energy, and had all those brilliant characteristics we’ve been working on over the past few weeks. A huge congratulations to Sian and her epic solo! Basses, we got out by a beat, and I know exactly where and how it happened so we’ll make sure that can’t happen again on Wednesday – however, it still had so much confidence and energy and life that I really can’t complain too much, haha! Huge congratulations all on achieving a ‘Distinction’ mark!

Poster and Tickets

It’s getting close now, so please share the link to tickets and the poster with friends, family, pets, etc.. So far we’ve sold 34 tickets... time to sell more! Tickets are HERE.

The poster is available below, and physical copies can be picked up on Wednesday!

Todd Learning Guides

Your last chance to use the Learning Guides to aid your work at home on the Todd. I understand how tricky it is, but my gosh it’ll be a performance to remember, so please make sure you’re happy with your parts at home!

Oxford University Press put together free learning guides for each part! Find them HERE.

Forthcoming Events

It’s a busy time of year with lots on, so check out the amazing array of events below.

  1. This weekend you’re spoilt for choice as to concerts. As well as events in the Festival, the Banbury Symphony Orchestra have their concert on Saturday 16th March. We’ve got sops and altos in this orchestra.
  2. The very same evening (Saturday 16th March), the Burford Orchestra has its concert. Another lovely programme! One of our altos plays in this orchestra.
  3. The following weekend, my chamber choir, newCHOIR, have our concert on Saturday 23rd March, the day before our Jazz concert. You’ll see some familiar faces there too, as 2 of our current members sing in the choir!
  4. Finally, in the near future, there’s a Come-and-Sing day led by John Rutter. A very exciting thing to be a part of, so check it out!

This Week’s Listening...

Some more fun jazz for you – this week, from the legendary Dave Brubeck. Most famous for his piece Take Five, Brubeck’s sense of rhythm is second to none. This short piece, Unsquare Dance is immensely fun, playing around with a crazy 7/8 pulse. Check it out HERE.

See you all on Wednesday.

Ben

Continue ReadingConductor’s Notes – Wednesday 6th March

Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 28th February

Hello everyone, I hope you’re all well and have had a good start to the week. A little bit of info for you all, as well as feedback from our run. Thanks for reading.

What We Did – Wednesday 28th February

  • We started by refreshing the ending of the Kyrie, with its changes in time, and scrunchy chords at the end. Worth doing.
  • Then we ran the Mass in Blue:
    • The Kyrie started off well, we just need to work on confidence of entries, especially at figure 4 in SAT. Last bar of page 8 needs more confidence too, but the sound was good when going. Please note the text at the top of page 16... last time I’ll ask for this. The ending was good as it was fresh in our minds.
    • The Gloria started off well once we’d found the tempo. Rhythms were excellent throughout, well done! A little more confidence needed with some notes, so we’ll go through those in sectionals. The 5/8 section was brilliant! The ending needs a lot of work, as it’s been a few weeks since we last did it.
    • The start of the Credo was great – full of energy, dynamics were perfect, and it had a great vibe. We still need to work on the timings on page 36. Be ready for all entries from figure 40 – text here is really important. We’ll work on the changes of pages 43 – 48 – these are tricky!
    • The Sanctus was, on the whole, very beautiful. Some lovely long lines through here helped, we just need, again, confidence in starting the entries. We’ll clarify a few moments in here, such as the basses being higher than the tenors bottom of page 52.
    • The Benedictus was fab! A few minor tweaks and this will be great for the Festival and the concert. I loved the energy it had, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. We’ll do a tiny bit of work on the entries at the end from page 64 onwards.
    • Finally, the Agnus Dei had some lovely moments in it, but we need to ensure the musical lines are confident and flowing. We’ll do a lot of work on this in the next few weeks. Similarly, the ending is something we all know (it’s almost identical to the Credo), but we need the confidence to sing it.
  • After this we did a tiny bit of work on the Benedictus and Who is Sylvia for the Festival.

Thank you all for your post-it notes with sections you’d like to work on – I’ll be incorporating these into the rehearsals.

Thank you also for the questions about your Cotswold Youth Choir. There’s such enthusiasm for this, and we look forward to keeping you all updated.

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please sing through the whole of the Mass in Blue at home, to get a feel for going through it from start to end.

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 6th March

  • We’ll start with some spot checks of the Benedictus for the Festival.
  • Then we’ll do some blending work on Who is Sylvia, also for the Festival.
  • After this we’ll spit into sectionals to go through the ending of the Gloria (pages 24 onwards) and work on the Agnus Dei (start, and ending). S/A will be with me, T/B will be with Ro.
  • At the end of the rehearsal, about 21:10, I’ll ask all those not singing in the Festival to leave, so we can get used to the smaller sized group who are singing on Saturday. We’ll run Who is Sylvia and the Benedictus.

Chipping Norton Music Festival

Here’s all the information you’ll need:

  • It’s in the Chipping Norton Town Hall.
  • Our set begins at 12:30. Please be there by 12:20, so we can get seated. We’re last on, and then there will be the feedback session.
  • The music we’re singing is Who is Sylvia and the Benedictus. You won’t need a folder.
  • The dress code is all black with a splash of colour – something like a scarf, tie, or earrings, for example.

Poster and Tickets

The tickets are now live on the website, so get sharing with family, friends, and all your contacts! Let’s get a good audience for this one! Check out tickets HERE.

The poster is also available, so share that digitally too, and physical copies should be with us for next week’s rehearsal!

Todd Learning Guides

OUP have published free learning guides for the Todd! Please do use them! You can also find it on our good friend Choralia.

Todd – OUP
Todd – Choralia

Forthcoming Events

There’s loads going in in the Chipping Norton Music Festival over the next couple of weeks; too many to list, in fact. But, here are some highlights!

I’m sure you’ll see familiar faces at Folk night! Then, our friends at The Adderbury Ensemble have a couple of concerts. And, you can go and hear some of our very own members singing in the NC3 concert on Saturday 16th March. Plenty to get stuck into, so do check out the Festival website HERE.

This Week’s Listening...

A few people have said how much you enjoyed the Bobby McFerrin video from last week, so here’s another... It’s an incredible video of him singing Bach’s famous Prelude in C major. It also features the Gounod Ave Maria sung over the top by the audience... how on earth he does it all I have no idea! It’s well worth the listen HERE.

See you all on Wednesday.

Ben

Continue ReadingConductor’s Notes – Wednesday 28th February

Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 21st February

Hello everyone, another great rehearsal on Wednesday! I hope, like me, you’re really beginning to feel it coming together. Quite a lot of stuff below, so please do give it all a good read through over the weekend.

What We Did – Wednesday 21st February

  • We started by refreshing the themes of the Credo, including the very opening (keeping it energetic and moving forwards), then the main theme (also solidifying the notes in the chords), and finally the fast section in the middle (making sure we got all the text in and it’s really accurate).
  • Then we sang through the Sanctus (a lot remembered from last week, well done), as well as the Benedictus. This was full of energy and a really exciting sing!
  • After the break we split into sectionals to go through moments in the Gloria, as well as Hey, ho, the wind and the rain. Good work here, firming up notes, rhythms, and tuning in chords. T/B did well with the Shearing, we just need to prepare for each verse by looking ahead.
  • Finally, we came together to sing Live with me and be my love and Hey, ho. A good look at this, working on the odd chord and melodic line, and the energy of the songs.

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please look through the Sanctus and Benedictus, go through moments in the Gloria you find tricky, and look at the 1st and 7th movements of the Shearing.

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 28th February

  • This week we’ll be running the Todd. We’ll begin with a small refresher of the Kyrie, and then run the Todd.
  • After the break, we’ll look at the Benedictus and Who is Sylvia.

I’m going to bring along some post-it notes – after the run, I’ll have a clear idea of what we still need to work on, but I’d also like to hear from you if there are any bits you’re really stuck on. Please do let me know on these post-its!

Tomorrow, it’s exactly a month to go until the concert – keep working hard at home, it’s really coming together and will be a very exciting concert!

Cotswold Youth Choir Q&A

For the last 15 minutes of the rehearsal on the 28th Feb, we’ll be having a Q&A about the Youth Choir project. A number of people have asked me and Annabel for an update and to answer your questions, so we thought this would be useful. It is OUR youth choir, and we want you all to be involved and proud of it, so if you have any questions, queries, or concerns, let’s have a chat next week.

Chipping Norton Music Festival

Just to confirm, we’ll be singing Who is Sylvia and the Benedictus (in that order) in the Festival this year. We’re singing on Saturday 9th March, and we’re the last on in the Senior Choirs slot at 12:30, so please turn up by 12:20 so we can all get seated for the warm up.
For those who haven’t done it before, it’s in the Town Hall and is a really great occasion to perform and get feedback which we can apply to our concert! Please let Mark know when you sign in next week if you can make it so we can ensure we know final numbers.

Poster and Tickets

The tickets are now live on the website, so get sharing with family, friends, and all your contacts! Let’s get a good audience for this one! Check out tickets HERE.

The poster is also available, so share that digitally too, and physical copies should be with us for next week’s rehearsal!

Todd Learning Guides

OUP have published free learning guides for the Todd! Please do use them! You can also find it on our good friend Choralia.

Todd – OUP
Todd – Choralia

Fiddle Fingers

This weekend, Bec and I are heading up to Ripon to take part in the Fiddle Fingers Musicathon. Fiddle Fingers is a youth string group set up by Bec’s mum 25 years ago, and to celebrate this occasion, we’re playing music continuously for 25 hours! They started at midday today, and will continue until 1pm tomorrow (we’ve got the nightshift while the kids sleep... yay!) This is all to raise money for 2 fantastic charities: Cancer Research UK and Ehlers-Danlos Support UK.

If you want to support this Musicathon, please consider donating via the link HERE.

Forthcoming Events

A few events to share this week. Next week I’ll be sharing a load of events in the Festival, so if you’d like to check any of them out now, they’re up on the Festival website.

It’s not too late to catch Sounds Historical and their concerts The Bird Fancyer’s Delight. There are a couple more concerts you can make it to in time. Secondly, is the next CRAG concert. And finally, there’s the Joy of Singing workshops – those who went to one similar last year said it was great!

This Week’s Listening...

Another follow on from the Theory Workshop last weekend. We spoke about pentatonic scales (worth a read, if you’re interested), and Bobby McFerrin demonstrates the universality of the scale brilliantly. It’s well worth a watch HERE.

Have a great weekend and see you all on Wednesday.

Ben

Continue ReadingConductor’s Notes – Wednesday 21st February

Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 14th February

Good morning friends, I hope you’re all well and had a great weekend. We had our second Theory Workshop on Saturday (more below) which went really well. I always think there’s a moment in a term where things start to click, and last week really felt like that moment, so let’s keep up this amazing energy!

What We Did – Wednesday 14th February

  • We started by refreshing the ending of the Kyrie locking in what we did on the 7th. This felt a lot more confident.
  • Then we worked on the Credo, both the faster sections and the joins between them and the heavy blues sections.
  • We split into sectionals to do some work on the Credo and It was a lover and his lass, firming up some of the more challenging chords.
  • Then we came back together to run the Sanctus, and to put It was a lover together as full tutti.

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please look through the Credo, as well as work on your notes in It was a lover, and sing through the Sanctus.

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 21st February

  • We’ll start by refreshing the themes of the Credo, in preparation for our run of the Todd next week.
  • Then we’ll sing through the Sanctus and Benedictus.
  • After this we’ll split into sectionals to go through the Gloria, and Hey, ho, the wind and the rain.
  • Finally, we’ll come together to sing the first two movements of the Songs and Sonnets, and if time Hey, ho.

As I said last week, a lot to get through, but we’re making great progress. As all the music is so different, it’s really work reminding yourselves of the movements, and what the themes are... keep listening to the pieces!

Theory Workshops

Both workshops went really well – the 2nd was definitely more intense than the 1st as we had to cover some difficult concepts to understand our harmony and score reading a little better, but I was so pleased to have introduced this all to you, even if it’s not perfect yet – remember, people spend YEARS doing this, not just 3 hours on a Saturday afternoon. Well done all!

If you’d like to test your knowledge, you can see the booklet below (answers at the end). We’ll also be selling the remaining booklets if you’d like one – see Susannah and Mark at the rehearsal.

Marked Scores

These markings should all be in by now please!

For copyright reasons (as these posts are viewable by the public) we’ve had to password-protect the scores. Please feel free to email me or Annabel if you’ve forgotten it and we can share it with you.

Recommended recordings & learning guides

People have mentioned they would like more help with the Todd – as I’ve shared on previous Conductor’s Notes, there are learning guides for the Todd below:

Todd – OUP
Todd – Choralia

This Week’s listening...

Something from the theory workshop – we were talking about musical structures (forms), and the ternary form (A,B,A). Here’s the example I shared... Dvorak’s gorgeous Largo from his Symphony No. 9: The New World.

You can check it out HERE.

I look forward to seeing you all on Wednesday.

Ben

Continue ReadingConductor’s Notes – Wednesday 14th February

Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 7th February

Good morning everyone, I hope you’re well and have had a good start to the week. A relatively short one this week, so please do give it a read.

What We Did – Wednesday 7th February

  • We started with a run through of the Kyrie, seeing how much of it we could put together. This went really well given we’ve never tried to sing a movement through from beginning to end before. Once we’d remembered how each section went it was a lot smoother. We worked on the ending (pages 16 & 17), and will refresh this this coming week.
  • Then we split into sectionals to work on the Credo. Sops and Tenors started off on pages 45 & 46 with me, and then we worked on the florid rhythms and key changes.
  • We worked on the Agnus Dei in sectionals, going through the opening rhythms, and learning the ‘free-flow’ style of jazz, with each line doing its own thing, all based around a few notes in the chord.
  • We ended by coming back together to sing those moments in the Credo and Agnus Dei.

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please look through the Kyrie, reminding yourselves of the melodies, and looking at the ending. Please also go through the aforementioned sections of the Credo and Agnus Dei.

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 14th February

A reminder that there is definitely a rehearsal this week! It may be half term, Valentine’s Day, and Ash Wednesday, but there’s a lot of work we still need to do on the Todd, so please try to make the rehearsal!

  • We’ll start by refreshing the ending of the Kyrie from last week.
  • Then we’ll sing through the Sanctus, seeing what position that’s in. We’ll do some top and tailing on this.
  • Then I’d like to go through as much of the Credo as possible (at a steady speed), so we can remind ourselves of the melodies in that.
  • We’ll split for sectionals to firm up sections of the Credo and also to go through It was a lover and his lass.
  • Finally, we’ll finish with a reminder of the first two movements of the Songs and Sonnets.

A lot to get through, but we’re making great progress. As all the music is so different, it’s really work reminding yourselves of the movements, and what the themes are... keep listening to the pieces!

Theory Workshops

There’s still time to sign up for the second theory workshop! It’ll be really interesting and I hope you’ll all take lots away from it, helping you understand the music we do! You can still get tickets to the second workshop HERE.

Workshop 2
A Conductor’s Guide to Music Theory
Saturday 17th February, 2pm – 5pm
Chipping Norton Town Hall
While not compulsory to attend both workshops, this session will build on the first session by looking at the job of a conductor, including score analysis, decision-making, and contextual understanding. We’ll apply this to some conducting and singing in the second half.

Marked Scores

The marked scores are below. By now I expect you to all have the markings in!

For copyright reasons (as these posts are viewable by the public) we’ve had to password-protect the scores. Please feel free to email me or Annabel if you’ve forgotten it and we can share it with you.

Recommended recordings & learning guides

I’d highly recommend listening to the works, and you can hear my recommended recordings here:
SHEARING
TODD

There are a couple of places that offer free learning guides for these songs. The ones I’ve found are:

Shearing

Todd – OUP
Todd – Choralia

This Week’s listening...

This week, to support our learning of the styles of music we’re singing, I wanted to share something that is reminiscent of the Agnus Dei that we looked at in detail last week. Nina Simone’s I Put A Spell On You is a great example of this Blues style, and features lots of this ‘free-improvisation’ type of jazz, where all the parts flow and interact with each other uniquely – just listen to the instrumental music against what she sings.

You can check it out HERE.

I look forward to seeing you all on Wednesday.

Ben

Continue ReadingConductor’s Notes – Wednesday 7th February

Conductor’s Notes – Wednesdays 24th and 31st January

Hello friends, I hope you all had a lovely weekend and a good start to the week. Sorry I missed the Notes last week, it’s been a very busy time which is both exciting and exhausting, so I hope you can forgive the delay in getting these to you; I know how helpful people find them.

It’s a bit of a long one as there are lots of important things below – I’m very grateful to you all for taking the time to read them!

What We Did – Wednesday 24th January

  • We started by refreshing the Benedictus, singing through the opening (remember Tenors to walk up the scale with the Basses just before your first entrance to help you find your first note!). We also went through the key changes, practicing feeling the ‘lift in sound’. Then we worked on the “Hosanna” section, putting in the accents and securing the notes in each part.
  • Then we split into sectionals to work on the Gloria, focusing on the 5/8 section on pages 21-24. We practiced the rhythms and then got the notes sorted. This paid off as when we brought it together at the end it worked perfectly! Huge congratulations for this!
  • We worked on the Sanctus in sectionals, firming up the notes, and these were on the whole much more confident when we sang it together at the end. It was good to focus on some of the harmonies and rhythms especially on pages 53 and 54.
  • We ended by looking briefly at the main themes in the Kyrie, ensuring they stay fresh in our minds.

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please sing through the Benedictus, and then look at the 5/8 section of the Gloria, and practice your notes in the Sanctus and Kyrie.

What We Did – Wednesday 31st January

  • We began by warming up with Who is Sylvia in the Shearing, working on beautiful long lines, direction of the music, and expression of the text (as well as ensuring all notes were secure).
  • Then we refreshed the 5/8 section of the Gloria, which went very well, and after some practice finding the notes we joined it into figure 23.
  • After this, we refreshed our memory of the Credo theme on page 30. We did some note-bashing to ensure everyone felt happy with the pitches, and then worked on some of the fiddly rhythms, including the top of page 34. We also went through the rhythms from page 45 to the end of the Credo, and sang through. We’ll do some sectional work on this!
  • We then worked on the Kyrie from page 12 through to page 16, especially looking at the transition and making sure the words lined up with the notes.
  • And finally we ended with some work on verse 4 (page 22) of It Was A Lover, looking at some of the notes, and feeling the rhythms of the music together. The harmony in this piece is deceptively difficult, so don’t worry if you’ve not got it nailed down just yet!

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please sing through Who Is Sylvia, look at the Credo and Kyrie in the Mass, and go through your notes in It Was A Lover And His Lass.

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 7th February

  • We’ll begin by singing the whole of the Kyrie, seeing how much we can do.
  • After this we’ll split into sectionals to go through the Credo from page 45 – end – ATB will be with Rowena, Sopranos will be with me.
  • Then we’ll do sectionals on the Agnus Dei. SA with me, TB with Rowena.
  • If there’s time, we’ll do a small note-bash in sectionals on It Was A Lover.
  • We’ll come back together to sing through the end of the Credo and as much of the Agnus Dei as time allows.

To prepare for this rehearsal, please go and listen to the whole of the Mass in Blue, or at the very least the movements we’ll be doing. It doesn’t take long, and you can do it with a drink in your hand!

To give you plenty of advanced warning, we’ll be running the Mass in Blue on Wednesday 28th February to see what state it’s in. This will also help us get a great feel for the whole piece, so please make sure you’re prepared for this. (Don’t worry, there are still plenty of rehearsals after to touch it all up, but this is a vital part of the rehearsal process)!

Theory Workshops

Last Saturday we had the first of the Theory Workshops, which people found incredibly useful – there was a great buzz of learning in the room, and plenty of questions were asked (and hopefully answered!) If there are any questions remaining from the session, please do come and ask!

Below is the booklet for the day with the answers to the exercises at the end, in case you wanted to check your work! It’s the same password as the marked scores. We also have some physical copies left, so if you would like one please let us know on Wednesday.

You can still get tickets to the second workshop HERE.

Workshop 2
A Conductor’s Guide to Music Theory
Saturday 17th February, 2pm – 5pm
Chipping Norton Town Hall
While not compulsory to attend both workshops, this session will build on the first session by looking at the job of a conductor, including score analysis, decision-making, and contextual understanding. We’ll apply this to some conducting and singing in the second half.

Marked Scores

The marked scores are below. By now I hope you’ve all got the markings in – please don’t let the team down by breathing in the wrong place!!

For copyright reasons (as these posts are viewable by the public) we’ve had to password-protect the scores. Annabel sent an email out first week with the password in the email, but I’ll keep announcing it on Wednesdays. Please also feel free to email me or Annabel if you’ve forgotten it and we can share it with you.

Recommended recordings & learning guides

I’d highly recommend listening to the works, and you can hear my recommended recordings here:
SHEARING
TODD

There are a couple of places that offer free learning guides for these songs. The ones I’ve found are:

Shearing

Todd – OUP
Todd – Choralia

Music Festival

As I shared at the start of term, we’ll be singing in the Chipping Norton Music Festival – a great opportunity to perform some of our concert works, and to participate in an amazing festival! As shared, the date is SATURDAY 9th MARCH. We don’t know what time yet as the day hasn’t been finalised, but it would be great to have as many people singing as possible, so we get a chance to perform some of the music before our concert!

Music is TBC, but we’ll likely do the Sanctus from Mass in Blue (the only movement without the Soprano Soloist), and a couple of movements from the Shearing.

Becca Wilkins

Speaking of the soprano soloist, we’ve booked a fantastic singer, Becca Wilkins, as our soloist. Bec and I were at university with her, and it’s been great watching her career take off in London, so we’re really lucky to have her with us!

You can hear her on Spotify, or on her website HERE.

Forthcoming events

There are a couple of events coming up soon, so do check them out and go and support those involved.

The first features some of our very own members. David and Gareth are fairly new members, and Rachel, who was the Soprano Section Representative last year, says:
“David, Gareth and I are currently busily involved with rehearsals for Banbury Operatic Society’s Forthcoming show Calamity Jane – 14-17 Feb 2024. Its going to be a great show!
Please take a look at the poster below and book your tickets now! You can book HERE.

The second is a come-and-sing Messiah. All details are on the poster below.

This Week’s listening...

I often write down ideas of things that I want to share with you, and I can’t remember exactly why this is on the list, but I remember mentioning the piece to Mark, either in a rehearsal or in the pub... either way, it’s a beautiful choice this week...

Spiegel im Spiegel is arguably one of Arvo Pärt’s most famous works. Translated as ‘mirror(s) in the mirror’, this standalone piece was originally written for piano and violin in 1978, and is in the minimalist style, using regular and repeated patterns. In fact, the style of minimalism Pärt employs was created by him two years earlier; this is the tintinnabular style, wherein a melodic voice, operating over diatonic scales, and tintinnabular voice, operating within a triad on the tonic, accompany each other.

Whether you’ve had a busy start to the week or are recovering from a busy weekend, take a moment to relax, reflect, and enjoy this stunning piece of music! You can check it out HERE.

I look forward to seeing you all on Wednesday.

Ben

Continue ReadingConductor’s Notes – Wednesdays 24th and 31st January

Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 17th January 2024

Hello everyone, I hope you’re well and have had a good end to week! We had a lovely time in Germany (more below, if you’re interested), but it was lovely to be back with you all.

What We Did – Wednesday 17th January

A really good rehearsal on Wednesday – we made lots of good progress, and locked in a load of music. Keep practicing at home!

  • We started by refreshing the opening to the Gloria from Mass in Blue, reminding ourselves of the rhythms and some notes, before singing it with more confidence. Then we worked on pages 24-26, noting how similar the music is to the opening, and how some motifs return.
  • Then we reminded ourselves of the opening of the Benedictus – tenors, remember that to find your starting note you can walk up the scale with the basses at the end of their first entry! We practiced all of the modulations, and began joining them together.
  • After the break, we learnt the “Hosanna” section in the Benedictus (starting on page 61), and went all the way to the end, noting the rogue 3/4 bar at the end of page 66.
  • Then we briefly refreshed the opening of the Kyrie, reminding ourselves of the opening melody and the counter-melody in the sops and altos, finishing at figure 4.
  • We ended the rehearsal by working on 3. It was a lover and his lass from Songs and Sonnets, practicing the tricky intervals in the opening, then practicing the jazzier harmonies the end the verses.

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please work on the Gloria and Benedictus of the Mass in Blue, especially as we’ve seen most of these movements in great detail now. Also look at It was a lover and his lass and practice some of those notes slowly.

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 24th January

  • We’ll start by refreshing the whole of the Benedictus, locking in the “Hosanna”s.
  • Then we’ll split into sectionals to work on the Gloria from figure 20-23, and the ending from figure 27.
  • After the break we’ll look at the Sanctus in sectionals.
  • Then we’ll come back together to put together the Gloria (figures 20 & 27), and Sanctus.
  • If there’s time, we’ll end with some more work on the Kyrie.

Marked Scores

The marked scores are below. I’m so grateful to you all for taking the time to mark up your parts, it makes SUCH a difference to rehearsals!

For copyright reasons (as these posts are viewable by the public) we’ve had to password-protect the scores. Annabel sent an email out first week with the password in the email, but I’ll keep announcing it on Wednesdays. Please also feel free to email me or Annabel if you’ve forgotten it and we can share it with you.

Recommended recordings & learning guides

I’d highly recommend listening to the works, and you can hear my recommended recordings here:
SHEARING
TODD

There are a couple of places that offer free learning guides for these songs. The ones I’ve found are:

Shearing

Todd – OUP
Todd – Choralia

Theory Workshops

The first theory workshop is almost upon us, so please do sign up for these. I’m sure for many of you they’ll be incredibly helpful!
Booklets will be provided on the day, and tea and coffee will be served during the break.
Each session individually costs £10, but as we’d love for you all to attend both sessions we’re offering both for £15, so make sure you sign up!

You can get tickets HERE.

Workshop 1
A Singer’s Guide to Music Theory
Saturday 27th January, 2pm – 5pm
Chipping Norton Methodist Church
This workshop will give you an introduction to music theory, including the fundamental knowledge to read the music and understand what’s on the page. In the second half we’ll apply this to simple pieces and singing exercises, using it in a choral setting.

Workshop 2
A Conductor’s Guide to Music Theory
Saturday 17th February, 2pm – 5pm
Chipping Norton Town Hall
While not compulsory to attend both workshops, this session will build on the first session by looking at the job of a conductor, including score analysis, decision-making, and contextual understanding. We’ll apply this to some conducting and singing in the second half.

Germany Trip

There’s a CRAG concert in a few weeks, so do go along and support this wonderful organisation by listening to an excellent concert!

Germany Trip

In case you’re interested in what I get up to outside of conducting CNCS, I’ve just come back from a series of events in Germany with the male-voice ensemble Man(n) Singt! and my barbershop quartet The Acafellas. When we were over there, we sang a New Year’s concert to promote Man(n) Singt!’s new CD which we recorded last year with brass and harp, and then the barbershop quartet sang for a New Year’s reception, did some coaching with the lower voices in a youth choir, and sang a sold-out concert in a small church in a lovely little village called Palmach, just outside of Karlsruhe. It was such an amazing time, and photos of these events are below.

This Week’s listening...

Is based on my trip to Germany – Man(n) Singt! sang with a brass quintet called LJO-Brass, and I wanted to share something of theirs. Years ago they recorded a CD themselves, and they’ve got a couple of tracks available on their website. My favourite is the recording of Ewald’s Third Brass Quintet.

You can check it out HERE.

Have a lovely weekend everyone, and I look forward to seeing you all on Wednesday.

Ben

Continue ReadingConductor’s Notes – Wednesday 17th January 2024

Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 10th January 2024

Good evening friends, I hope you’re all well and had a lovely week. What a pleasure it was to be back making music with you all on Wednesday, thank you all for being there. Let’s kick the year off with some Conductor’s Notes featuring some important information – thank you for reading through!

What We Did – Wednesday 10th January

  • We started with Shearing: Live with me and be my love, learning the notes for the first two verses. We focussed with T/B on not losing the pitch at Letter F. Then we did a tiny bit on the final verse at Letter I, but will ensure notes are secure in sectionals – we did look at the tuning of the last chord though.
  • Then we went through When daffodils begin to peer, confirming notes and beginning to put some expression and flow into the music.
  • After the break we started with the opening of the Gloria from Mass in Blue, learning the opening rhythms and beginning to feel these tricky syncopations. We then worked on the notes and rhythms on page 19, before once again firming up the rhythms on page 20.
  • Finally, we ended by working on the opening of the Benedictus, reminding ourselves of each individual part that builds up the texture. We then focussed on the semi-tonal key changes which crop up throughout the movement.

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please work on the first two movements of Songs and Sonnets, and remind yourself of the opening of the Benedictus in the Mass. If you also have time, please go through the rhythms in the Gloria, by speaking/singing along to a recording.

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 17th January

In this rehearsal, we’ll:

  • Start by refreshing the opening of the Gloria, and tie it into the end of the movement.
  • Then refresh the Benedictus, and learn the “Hosanna” section on page 61.
  • After this we’ll remind ourselves of the Kyrie.
  • If there’s time, we’ll look at the Credo theme too, reminding ourselves of that from before Christmas.
  • We’ll end by working on It was a lover and his lass.

Marked Scores

The marked scores are below. I’m so grateful to you all for taking the time to mark up your parts, it makes SUCH a difference to rehearsals!

For copyright reasons (as these posts are viewable by the public) we’ve had to password-protect the scores. Annabel sent an email out last week with the password in the email, but I’ll keep announcing it on Wednesdays. Please also feel free to email me or Annabel and we can share it with you.

Recommended recordings & learning guides

I’d highly recommend listening to the works, and you can hear my recommended recordings here:
SHEARING
TODD

There are a couple of places that offer free learning guides for these songs. The ones I’ve found are:

Shearing

Todd – OUP
Todd – Choralia

Theory Workshops

As mentioned on Wednesday, please do sign up for these, I hope they’ll be incredibly helpful!
Booklets will be provided on the day, and tea and coffee will be served during the break.
Each session individually costs £10, but as we’d love for you all to attend both sessions we’re offering both for £15, so make sure you sign up!

You can get tickets HERE.

Workshop 1
A Singer’s Guide to Music Theory
Saturday 27th January, 2pm – 5pm
Chipping Norton Methodist Church
This workshop will give you an introduction to music theory, including the fundamental knowledge to read the music and understand what’s on the page. In the second half we’ll apply this to simple pieces and singing exercises, using it in a choral setting.

Workshop 2
A Conductor’s Guide to Music Theory
Saturday 17th February, 2pm – 5pm
Chipping Norton Town Hall
While not compulsory to attend both workshops, this session will build on the first session by looking at the job of a conductor, including score analysis, decision-making, and contextual understanding. We’ll apply this to some conducting and singing in the second half.

This Week’s listening...

Something rather interesting for you all this week – a friend in the OUP Choir mentioned to me that she’d been listening to a radio programme presented by Felix Klieser, a french horn player who’s become more widely renowned following his BBC Proms debut last year. The thing that makes Felix’s playing more impressive than most is the fact he plays with his feet, owing to being born without arms.

You can watch him play Mozart’s Second Horn Concerto HERE.

And you can hear the programme he presented on BBC Sounds for the next few days HERE.

Have a lovely weekend, and I’ll see you all on Wednesday.

Ben

Continue ReadingConductor’s Notes – Wednesday 10th January 2024

Pre-Start Conductor’s Notes

Hello friends! I hope you’ve all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year, and are looking forward to getting cracking again on some excellent music! Here’s everything you need to know for the start of term.

And a quick reminder that you can sign up for an automatic notification of when I post Conductor’s Notes, so you don’t have to check regularly. Sign up HERE.
(I’ve made a New Year’s resolution to try and get them done by the weekend each week...!)

First rehearsal back

A reminder that we’re starting again on Wednesday 10th January in the Town Hall. We’ve already made some really good progress on the Mass in Blue, learning the motifs for each movement, and also beginning our work on Songs and Sonnets from Shakespeare.

For our first rehearsal back we’ll be looking at:
– Shearing: Live with me and be my love, and When daffodils begin to peer.
– Todd: Gloria (opening-figure 20, and figure 24-end), and Benedictus (opening-figure 73)

Plan for the term

Below is the plan for the term. All the dates have been shared, but just so you’re all fully aware of what’s going on.

Please note, our final Wednesday rehearsal of the term (Wednesday 20th March) is in SS Peter and Paul’s Church, Deddington, where the concert will be. There is NO Friday rehearsal on the 22nd March.

Marked Scores

The marked scores are below. Thanks for your patience with me getting these out; I wanted to meet with Karen to decide on a few performance-related things before marking them up. I’m so grateful to you all for taking the time to mark up your parts!

Due to copyright reasons (as these posts are viewable by the public), we’ve had to password-protect the scores. I’ll send an email out to all members letting you know the password, as well as announcing it on Wednesday.

Recommended recordings & learning guides

I’d highly recommend listening to the works, and you can hear my recommended recordings here:
SHEARING
TODD

There are a couple of places that offer free learning guides for these songs. The ones I’ve found are:

Shearing

Todd – OUP
Todd – Choralia

Theory Workshops

Not long until our music theory workshops. Many people have approached me in the past asking for some advice and sessions on music theory, so it would be great to see you all at these workshops.
Booklets will be provided on the day, and tea and coffee will be served during the break.
Each session individually costs £10, but as we’d love for you all to attend both sessions we’re offering both for £15, so make sure you sign up!

You can get tickets HERE.

Workshop 1
A Singer’s Guide to Music Theory
Saturday 27th January, 2pm – 5pm
Chipping Norton Methodist Church
This workshop will give you an introduction to music theory, including the fundamental knowledge to read the music and understand what’s on the page. In the second half we’ll apply this to simple pieces and singing exercises, using it in a choral setting.

Workshop 2
A Conductor’s Guide to Music Theory
Saturday 17th February, 2pm – 5pm
Chipping Norton Town Hall
While not compulsory to attend both workshops, this session will build on the first session by looking at the job of a conductor, including score analysis, decision-making, and contextual understanding. We’ll apply this to some conducting and singing in the second half.

This Week’s listening...

... will hopefully get you in the mood for some jazz...

The Benedictus of the Mass in Blue is unashamedly based on Fever, as made famous by Peggy Lee in the late 50s. However, I want to show you Michael Bublé’s cover of it, as he’s so laid back and suave, which is just the feeling we’re aiming for in the start of the Benedictus.

Check it out HERE.
(sorry there’s an awkward cut in it... it doesn’t detract from the performance!)

See you all on Wednesday, I can’t wait to get back to making music with you all again!

Ben

Continue ReadingPre-Start Conductor’s Notes

Pre-Christmas Conductor’s Notes

Good evening everyone, I hope you’re all well and are settling down for a relaxed Christmas and New Year. We’re off to see family tomorrow, so time for my final post of the year!

Thanks for 2023

I want to start off these Notes by thanking you for such an amazing year! As I said in my AGM report at the end of November, it’s been truly incredible what we’ve done this year; A move to the Town Hall, the ‘Breathe’ workshop, the Music Festival, Brahms’s Requiem, our fun Summer Concert, the Mozart Requiem Come-and-Sing, a summer social, a Saturday rehearsal, the incredible Remembrance concert, some Christmas carols, and finally the Christmas Come-and-Sing! What. A. Year. A massive thank you to you all for such incredible work in singing at these events and throughout the term. An even more massive thank you to my partner-in-crime Rowena, without whom we’d not stand a chance! And finally the most massive thank you to the Committee (both old and new) and volunteers for all of their hard work behind the scenes; we couldn’t do what we do without the hugely dedicated team of volunteers who work tirelessly to bring together these incredible projects.

As I come to the end of my second full year with the Choral Society, I can wholeheartedly say that is an absolute pleasure to make music with you all!

Christmas Events

It’s been a great run of Christmas events this year. We sang for the Chipping Norton Christmas Lights Switch On on Thursday 23rd November, the Great Rollright Christmas Market on Saturday 2nd December, and had our Christmas Come-and-Sing on Sunday 17th December! Then, on my birthday, I asked some friends to come carol singing around Chipping Norton, raising money for the Cotswold Youth Choir as we prepare to launch it in the new year; we raised a brilliant £110! Here are some photos from each event!

Future Dates

Please make note of the dates for the next concert:

Rehearsals begin on Wednesday 10th January.
Theory workshops are below.
There’s NO FRIDAY rehearsal this term, due to Deddington’s availability.
Therefore, Wednesday 20th March will be in SS Peter and Paul’s Deddington.
The concert is on Sunday 24th March.

The repertoire is fab: Shearing’s Songs and Sonnets and Todd’s Mass in Blue. We’ll be joined by the Karen Sharp Quartet for this!

Dates for the rest of the year are viewable in the ‘Rehearsals’ section of the website, under the ‘Members’ tab, HERE.

Theory Workshops

We’ll be running two theory workshops in the Spring term, following feedback on what you would like to work on. They’re open to all members of the Choral Society, and will be an excellent opportunity to expand your knowledge and put into practice the fundamentals of music theory, in order to help us sing to the best of our abilities!

Workshop 1
A Singer’s Guide to Music Theory
Saturday 27th January, 2pm – 5pm
Chipping Norton Methodist Church
This workshop will give participants an introduction to music theory, along with the basic knowledge required to read the music. We’ll apply this to pieces and singing exercises, building confidence in sight-reading and music recognition.

Workshop 2
A Conductor’s Guide to Music Theory
Saturday 17th February, 2pm – 5pm
Chipping Norton Town Hall
Whilst it’s not compulsory to attend both workshops, this session will build on the first session by look at the job of a conductor, including score analysis, decision-making, and musical understanding. We’ll apply this to both conducting and singing.

Future Events

Two exciting events for you to look forward to in the new year. The first is the next CRAG concert on Sunday 7th January, which you can see in the poster below. The second is Oxford Orpheus is holding a Come-and-Sing Brahms Requiem, so check that out HERE.

Mann Singt!

Some of you will know I often sing with the German male-voice ensemble called Mann Singt!, and some of you may even remember that I went to record a CD with them back in September... well, just in time for Christmas, it’s been released!!! We’re so proud of it, so please do check it out on Spotify HERE.

I’m going to Germany in January to promote the CD, as well as to perform with my barbershop quartet the Acafellas, so if you’d like to buy a physical copy of this excellent disk, please email me directly or contact me via my website HERE and I can bring back a copy with me.

And finally...

have a lovely and restful Christmas and New Year, and I look forward to another fantastic year of music making in 2024.

Ben

Continue ReadingPre-Christmas Conductor’s Notes

Conductor’s Notes – End of term

Hello all, I’m writing this in advance of our rehearsal this evening to give you an update and a reminder in case you have time to read this, but it’s still all relevant after the rehearsal, so no rush to get through it!

What We’ve Been Doing

  • We’ve now looked at all of the Todd and the Shearing, learning the structure of the pieces, and some fine details.
  • We’ve already put some good work into understanding the rhythms and text, and some of the harmonies, as well as learning the melodic lines.
  • We’ve seen how a lot of the music in the Todd comes back from previous sections, helping us understand the music and making it slightly less intimidating to learn.

To catch up: If you’ve missed the rehearsals up to this point, please give the Shearing Songs and Sonnets and the Todd Mass In Blue a listen.

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 13th December

This is the last week of rehearsals before we break for Christmas. In this rehearsal we’ll cover the first two movements of the Todd and of the Shearing, refreshing what we did in those opening weeks and continuing our learning of the opening of the works.

Marked Scores & Learning Guides

As expected, this is a busy time at the moment, so I haven’t finished the marked score yet, but it will be available before Christmas. Thank you for your patience.

You can hear the pieces here:
SHEARING
TODD

There are a couple of places that offer learning guides for these songs. The ones I’ve found are:

Shearing

Todd – OUP
Todd – Choralia

Christmas Come-and-Sing

Please do come to our Christmas Come-and-Sing this Sunday (17th December) at the Town Hall! It’ll be a lovely occasion, and great to sing some familiar favourites alongside some interesting new works. Keep sharing it among family and friends! You can get tickets HERE.

Future Events

This weekend is a good one... you can see the Cherwell Choral Society sing on Saturday 16th, getting you in the mood for our Come-and-Sing the following day!
Then, next week, Jane in the tenors has asked me to share the carols singalong at the Chequers from 8pm on Thursday 21st. They’ll supply word sheets, so all you have to do is turn up. It can get quite busy so it’s worth getting there a bit early. The Chequers will also be doing their raffle that evening. Not one to miss!

This Week’s Listening

This week’s listening is actually a documentary on Bernstein that the BBC broadcast the other day. In fact, it was an entire evening of Bernstein! We went to see the new biopic Maestro the other week, and it was fantastic – we both cried for the last 30 minutes or so... Bernstein fever is still alive! Check out the BBC stuff HERE.

Thanks all, see you later!
Ben

Continue ReadingConductor’s Notes – End of term

Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 22nd November

Good evening friends, I hope you’re all well and had a lovely weekend.

Firstly, a huge thanks to those who sang on the Town Hall steps for the Chippy Christmas Lights Switch On. It was fantastic, we went down a treat, and you did not only the Choral Society but the town proud!

A quick update for this week, plus something for this weekend.

What We Did – Wednesday 22nd November

  • We made a start on our new pieces for the Spring Term – choral jazz!
  • We began the rehearsal by getting an overview of the Shearing Songs and Sonnets, briefly talking about each movement.
  • Then we sang through every movement, getting a feel for the changes in style between each movement, and how the jazz style comes through.
  • After this we looked at the Kyrie of the Will Todd, during which we saw a completely different type of jazz influence, talking about rhythm and extended harmony... more on this to come.

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please give the Shearing Songs and Sonnets from Shakespeare a listen.

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 29th November

We’ll look at the first 3 movements of the Mass in Blue.

In the second half of the rehearsal we’ve got our AGM. It’s so important that you all come along to this, so please come to this rehearsal! I also can’t wait to update you with plans for the future, as things are progressing really well with the Commission and Youth Choir projects.

Marked Scores & Learning Guides

A little busy at the moment, so haven’t finished the marked score yet – I’ll be sharing this very soon, once the big concerts are out the way.

You can hear the pieces here:
SHEARING
TODD

There are a couple of places that offer learning guides for these songs. The ones I’ve found are:

Shearing

Todd – OUP
Todd – Choralia

Christmas Lights Switch On

Very excitingly, we’ve been asked to sing at the Great Rollright Christmas Market on Saturday 2nd December. The timings are 10:30am arrival for free festive drink and cake/mince pie; 11am singing; all finished by 11:30am.

I asked for a show of hands from those doing the Christmas Lights Switch On, and a few people couldn’t make it. If you’re happy with the below carols, out of 100 Carols for Choirs (PDF below too), could you let me know on Wednesday. They’ll be collecting donations for the choir, so I know we’ll put on a good show for them... please do let me know on Wednesday if you can sing. Thank you!

O Come all ye faithful (p.226)
Away in a manger (p.61)
Hark the Herald Angels sing (p.107)
O Little town of Bethlehem (p.234)
God rest you merry, gentlemen (p.83)
It came upon a midnight clear (p.194)
While shepherds watched their flocks (p.378)
In the bleak mid-winter (p.173)
Ding Dong merrily on high (p.82)

Future Events

Two events on the same weekend: First is NC3 on Saturday 9th December. Those who went to Dartington with Peter will know Edward Caswell, and of course I encourage you to go and support our members who also sing in NC3. Secondly is Papagena, who are STUNNING!! Some of you may know Sarah Tenant-Flowers who sings with the group. A great weekend of concerts!

This Week’s listening

I thought I’d share with you a piece of music that I did at the weekend. Originally a ballet, we performed the suite for 13 instruments; it’s Aaron Copland’s amazing Appalachian Spring. A truly stunning piece of music, and certainly a tricky one to perform with limited rehearsal time, I hope you enjoy it! It features the famous Shaker tune ‘Simple Gifts’, or as we would know it ‘The Lord of the Dance’.

Listen to it HERE.

Thanks all, see you on the 29th November.
Ben

Continue ReadingConductor’s Notes – Wednesday 22nd November

Post Concert Conductor’s Notes – Saturday 18th November

Blimey!!! I don’t think we’ve done a better concert since I took over from Peter, that was truly spectacular. Thank you all so much for your incredibly hard work over the term, and for really rising to the challenge of the Bernstein. A more detailed breakdown of the concert below, as well as some other important points, so thank you for reading through.

But, importantly before we crack on with the rest of the notes, we must thank Rowena! Not only has she played exceptionally hard music exceptionally well this term, (my personal highlight was when Ro played one rhythm on a drum and another on the piano) but she also sang in the performance, joining in our joyous music-making right to the end! I don’t know of many other accompanists who would do this. Thank you Rowena, we’re very lucky to have you!

Concert Feedback

As I say... wow! It really was a very special concert. I remember sitting in my old house in Birmingham over a year ago, with a glass of wine, in the arm chair, having thought how amazing this programme could be, and wondering if we could pull it off – and boy did we nail it! Let’s get the tiny things out of the way – there were one or two ‘less confident’ entries in the Bernstein and Jenkins, and a few early ‘S’ in the Sanctus, but apart from that... the performance as a whole was stellar! Everyone rose to the occasion and sang their hearts out, doing real justice to a poignant and moving programme.

I think the audience knew they were in for a treat when they jumped out their seats at the first chord in the Bernstein, with the orchestra and you guys coming in so confidently! It was full of energy, which you kept up all the way through! The First movement was filled with joy, and had a real sense of security with the rhythm – all that work paid off! The second movement was beautiful, Sops and Altos, and was terrifying (for all the right reasons), Tenors and Basses. We even got the “Yisahak”s in the right place, AND perfectly together with the orchestra! Thank you for your focus on that! Of course, we must thank Josh, our wonderful countertenor soloist, who sang exceptionally, and whose tone paired perfectly with the orchestra for this movement. Similarly, our other soloists deserve equal praise, for the last movement and the Jenkins – thank you Ben and Bethan for your fantastic singing! The last movement was wonderful, and full of warmth and heartfelt passion. Can I congratulate you for the ending, which was honestly so touching; gorgeous a capella singing, which stayed perfectly in tune... something not many choirs can do. Genuinely almost brought a tear to my eye – if only I wasn’t focussing so much!

At this point I’d like to thank the Adderbury Ensemble for joining us again and for playing so brilliantly! Chris Windass, who manages the group and fixes the players for us, had once again done the most incredible job, ensuring we can put on the best concert possible, and feel supported by players at the top of their game. I adored working with them, and I’m sure you all did too. The Barber was really stunning, and as Charles, the leader, said to me in the interval “not bad for 15 minutes rehearsal”! A member of the choir followed this up with “F***ing fabulous!!” We’re so lucky to work with the Adderbury Ensemble!

The Jenkins was an incredible performance. I told you it comes alive in the performance! I don’t think, given the piece’s repetitive nature, one moment was wasted or any note ‘dull’ – it all served it’s purpose, and that’s down to your fantastic performance of this behemoth of a piece. The tuning was perfect in the 1st movement, well done!! Eric’s timing on the recording was spot on. The Kyrie went incredibly well. Tenors and Basses, your Bloody Men was stonking! People came up to me at the end and commented on how great you sounded – how clear your diction was, how confident the entries, how blended the sound... I couldn’t agree more! Apart from the aforementioned early ‘S’s, (and a rogue “yacht” which somehow sailed into the concert...), the Sanctus was very effective, and turned the tide of the piece perfectly. Then I felt your resolution and fear in Hymn to Action, especially with your final “Lord, grant us strength to die”... shivers down the spine! The whole of the following sequence felt like something out of a dream. It ran so well, was so effective, and honestly moved me so much, along with many others in the audience. Sopranos and Tenors, your Benedictus opening was STU! NNING! So smooth, so warm. And then the place where my eyes watered; the “Hosanna in excelsis!” – my god that was utterly breathtaking! And to be able to end the concert with that well blended and tuned an a capella section... absolutely fantastic!

Comments have included “an inspirational evening”; Gill in the altos said “The Bernstein, and then the Barber brought tears to my eyes. The ovation at the end was well deserved!”; and ” I have never been so moved by any of our previous concerts as I was by this one.” If you haven’t seen, St Mary’s Church have posted about it, and the sentiment they’ve shared which I think we will all carry with us is that this concert was “one which will be remembered for a long time to come.”

I really do have the best job in the world!

Remaining Rehearsals This Term

As hopefully you’ve already seen, we’ll be continuing rehearsals this term, looking forward to our Spring concert on Sunday 24th March. The programme is Shearing’s Songs and Sonnets from Shakespeare, and Todd’s Mass in Blue. There are 4 rehearsals between now and our break for Christmas:

  • 22nd November,
  • 29th November (from 20:30 we’ll be having our AGM, which is important we all attend),
  • 6th December,
  • 13th December.

Following these, we’ll resume regular rehearsals on the 10th January in the new year.

Christmas Come-and-Sing Day

Now this concert’s over, it’s time to start sharing our Christmas Come-and-Sing Day! Tickets are available HERE, and do share the poster below! It’ll be a fun day of singing.

Future Events

A couple of concerts for you in the next week or so – the first is another choral-orchestral offering, from my OUP Choir and Oxford Sinfonia. The second is a CRAG concert... do please come along and support these wonderful events!

This Week’s listening

Just because he’s so wonderful, another piece by Bernstein – his Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs. Written in 1950, this piece is the epitome of his jazz writing, and I think shows some wonderful influences in his compositional style. It also contains one of my favourite markings in a score: “This repeat should be made at least three times, and as many times as seems psychologically right (that is, to an ‘exhaustion point’).” – what a visceral feeling!

In this recording, he introduces the work perfectly. Listen HERE.

See you all on Wednesday for some Jazzzzzz!
Ben

Continue ReadingPost Concert Conductor’s Notes – Saturday 18th November

Pre-Concert Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 15th November

Well, this is it! The last Conductor’s Notes before the concert! Thank you so much everyone for your hard work this term. The music isn’t easy at all, and you’ve all really put in the effort to ensure both the Bernstein and Jenkins will be a roaring success. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this term, so let’s nail it on Saturday!

What We Did – Wednesday 15th November

  • We began by looking at the end of the Bernstein, working on tuning, blend, and ensuring the notes are secure. This is one of the most exposed bits of the concert, so it needs to be *PERFECT*!!
  • Then we spot checked the rest of movement 3 of the Bernstein, which went very well. Do your best to bring out the text, and to shine out in those little moments of melody.
  • After this we looked at the 2nd movement. Basses and Tenors, you were stunning! Sing like that in the concert and I’ll be very happy! Well done with the timing! We worked on a few notes, and syncing it all up.
  • Then we worked on the first movement, looking at the opening, a few hand-over moments of the melody, and then the climax of the movement, and keeping the energy going.
  • We looked at 13. Better is Peace: the entrances at Letter C, and then the rhythms at Letters F & G (especially bars 84 & 99).
  • Then we spot checked the Benedictus and Agnus Dei, making sure we were keeping the line really smooth and flowing, supporting to the end of each phrase.
  • Finally, we worked on Angry Flames. The chords are supposed to be disgusting, so as long as you convince me you’re singing the right note, you’ll be singing the right note!

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please catch up with the sections listed above.

What We’ll Do – Friday 17th November

In the venue! St Mary’s Church, Banbury!
Please arrive by 7:15pm so we can get you all seated!

A final few bits to just confirm we’re happy, but we’ll then be spot-checking most movements of both pieces, getting through as much in the space before we work with the orchestra on Saturday.
The sections I know we just need to check are:

  • 3. Kyrie – Letter D.
  • 6. Hymn Before Action – Opening & Letter D.
  • 9. Torches – Letter B.

We’ll be bringing the programmes along again, so if you didn’t get one on Wednesday, you can buy one on Friday.

Concert Details

A final reminder of those ‘little bits’ for the concert.

Our pre-concert rehearsal is on Friday 17th, in St Mary’s Banbury. Please arrive for 7pm to get seated, and we’ll end at normal time of 9:30pm. Below is the rough seating plan for the day... A massive thanks to David Salter and his team who help set out chairs at the start of each rehearsal!

On the concert day, we’ll be rehearsing from 2pm – please be ready and seated for this time. It’ll allow us to do a bit of warming up and rehearsing the acapella sections before the orchestra joins us at 2:30pm. We’ll rehearse until 5pm, and then I’ll do a bit of work with the orchestra until 5:30pm.

Back ready to go for the concert by 7:10pm, and try to give yourselves a bit of ‘warming up’ time, as the Bernstein is first!

The concert dress is all black or black-tie (Black dinner jacket and trousers, black bowtie, white shirt).

Poster and Tickets

At the time of writing this, 93 tickets sold online, but still plenty spare, and just over 24 hours to sell them!

The link to tickets is HERE.

This Week’s listening

I wanted to share with you the clip I was talking about of Bernstein conducting the Chichester Psalms – I’ve referred to bar 40 being a party, and in this recording Bernstein is embodying that joy and energy! He’s a pleasure to watch, so do check it out HERE.

Toi toi toi everyone, and see you on Friday!
Ben

Continue ReadingPre-Concert Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 15th November

Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 8th November

Hello everyone, I hope you’re well! As we approach our final couple of rehearsals, I trust you’re all practicing hard at home! I’m so grateful for all your work this term in order to make Saturday’s concert brilliant!

A little delayed on the Notes this week, I know. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes, and we had the newCHOIR concert on Saturday too (thank you so much to those who came to support us, it was lovely to have some friendly faces in the audience!)

What We Did – Wednesday 8th November

  • We started with some spot work on a few notes in The Armed Man, beginning with the first movement. We practiced finding our chords from one note, in particular Tenors who give the tonality of the chord.
  • We did some work on notes and pitching in the Sanctus.
  • Then we split into sectionals, with S/A working on the opening of the Bernstein and Movement 3, and T/B doing work on Save me from Bloody Men and Movement 2 of the Bernstein.
  • We ended by coming together to do bits on the Bernstein, including Movement 2 (the transition between the T/B and tutti section). We then did a bit of the last movement, particularly thinking about projection and musical line. Finally we ended with the first movement, doing a load of really good work on the 7/4 section.

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please catch up with the sections listed above.

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 15th November

It’s that point in the term, we’re really spot-checking all those tricky bits now, especially in finding our notes. In The Armed Man we’ll be working on:

  • 3. Kyrie – Letter D.
  • 6. Hymn Before Action – Opening & Letter D.
  • 8. Angry Flames – All entries.
  • 9. Torches – Letter B.
  • 10. Agnus Dei – Opening & Letter A.
  • 12. Benedictus – Letter C & Letter D.
  • 13. Better is Peace – Letter C, Letters F & G (especially bars 84 & 99), Letter J, Letter K.

On the Bernstein, in tutti we’ll do:

  • Movement 1 – Opening, Bars 22-32, Bars 66-85, Bars 99-end.
  • Movement 2 – Bars 102-119.
  • Movement 3 – Bars 28-37, Bar 60-End.

I’ll also be bringing the programmes along, so if you’d like to buy one in advance of the concert please do bring some cash or a card!

A huge thanks to Brian for doing the incredible programmes!

Final Rehearsals and Concert Details

A final reminder of those ‘little bits’ for the concert.

Our pre-concert rehearsal is on Friday 17th, in St Mary’s Banbury. Please arrive for 7pm to get seated, and we’ll end at normal time of 9:30pm. Below is the rough seating plan for the day... A massive thanks to David Salter and his team who help set out chairs at the start of each rehearsal!

On the concert day, we’ll be rehearsing from 2pm – please be ready and seated for this time. It’ll allow us to do a bit of warming up and rehearsing the acapella sections before the orchestra joins us at 2:30pm. We’ll rehearse until 5pm, and then I’ll do a bit of work with the orchestra until 5:30pm.

Back ready to go for the concert by 7:10pm, and try to give yourselves a bit of ‘warming up’ time, as the Bernstein is first!

The concert dress is all black or black-tie (Black dinner jacket and trousers, black bowtie, white shirt).

Marked Scores & Learning Guides

To find the resources for this term, please go back to previous posts.

Poster and Tickets

More tickets sold than in the last post… 81 tickets sold, but still plenty spare, so do keep promoting it!

The link to tickets is HERE.

Christmas Lights Switch On

I’m looking forward to our first rehearsal on Wednesday 15th, after the rehearsal from 21:30-22:15. The second rehearsal will be the same time on Tuesday 22nd. The event is on Thursday 23rd – our call time is around 17:20 at the Town Hall, and we’ll be singing from 17:40-18:30.

Thank you to all who have signed up so far. I’m expecting the following people to sing, but if I’ve missed you off or you’d like to sing, you’re more than welcome to stay on at 21:30 tomorrow:

Sops: Katie N, Charlotte M, Mayveen B, Sian T, Rebecca G
Altos: Sarah C, Judy D, Livi M, David N, Hilda R, Corinne T, Julie H
Tenors: Richard T, Nick W
Basses: John N, Callum S

We’re doing two sets of music, one ‘traditional’ one ‘modern’. We’ll be using 100 Carols for Choirs for our first set, so if you own a copy please do bring it (we have spares, don’t worry!):

Set 1 (before 6pm):
O Come all ye faithful
Away in a manger
Hark the Herald Angels sing
O Little town of Bethlehem
It came upon a midnight clear
Ding Dong merrily on high

Set 2 (for the Christmas lights):
Winter Wonderland
Jingle Bells
Last Christmas
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Sleigh Ride
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Silent Night
Wonderful Christmastime

Future Dates

A reminder that we’ll still have rehearsals following the concert, starting on the 22nd November, and we’ll be starting our work on Will Todd’s Mass in Blue.

Our Christmas Come-and-Sing day is ready to go, so share the poster here:

This Week’s listening

To get you in the mood for our Christmas music, a piece that a number of people have been clamouring to do is MacMillan’s O Radiant Dawn. A stunning short piece that I look forward to introducing properly to you all at the Christmas Come-and-Sing!

Listen HERE.

Thanks all, see you on the 15th November.
Ben

Continue ReadingConductor’s Notes – Wednesday 8th November

Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 1st November

Good morning friends, I hope you all had lovely weekends and enjoyed the fireworks. I’m hoping most of you will have got a notification letting you know that these notes are up, so if you’re reading this and didn’t get notified, make sure you sign up!

We’re almost there now, thank you for all your hard work. Keep practicing at home, it’s going to be a very special concert indeed!

What We Did – Wednesday 1st November

  • We started with an in-detail look at the “Christe” section of the Kyrie, ensuring our notes were correct, and that we were getting the feel for the polyphonic writing. Make sure all the entries are clear and come through the texture.
  • We then ran the first half of the Armed Man, from the beginning until Angry Flames.
  • Working backwards we looked at Charge, getting the right affect of the scream at the end. We also worked on the rhythm, so that it was nicely in time and not slowing down (as it did before) or rushing (as it did by the end).
    • Sops 2 and Altos, work extra hard on the text to help Sop 1s in the stratospheric sections.
  • We made sure the sound was rich and powerful with a real heat behind it in Hymn Before Action, and checked that first chord was correct.
  • In the Sanctus we worked on the rhythms, making sure it’s a full crotchet at the start, and a quaver in the Basses at Letter B. Also make the ‘S’ sounds as light and as short as possible.
    • TO CLARIFY: The opening of the Sanctus is 4 bars long, and then you come in. It’s a misprint in my copy!
  • We did a tiny bit of note checking in the opening movement.
  • We ended the rehearsal by top-and-tailing the Bernstein, including:
    • Movement 2, Bar 60 into the Tenor/Bass section, working on the rhythms and text.
    • Movement 2, Bar 80 needs to be more animalistic and aggressive – go for it Basses!
    • We did more work on the join between bars 99-103 in Movement 2.
    • We did the end of Movement 1, checking notes and words slowly.
    • We rehearsed some of the overlaps between parts in the main section of the 1st Movement.

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please sing through the first half of the Armed Man and practice those sections in the Bernstein listed above.

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 8th and 15th November

It’s that point in the term, we’re really spot-checking all those tricky bits now, especially in finding our notes. Following last week’s run of the first half, the bits in the Armed Man and all the work we’ve done on the Bernstein I’d still like to do the following tutti in the Armed Man:

  • 1. The Armed Man – Opening, Letter C, Letter E, Letter G.
  • 3. Kyrie – Letter D.
  • 5. Sanctus – Opening, Letter B, Letter C (especially bar 30), Letter D.
  • 6. Hymn Before Action – Opening & Letter D.
  • 8. Angry Flames – All entries.
  • 9. Torches – Letter B.
  • 10. Agnus Dei – Opening & Letter A.
  • 12. Benedictus – Letter C & Letter D.
  • 13. Better is Peace – Letter C, Letters F & G (especially bars 84 & 99), Letter J, Letter K.

In sectionals I’d like to do:

  • 3. Kyrie – Letter F.
  • 4. Save Me From Bloody Men.

On the Bernstein, in tutti we’ll do:

  • Movement 1 – Opening, Bars 22-32, Bars 66-85, Bars 99-end.
  • Movement 2 – Bars 102-119.
  • Movement 3 – Bars 28-37, Bar 60-End.

In sectionals we’ll do:

  • Movement 1 – Bars 14-22, Bars 32-43, Bars 44-50.
  • Movement 2 – Bars 64-119 (TB), Bars 102-119 (SA).
  • Movement 3 – Bars 20-27 (TB).

We’ll spread this out over the final 2 Wednesday rehearsals.

Final Rehearsals and Concert Details

In order for me to get a grip on the choir we’ll have for the day, could I kindly ask that if you’re not singing in the concert you don’t attend rehearsals from now on. I’m very sorry about this, but it’s important for me to know.

As well as Wednesday 8th and 15th, we’ve also got our pre-concert rehearsal on Friday 17th, in St Mary’s Banbury. Please arrive for 7pm to get seated, and we’ll end at normal time of 9:30pm. Below is a rough seating plan for the day... I would find it helpful if you can start organising yourselves in this order now. A massive thanks to David Salter and his team who help set out chairs at the start of each rehearsal!

On the concert day, we’ll be rehearsing from 2pm – please be ready and seated for this time. It’ll allow us to do a bit of warming up and rehearsing the acapella sections before the orchestra joins us at 2:30pm. We’ll rehearse until 5pm, and then I’ll do a bit of work with the orchestra until 5:30pm.

Back ready to go for the concert by 7:10pm, and try to give yourselves a bit of ‘warming up’ time, as the Bernstein is first!

The concert dress is all black or black-tie (Black dinner jacket and trousers, black bowtie, white shirt).

Marked Scores & Learning Guides

To find the resources for this term, please go back to previous posts.

Poster

Final push to share the poster. At the time of writing we’ve only sold 20 tickets... we deserve a massive audience for this, so encourage your friends and families to come!

The link to tickets is HERE.

Christmas Lights Switch On

As I mentioned last week, we’ve been invited to sing at the switch on of the Chippy Christmas Lights. For this we’ll be singing some traditional carols and some modern favourites. I’m trying to find versions of music that are fairly easy, but due to the tight turn around and limitation of the day itself, I’m asking for a smaller choir of strong singers (comfortable singing in a section of fewer people, and happier with reading sheet music) to represent the Choral Society at this event.

Rehearsals will be after our regular rehearsals on Wednesday 15th and 22nd November (21:30-22:15), and we’ll be singing at the event from 17:40-18:30. I suggest we meet around 17:15, in order to get ourselves sorted and comfortable.

I’ve had a few people sign up, but we particularly need tenors and basses. I’m hoping to have a choir of 6,5,4,5 if possible.

Check out the poster Tania at the Town Hall has sent!

Other Events

Two events coming up this month, over the same weekend.
1) Another of my choirs, the OUP Choir, have their concert on Saturday 25th November. It’s really exciting for us as we’ll be joined by the Oxford Sinfonia, who’ll also be playing Copland’s amazing Appalachian Spring. Please do come and support us.
2) That same weekend, Eric is hosting the annual arts and crafts weekend, supported by some amazing artists. Do try and go to this, as the artists there contribute a small amount to the choir each year, so in return we need to support them!

This Week’s listening

Two short things for you this week – the first is the epic new trailer for the film Maestro, starring Bradley Cooper as Bernstein. I cannot tell you how excited I am for this film, especially as my friend Doug (the bass in our barbershop quartet) is in it, singing the background piece... the finale of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony. Check out the trailer HERE.

I also wanted to share a completely unrelated piece; an absolutely joyous bit of Monteverdi – Zefiro Torna. No reason other than it’s a fantastic piece... Enjoy it HERE.

Thanks all, see you on the 8th November.
Ben

Continue ReadingConductor’s Notes – Wednesday 1st November

Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 25th October

Hello everyone, I’m so sorry for the delay in these Notes – I know that not having them until the rehearsal day really isn’t ideal, but they completely slipped my mind with the end of half term.
A brief section on what we did and what we will do, and I’ll give a brief summary of what I said in last week’s rehearsal regarding the exciting future projects we’ve got going on.

What We Did – Wednesday 25th October

  • We started with Angry Flames, building from last week’s rehearsal and securing the notes. Have confidence with these, even if you’re not 100% on the note.
  • We ran the second half of the piece, from Angry Flames to the end. Some very good things here.
  • We fixed the notes on pages 74 and 75.
  • We made the Angus Dei smoother by breathing into the space more. S/T, we made sure we came in with confidence at Letter A.
  • We corrected the rhythm on page 89 – short in the second bar, then longer in bar 58.
  • We built confidence in the last movement, especially at the end in keeping the moving parts smooth and flowing.
  • After the break we did sectional work on the below sections:
    • Tenors and Basses (Bernstein only)
      • Movement 1, bars 9-10
      • Movement 1, bars 46-47
      • Movement 2, bars 80-92
      • Movement 2, bars 99-102
    • Sopranos and Altos
      • Bernstein Movement 1, bars 22-28
      • Bernstein Movement 1, bars 40-46
      • Bernstein Movement 2, bars 102-119
      • Jenkins, Movement 7, Letter C
  • We ended the rehearsal by singing through a bit of the first movement of the Bernstein.

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please sing through the latter half of the Armed Man and practice those short sections in the Bernstein listed above.

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 1st November

We’ll start with the Kyrie from the Armed Man, rehearsing in detail letter F. After this we’ll run the first half of the Armed Man, beginning through to Angry Flames. We’ll then spend some time working on sections of this.

After the break we’ll look at Bernstein movements 1 & 2.

Marked Scores

Below are two scores where I’ve outlined the beats and subdivisions of the beats, all to help with our counting and rhythm. Also below is a resource prepared by Rowena which shows how rhythms are broken down, also to help in counting (we’ll do more of this in the Theory Workshops in the new year).

Learning Aids (Updated)

Tenors and Basses, below are some speaking guides to help with the rhythms in the second movement. Please practice these slowly, getting the words under your teeth, and then speed it up at home, using a metronome. Please follow the link to this HERE!

Spotify playlist is HERE.

Choralia links are:
Chichester Psalms
The Armed Man

CyberBass has the Bernstein on it, so you may find it useful HERE.

Eric has sent round the link I provided with all of the speaking guides on. Please do use these as they are excellent!

Poster

The poster is below for you to share, and do make sure you take physical copies and plaster them round the local area.

Share the link to the tickets and encourage a huge audience for this one; it’s going to be so special! The link is HERE.

Update on future projects

Following on from what I spoke about on Wednesday 25th, this is a very exciting time for the choir!

We’ve done a slight reshuffle of concerts, so we’ll be performing Will Todd’s Mass in Blue in the Spring term, and have delayed our performance of the Bach St John Passion until 2024. We also look forward to our Christmas Come-and-Sing on Sunday 17th December, and a couple of theory workshops in the spring.

I’m in talks with Hazel Gould (librettist) and Ben Parry (composer) about our 155th Anniversary Commission project, which is very exciting!

We’re planning to launch our Youth Choir next year, beginning with a series of workshops. We’ll keep you all updated on this project as things happen.

Thank you all for your support – I feel that these exciting steps are key to our development as a choir, and will support music and music-making for the next 150 years!

Other Events

Two concerts for you to take a look at this week.
1) Our friends at the Cherwell Choral Society have their autumn concert, also accompanied by the Adderbury Ensemble. Do go and support them this Saturday.
2) My Oxford chamber choir, newCHOIR, have their concert on Saturday 11th. A few members of CNCS sing in this too, so we’d all appreciate seeing some friendly faces in the audience there.

This Week’s listening

In preparation for next year, and our newly rejigged concert, I want to share with you the first movement (Kyrie) of Will Todd’s Mass in Blue. We’re so lucky that our very own Karen Sharp will be leading her quartet in accompanying us for this!

Have a listen HERE.

Thanks all, see you later!
Ben

Continue ReadingConductor’s Notes – Wednesday 25th October

Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 18th October

Good afternoon friends, I hope you’ve all had a good week and are looking forward to wet October weekend. Just a quick one from me this week, as we’ll be sharing some announcements on Wednesday (and in the following Conductor’s Notes), so that’ll be the big one.

Thanks so much to Rowena for starting the warm up on Wednesday, and for your patience as I fought the weather and traffic to make it back. If you want to read more about the NYC Fellowship (the auditions and interviews I was helping with, and the programme I was lucky enough to have a place on in 2021) you can find out here.

What We Did – Wednesday 18th October

On Wednesday it was exactly 1 month until the concert.

We began by looking at the Letter K of Better is Peace from The Armed Man. we made sure the melodic line was smooth, and that all of the interesting and flowing inner parts were elegant and expressive. There were a couple of notes to tidy up, so please make sure you come with these perfected for the next time we look at it.

After this we ran the Bernstein. So many excellent things in this, so very well done with that all, and also congratulations for getting from one end to the other; it’s a very challenging work! The most helpful thing I can say at this stage is to keep familiarising yourselves with the text. I think the notes, on the whole, are pretty confident, we just need to know what’s coming and prepare for it, and that’s mainly to do with the text.

After the break we looked at the hand over of parts between the tenors and basses in the first movement. Make sure these are really confident, especially as it’s at the start of the concert! We also built up the power of bars 32 to 40, especially helping with the breaths. This explosion of power was also worked on in bars 66 to 85. Then, in the second movement we did a little bit of work on the sop/alto sections, especially on the tuning (be very careful of this)! Tenors and basses, we covered some of the text, slowly, in your section, and practiced the joins into bar 80 and between bars 99 to 102.

We ended with some good work on the Agnus Dei and the Benedictus. We thought about the onset of the sound of the word “Benedictus”, and then the beautiful flowing and connected line through the phrase. Sops, remember you continue the melody when you join the altos, so try and get the energy spinning before hand. The “Hosanna” must be nicely prepared, so use the breath to help find the space and support for that fanfare. The Agnus Dei was excellent, and sops you found a really warm and expressive sound. Try to feel more of the overlap of parts at the bottom of page 78 and beyond.

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please sing through the Bernstein at home so you get a feel for what it’s like to do the whole thing. Please also look at the following movements in The Armed Man: 10. Agnus Dei, 12. Benedictus, and from Letter K in 13. Better is Peace.

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 25th October

We’ll begin with work on Angry Flames from The Armed Man. Then I’d like to run the latter half of the piece, from Angry Flames to the end of the piece. We’ll do a bit of work on those movements before taking a break.

After the break I’d like to split into sectionals for some very specific work:

Tenors and Basses (Bernstein ony)
Movement 1, bars 9-22
Movement 1, bars 46-47
Movement 2, bars 80-92 (if there’s time)
Movement 2, bars 99-102

Sopranos and Altos
Bernstein Movement 1, bars 22-28
Bernstein Movement 1, bars 40-46
Bernstein Movement 2, bars 102-119
Jenkins, Movement 7, Letter C

Marked Scores

Please scroll back to previous Conductor’s Notes for the marked scores. I’m trusting you’ve all got the markings in by now, and will be very sad if you don’t!

Learning Aids (Updated)

Spotify playlist is HERE.

Choralia links are:
Chichester Psalms
The Armed Man

CyberBass has the Bernstein on it, so you may find it useful HERE.

Please do put in the time to familiarise yourselves with the words. You can use THIS YouTube link as a good starting point.
THIS is another helpful recording of the 3rd movement, where the parts are sung individually.

Poster

The poster is below for you to share, and do make sure you take physical copies and plaster them round the local area.

The link to the tickets is also live now, so do share that and encourage a huge audience for this one; it’s going to be so special! The link is HERE.

Other Events

Two events to promote this week, check out the posters below. The first is NC3 with their new conductor’s inaugural concert, this Saturday (21st October) at St Mary’s Church Chipping Norton, 7:30pm. The second is the next CRAG concert, on Sunday 5th November at 3pm.

This Week’s listening

It’s fascinating listening to other composers’ settings of the same texts that we’re singing. I first sang this piece at university, and then programmed it with newCHOIR in my very first concert with them. The whole work is called The Passing of the Year, by Jonathan Dove, but I’d like to share with you the last movement: Ring out, wild bells. This sets some of the same text we sing in the last movement of the Jenkins – “Ring out the thousand wars of old” and “Ring happy bells across the snow”. Certainly a very different, yet equally exciting, take on the text.
You can listen to the fabulous Voces8 recording with Jonathan Dove himself playing HERE.

See you all on Wednesday 25th!
Ben

Continue ReadingConductor’s Notes – Wednesday 18th October

Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 11th October

Hello everyone, I hope you’ve had a great weekend. I’m looking forward to another fabulous rehearsal on Wednesday, thank you all for keeping the excellent momentum up.

What We Did – Wednesday 11th October

We started by learning most of the movement Angry Flames from the Armed Man. This is particularly hard movement for finding your notes, but we went through and worked out the best ways to do this, and practiced getting each chord in tune. Do listen to the individual parts of this movement when you practice at home – links to help this are below. After this we split into sectionals, with T/B going through the opening of movement 3 of the Bernstein with Ro, checking the notes were right. Be very careful with these unison bits, and do take the time to listen to it and learn it at home. S/A worked with me on the very opening of the work, making sure we were really happy with the rhythms, text and notes. Altos also went through the edited bars (24 & 26) where I’ve asked you to double the Tenors – you can see this in the marked score below.

After the break, T/B looked at the opening of the first movement of the Bernstein while I went through the S/A section at the start of the 2nd movement. Then Ro worked on the ending of the Armed Man (Letter K of Better Is Peace) with the Sops and Altos, and I worked on the inner part of movement 2 of the Bernstein with the Tenors and Basses. Some very good work, just please keep listening to it at home. We ended the rehearsal in tutti by going through the last movement of the Bernstein, and the last section of the Armed Man.

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please look at the very start of the Bernstein, the last movement of the Bernstein, and the opening of the 2nd movement (S/A) and the rhythmic section of the 2nd movement (T/B). Please also look at Angry Flames from The Armed Man.

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 18th October

With exactly 1 month to go until the concert I’d like to run the Chichester Psalms, so please come prepared with that! We’ll start the rehearsal more gently with work on Letter K of Better is Peace, but will then do the Bernstein. After the break we’ll dive into detail on some of the bits of the Bernstein that need the work following our run-through, and will end with the Benedictus and Agnus Dei from The Armed Man.

Marked Scores

ALTOS – This is for you. I’d like to add you in to a couple of bars with the tenors, just to help out with the balance. We’re lucky to have strong tenors, but we’re still a little low on numbers so I’m hoping this will help out and support our tenor friends. Please make sure it’s all in your scores and that you’ve given it a little practice.

Learning Aids

As I try to do for each term, I’ve provided some learning aids for our programme this term. You can hear the full playlist on Spotify HERE.

As both the Bernstein and Jenkins are still in copyright, practice files are hard to come by free of charge. However, there are the ever-delightfully tinny Choralia links below:
Chichester Psalms
The Armed Man

I believe John Fletcher has rehearsal files for both works on his site, but those are both subscription-only.

We’ll be doing a lot of pronunciation work on the Chichester Psalms over the next couple of months as it’s in Hebrew. Please don’t let this scare you, it’s not too difficult. If you want to get ahead of the game, there are a few pronunciation guides on YouTube, including THIS.
There are even a few helpful recordings such as THIS, for the 3rd movement, where the parts are sung individually.

Poster

The poster is below for you to share, and do make sure you take physical copies and plaster them round the local area.

The link to the tickets is also live now, so do share that and encourage a huge audience for this one; it’s going to be so special! The link is HERE.

This Week’s listening

An interesting take on another setting of the text used in Charge from The Armed Man, this time by Handel in his Ode for St Cecilia’s Day. It’s certainly very different to the way Jenkins sets it, but the emphasis on rhythm and repetition is prominent in both examples, and has been pointed out to me that Jenkins may have even been inspired by this setting.
You can listen to it HERE.

I also wanted to share with you a short video of Bernstein, taken out of context, but showing a lighter more silly side of him. The man was a genius, and as well as his incredible understanding of music I hope you can all see playful side HERE.

See you all on Wednesday 18th!
Ben

Continue ReadingConductor’s Notes – Wednesday 11th October

Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 4th October

Good morning everyone, I hope you’re all well and have had a lovely start to the week. As I said in my last Notes, I’m really pleased with the progress we’ve made so far, but with just over a month to go I’d like to offer a friendly reminder to not let-up and keep practicing at home! It’s going to be such a stunning concert!

What We Did – Wednesday 4th October

We began by looking at the end of the final movement of the Bernstein, making sure we were happy with the notes, and then working on the blend and musicality of that delicate and serene ending. We then confirmed notes in bars 49-54, especially thinking about supporting the large leaps in each voice part. After this we put it all in context from bar 45 to the end.
Then we looked a little at the opening movement, beginning at the 7/4 – we sang through all the way to bar 65. Some good things here, and in general the uptake of each new part is good, though we could of course spend more time on it. I worked a little with the tenors and basses at bars 33, really trying to spit out the text and the rhythms.

After the break we looked at the last movement of The Armed Man. Once we’d done a smidgen of music theory to help us understand the notation of 12/8 time (a dotted minim only lasting 2 whole beats, or half-a-bar) we secured Letter E and made sure the rhythms were accurate by slowing it down and speaking our parts; same thing at bar 84 and 85.
To end the rehearsal we looked at the opening movement of the Jenkins, checking that we are happy with the notes as the parts become more complicated in the harmony, and then ensuring the ending is accurate – the repeat bars are observed, the rhythm change on page 14 is noted, and the end is short and loud but not forced.

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, you can catch up by ensuring you’re happy with the notes in the sections above, and practice the points above about rhythms and notes.

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 11th October

7 rehearsals to go, including this one and the Friday rehearsal – as I said at the start, keep up this excellent momentum!

We’ll start with Angry Flames from The Armed Man, before splitting into sectionals to work on the Bernstein – T/B will begin with Ro, working on the opening to the last movement and then the opening to the first movement, and S/A will work with me on the first and second movements.
After the break, I’d like to look at the 2nd movement of the Bernstein with T/B, while Ro works with S/A on letter K of the last movement of the Armed Man. We’ll come back together to sing the last movement of the Bernstein, all of the way through, having covered it all!

A heads up – next week (the 18th October) I’d like to run the Chichester Psalms so we know, at this stage, what it’s like to get from one end to the other.

Marked Scores

ALTOS – This is for you. I’d like to add you in to a couple of bars with the tenors, just to help out with the balance. We’re lucky to have strong tenors, but we’re still a little low on numbers so I’m hoping this will help out and support our tenor friends. We’ll go through this on Wednesday, but if you get a chance to put it in before the rehearsal that would be great!

Learning Aids

As I try to do for each term, I’ve provided some learning aids for our programme this term. You can hear the full playlist on Spotify HERE.

As both the Bernstein and Jenkins are still in copyright, practice files are hard to come by free of charge. However, there are the ever-delightfully tinny Choralia links below:
Chichester Psalms
The Armed Man

I believe John Fletcher has rehearsal files for both works on his site, but those are both subscription-only.

We’ll be doing a lot of pronunciation work on the Chichester Psalms over the next couple of months as it’s in Hebrew. Please don’t let this scare you, it’s not too difficult. If you want to get ahead of the game, there are a few pronunciation guides on YouTube, including THIS.
There are even a few helpful recordings such as THIS, for the 3rd movement, where the parts are sung individually.

There’ll be lots of help for this term, but do feel free to do your own exploration of these pieces.

Poster

Our poster is available now, and looks incredible – huge thanks to Brian for his spectacular work on it!

It’s going to be such an amazing concert, so please spread the poster far and wide!!

This Week’s listening

This week I wanted to share with you some of Bernstein’s work as a conductor, not just as a composer. The listening this week is arguably his most famous bit of conducting work – the finale of Mahler’s monumental Symphony no. 2 – ‘Resurrection’. It’s just utterly stunning, and you can see just how much Bernstein simply embodies the music. I think it perfectly resonates with a quote of his: “If I don’t become Brahms or Tchaikovsky or Stravinsky when I’m conducting their works, then it won’t be a great performance.”

Enjoy the finale from Mahler’s 2nd Symphony HERE.

See you all on Wednesday 11th!
Ben

Continue ReadingConductor’s Notes – Wednesday 4th October

Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 27th and Saturday 30th September

Hello everyone, I hope you’re all well on this stormy evening – I also hope you weren’t badly affected by the power cut which stalled my writing earlier this evening.

Before I go into details below, I just want to thank you for the pleasure that is this term already; I’m really enjoying sharing this music with you all, and I’m so grateful for the hard work you’re all putting in, especially on Saturday’s rehearsal. This programme is incredibly important to me, and I know it’s going to be a fantastic concert – I’ll be talking more about it on Wednesday, as a few people have asked me about the music already.

What We Did – Wednesday 27th September

After another focused and thorough warm up, thinking in particular about good-quality annunciation and warming up our words, we split off into sectionals; while T/B set the chairs up downstairs I went through the pronunciation of the 2nd movement of the Bernstein with the Sops and Altos. T/B worked on the middle of the 2nd movement, slowly building up the rhythms and the text, then putting notes to the rhythms by singing one part at a time, and finally singing our own parts which are often a beat apart. We did this for the whole time, gradually improving and building speed. S/A went through the outer parts of the 2nd movement, learning the notes and rhythms, and listening to each other to keep the tuning in place. After this there was a bit of time to learn movement 9 (Torches) of the Armed Man, focusing on the rhythms and annunciation of the text. S/A also recapped some of the 1st movement of the Bernstein from the previous week.

After this, we came back and put it all together, at a slower tempo for the sake of the Tenors and Basses. I can proudly say it was a very good first attempt!! Well done for your hard work all. We ended with a brief refresher of the very opening of the Bernstein, followed by a bit of work on the Agnus Dei from the Armed Man; this mainly focused on early breathing, preparing space, and blending the voices with each new entry.

What We Did – Saturday 30th September

As above, thank you all for your hard work and commitment to this rehearsal day – it’s the first time we’ve done an all-day rehearsal, and I think we all agree it was worth doing as we covered a lot and built so much confidence with a lot of the music. I’d also like to thank everyone who helped put on the day, and especially to Elizabeth, Annabel, Sue, and everyone (sorry I’ve missed people by name) who suggested, organised, set up, and ran the tea/coffee/biscuit breaks; a much-needed addition to the day!

In terms of the music, we covered a lot! We started by looking at the tutti section in the Kyrie of the Armed Man, thinking about blend, harmony, and musical interpretation of the text. Lots of good refining indeed. After this we split off into sectionals with T/B working on the 2nd movement again, going through the text and speeding it up while ensuring notes were correct. S/A worked with me on a bit more of the Kyrie, then looked at the high sections of Charge (page 55) during which we learnt the notes, worked out where we get our starting notes from, and practiced the rhythms. We did a small bit of work on Torches once more, before we turned to the 2nd movement of the Bernstein to refine the tuning of the opening and ending sections, as well as clarify the rhythms.

After the morning break Sops and Altos worked with Ro on the last movement of the Armed Man, while I worked with T/B on Save Me From Bloody Men. During this we explored the plainchant-feel freedom of each phrase, working on ensemble, as well as checking the notes and pitches were correct. A very powerful movement sung very well. Before lunch we came back together to look at Hymn Before Action and Charge, confirming notes and looking at how they flow into each other.

After lunch we did a lot of work on the Armed Man, confirming what we did on the Agnus Dei on Wednesday, refining parts, entries, and confidence with notes. We spent a lot of time on the rhythms in Charge, which I’ll explain more clearly on Wednesday too. Then we worked on the last movement getting the rhythms and notes correct of the “Ring” motifs. We ended the day with a bit more Bernstein in the form of learning the ending of the 1st movement.
*Please note, this was a long day and I can’t remember the *exact* order in which we did things... this is all we covered, and I think in the right order!

Can I just also take a moment to say a massive thank you to Rowena for, as always, her brilliant accompanying, but more importantly her hard work in helping lead sectionals! This term is very ‘bitty’ in that regard, and we (I!) certainly couldn’t do it, and make this much excellent progress, without her!

To catch up: If you missed either of these rehearsals, the most important thing to do is to listen to the Bernstein, having a look at the text for the 2nd movement in particular, and to sing through the movements of The Armed Man listed above. Thanks!

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 4th October

October already, wow! We’ll look at the 1st and last movements of the Bernstein, and then work on the opening and closing movements of the Armed Man. I’d also like to look at Angry Flames, which is arguable the hardest movement, so please do have a listen to it beforehand!

I’ll also be talking about the programme itself, so it’ll be important to get an understanding of this concert.

Marked Scores

The marked scores for the term are here.
I’m hoping, dare I say praying, for these to be in your copies by now...

Learning Aids

As I try to do for each term, I’ve provided some learning aids for our programme this term. You can hear the full playlist on Spotify HERE.

As both the Bernstein and Jenkins are still in copyright, practice files are hard to come by free of charge. However, there are the ever-delightfully tinny Choralia links below:
Chichester Psalms
The Armed Man

I believe John Fletcher has rehearsal files for both works on his site, but those are both subscription-only.

We’ll be doing a lot of pronunciation work on the Chichester Psalms over the next couple of months as it’s in Hebrew. Please don’t let this scare you, it’s not too difficult. If you want to get ahead of the game, there are a few pronunciation guides on YouTube, including THIS.
There are even a few helpful recordings such as THIS, for the 3rd movement, where the parts are sung individually.

There’ll be lots of help for this term, but do feel free to do your own exploration of these pieces.

Poster

Our poster is available now, and looks incredible – huge thanks to Brian for his spectacular work on it!

It’s going to be such an amazing concert, so please spread the poster far and wide!!

This Week’s listening

Two for you this week – the first is the Chichester Psalms which was played on BBC Radio 3 – I caught only the very end of it last week. You can catch up with it on BBC Sounds HERE – the timestamp you need is 2:41:00.

The second is a little fun number called El Grillo (The Cricket) by Josquin des Prez. The reason I’m sharing this one with you all is due to the lyrics, and the madness of trying to annunciate them! There’s a moment where the voices sing: “Dalle, dalle, beve, beve, grillo, grillo, canta.(After drinking, the cricket sings), and it is the hardest bit of text I’ve ever had to sing... harder than the Tenor and Bass section in the Bernstein, which is what got me thinking about it!!
Do give this silly piece a listen, it’s only short and is guaranteed to brighten your day.
It’s sung here by my friends, the German male-voice choir Man(n) Singt! – Listen HERE.

See you all on Wednesday 4th!
Ben

Continue ReadingConductor’s Notes – Wednesday 27th and Saturday 30th September

Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 20th September

Good evening all, I hope you’ve had a lovely weekend? We’ve been back in Birmingham helping my best man Eoin move house. A few important things below, so thank you for reading these Notes carefully.

What We Did – Wednesday 20th September

We started with a brief warm up before throwing ourselves heads-first into the 1st movement of the Bernstein. We began by speaking through the text, and I feel happy saying that with every time we see it we become more confident in the pronunciation – a long way to go still, but each time is better! We also familiarised ourselves once again with the funky 7/4 rhythm, in order to prepare for the note-learning in that section.

We then split into SA/TB sectionals, with the sole purpose of learning the notes. A massive thank you to Rowena for leading the Tenors and Basses. We rehearsed in great detail the rhythms of the opening section, and then how each part takes over from the previous part, building to bar 32. It was really good to isolate some of the trickier notes and build confidence with them. It was also important to start fitting the text to the notes really clearly, so we practiced some of the rhythms slowly (bar 40 onwards, for example) to ensure everything was slotting into place. We clarified the notes for all the split parts, such as in bar 66 onwards, and then finished the sectional at bar 85.

After we’d worked on it in SA/TB sectionals, we came back and put it all together, singing through from the opening to bar 85. It certainly wasn’t flawless, and I wouldn’t expect it to be for week 3, but my goodness it was good, and we could all tell how great the progress had been! My little scream of joy hopefully proved how pleased with it I was! We spent a short time refining the odd moment, including putting ‘rousing’ energy into the opening, and feeling the different exciting characters Bernstein puts into his music.

We ended by looking briefly at the Sanctus from The Armed Man, tuning the chords, and refining the text, and tidying up the rhythms. A focussed way to end an intense but constructive rehearsal.

Please bear in mind, the Saturday 30th September rehearsal will feature a lot of sectional and tutti stuff, building on this fantastic foundation we’ve started with – please do ensure you come to the Saturday rehearsal!

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please spend some time at home going through the learning tracks for the 1st Movement of the Bernstein, in order to familiarise yourselves with the notes and rhythms. The learning tracks can be found further down this post!

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 27th September

This week we’ll begin with a brief recap of the first movement, after a thorough warm up! Then we’ll split off for sectionals again, this time looking at the 2nd Movement. You may want to have a listen to this movement in advance of the rehearsal.

If we’ve got any time left at the end, we’ll work on the Agnus Dei from The Armed Man.

Marked Scores

The marked scores for the term are here.
I’m so grateful that you all put the markings in. I’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible to save you time in marking your copies, so please do try to get these in as soon as possible so we can make excellent progress in each rehearsal.

Learning Aids

As I try to do for each term, I’ve provided some learning aids for our programme this term. You can hear the full playlist on Spotify HERE.

As both the Bernstein and Jenkins are still in copyright, practice files are hard to come by free of charge. However, there are the ever-delightfully tinny Choralia links below:
Chichester Psalms
The Armed Man

I believe John Fletcher has rehearsal files for both works on his site, but those are both subscription-only.

We’ll be doing a lot of pronunciation work on the Chichester Psalms over the next couple of months as it’s in Hebrew. Please don’t let this scare you, it’s not too difficult. If you want to get ahead of the game, there are a few pronunciation guides on YouTube, including THIS.
There are even a few helpful recordings such as THIS, for the 3rd movement, where the parts are sung individually.

There’ll be lots of help for this term, but do feel free to do your own exploration of these pieces.

Chipping Norton Music Festival

It certainly feels a long way in the future, but the excellent team at the Music Festival have published their dates for 2024 already. For those who don’t know, the Chippy Music Festival is a great couple of weeks of music making in the community, and they always have a ‘Choirs’ day... in which we always partake! We normally do music from our Spring concert, and it’s a fantastic way to “dry run” some of that concert’s music.

In 2024, the ‘Choirs’ day will be Saturday 9th March.

Sarah Cobb will be sharing more information closer to the time about the whole Festival, but for now please put the date in your diary now, so we can have good numbers for this day!

CRAG Concert

The first CRAG concert of the season approaches, so if you’re around do go and support a wonderful charity putting on amazing concerts!

This Week’s listening

A couple of weeks ago I shared with you the Wrong Note Rag by Bernstein, which I hoped highlighted his incredible understanding and use of rhythm, as well as his fierce sense of humour.
This week I share with you a piece I came across years ago which perfectly exemplifies Bernstein’s grasp of harmony. In this piece, the interval of a major 2nd is heard throughout the work, which means the music is always ‘scrunching’ with itself – it’s a suspension which wants to resolve and never does. Even at the end, the chord is so joyous and clear, but there’s the constant hint of instability in the harmony as the music never properly settles. It’s utterly fascinating, and I hope you enjoy it.

You can listen to Bernstein’s Olympic Hymn performed by the stunning Boston Pops and John Williams HERE.

See you all on Wednesday 27th!
Ben

Continue ReadingConductor’s Notes – Wednesday 20th September

Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 13th September

Hello everyone, I hope you’ve had a good week and are looking forward to a weekend filled with fun at the Chippy fair! Just a quick one from me today as we’re heading up north to see our new nephew!

What We Did – Wednesday 13th September

Another great rehearsal with nearly 100 people attending – thank you so much for such a great start to the term! We began with another great warm up focused on tuning, intervals, and silly games to get your diction and brains warmed up... more to come...
Then we finished our work on The Armed Man, looking at the final movement, and really beginning to understand the difference between the major and minor versions of the main melody we sing. We also looked at the beautiful ending, which you read through very well – we’ll look at it in more detail, and bring out those interesting inner parts.

After this we made an excellent start to the Chichester Psalms, beginning in Movement 1, getting a feel for this wonderful 7/4 time signature. Starting with bar 66, we started to internalise the rhythm, and began looking at some of the text. We then looked at the opening 7/4 section, beginning at bar 14, noting how the parts ascend, and the melody is passed between parts. We also briefly touched on the build up to the ‘party’ section at bar 40, and how joyous this will need to sound.

After this, Sops and Altos looked at Movement 2, doing some note-bashing but also thinking about smooth and flowing lines, preparing the space, and opening the vowels. While S/A took a break, Tenors and Basses began the hard section of bars 64-101, really trying to nail down some of the text.

After the break we learned the ‘main melody’ of the last movement, trying to keep those intervals perfectly in tune. And then we looked at the ending, tuning some of those beautiful chords and working out the lengthy rhythms. We finished the rehearsal by looking at the opening of the piece, practicing some of the discordant harmonies, and getting the energy of the text across.

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please spend some time at home listening to and reading through the Bernstein. The hardest thing about this piece is not knowing it – the moment you begin to listen to it and start to internalise the rhythms, melodies and harmonies (which happens automatically when you hear it), the less scary it becomes!

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 20th September

I’d like to do some hard work on the 1st movement of the Bernstein, and for this we’ll be splitting into sectionals. Please do have this first movement fresh in your heads so we can make some really good progress with it.

If we’ve got any time left at the end, we’ll work on the Agnus Dei and the Sanctus from The Armed Man.

Marked Scores

The marked scores for the term are here.
I know you all understand the amount of time that I put into learning, making decisions on, and then marking up these scores, and I’m so grateful that you all put the markings in. I’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible to save you time in marking your copies, so please do try to get these in as soon as possible so we can make excellent progress in these rehearsals.

Learning Aids

As I try to do for each term, I’ve provided some learning aids for our programme this term. You can hear the full playlist on Spotify HERE.

As both the Bernstein and Jenkins are still in copyright, practice files are hard to come by free of charge. However, there are the ever-delightfully tinny Choralia links below:
Chichester Psalms
The Armed Man

I believe John Fletcher has rehearsal files for both works on his site, but those are both subscription-only.

We’ll be doing a lot of pronunciation work on the Chichester Psalms over the next couple of months as it’s in Hebrew. Please don’t let this scare you, it’s not too difficult. If you want to get ahead of the game, there are a few pronunciation guides on YouTube, including THIS.
There are even a few helpful recordings such as THIS, for the 3rd movement, where the parts are sung individually.

There’ll be lots of help for this term, but do feel free to do your own exploration of these pieces.

This Week’s listening

This week’s listening isn’t actually a single work, but an entire concert! Last Saturday was the Last Night of the Proms, and was a really special event! Sheku played the cello, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra were on top form, but the highlights for me were Lise Davidsen, soprano soloist, humming a beautiful high note in Villalobos’s Bachianas brasileiras No. 5 (trust me, it’s worth it), Marin Alsop’s brilliant speech, and most importantly the astounding applause and cheering for the BBC Singers; think back a few months and they were to be disbanded on the eve of their 100th anniversary, and now this year they’ve performed in 5 stellar Proms!

The choir even sing Chilcott’s setting of O Danny Boy which we did in the Summer this year – it’s wonderful to hear it with orchestra, though I maintain we did it better...

I urge you to check out the concert, it’s wonderful. You can watch it HERE.

See you all on Wednesday 20th!
Ben

Continue ReadingConductor’s Notes – Wednesday 13th September

Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 6th September

Good morning everyone, I hope you’ve all had a lovely weekend, despite the stifling heat on Saturday. Apologies for the delay in getting these notes out, I must admit I completely forgot – not yet back in the habit of doing them! A short one for you all, mainly as a heads-up for Wednesday.

For anyone new to the choir, do check these notes each week as I provide information about the week’s rehearsal, say what we’ll be doing at the next rehearsal, share helpful information, and publicise anything else that’s important.

What We Did – Wednesday 6th September

A cracking first rehearsal back, thank you all! I’d like to first off start with a thank you to Susannah and Mark for the smooth registration and score handout, and to also thank David and his team who set up each week – we ended up moving more chairs upstairs as we had roughly 95 singers... we’re back with a bang!

We started with some really thorough and thought-provoking warm ups, listening to blend, thinking about pitch, and working on tuning intervals. It’s great to be doing this so early on, and certainly something we’ll keep doing throughout the rehearsal process so we keep making the best choral sound possible.

Then we worked our way through The Armed Man, learning some of the French in the first movement, working on the odd section of melody and harmony, but mainly bashing through each movement to get an overview of the whole piece. We didn’t cover the last movement, but everything else went well. We also sang the unison section in the last movement of the Bernstein, from Figure 45 on page 38.

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please spend some time at home listening to and reading through the Jenkins. If you’re not as confident with the sheet music, try and follow as best as you can, focusing on the words and shape of the music – a lot of Jenkins’s musical lines are very singable, and often quite simple.

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 13th September

We’ll begin by looking at the last movement of The Armed Man, reading it through and roughly learning it in this first instance. Then we’ll do some serious work on the Bernstein, so please do at least have a listen to it before the rehearsal.

If we’ve got any time left, we’ll work on the Agnus Dei and the Sanctus from The Armed Man.

Marked Scores

The marked scores for the term are here.
I know you all understand the amount of time that I put into learning, making decisions on, and then marking up these scores, and I’m so grateful that you all put the markings in. I’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible to save you time in marking your copies, so please do try to get these in as soon as possible so we can make excellent progress in these rehearsals.

Learning Aids

As I try to do for each term, I’ve provided some learning aids for our programme this term. You can hear the full playlist on Spotify HERE.

As both the Bernstein and Jenkins are still in copyright, practice files are hard to come by free of charge. However, there are the ever-delightfully tinny Choralia links below:
Chichester Psalms
The Armed Man

I believe John Fletcher has rehearsal files for both works on his site, but those are both subscription-only.

We’ll be doing a lot of pronunciation work on the Chichester Psalms over the next couple of months as it’s in Hebrew. Please don’t let this scare you, it’s not too difficult. If you want to get ahead of the game, there are a few pronunciation guides on YouTube, including THIS.
There are even a few helpful recordings such as THIS, for the 3rd movement, where the parts are sung individually.

There’ll be lots of help for this term, but do feel free to do your own exploration of these pieces.

This Term’s Dates

Saturday 18th November (19:30) – Concert Day!
The afternoon rehearsal with the orchestra is at 14:00-17:00, leaving us plenty of time for dinner.

Friday 17th November (19:30-21:30) – Rehearsal in St Mary’s Church, Banbury!

Saturday 30th September (10:30-16:30) – Saturday rehearsal with a come-and-share lunch.
It’s in the Chippy Town Hall, and will be a really important rehearsal, so please treat it as compulsory, like a regular Wednesday rehearsal.

Other Dates For This Season

One more time – so you’ve got a heads-up of the entire year, the dates below are what we’ve got confirmed in the diary. We’ll be sharing more detailed information as things draw nearer and plans become clearer, but for now please do put these in your diaries.

Autumn ’23
Music: Chichester Psalms & The Armed Man.
Rehearsals start – Wednesday 6th September.
Saturday rehearsal – 30th September, 10:30-16:30.
Friday rehearsal – 17th November, 19:30-21:30.
Saturday rehearsal & concert – 18th November, 14:00-17:00. Concert 19:30-21:45.

Christmas ’23
Music: Christmas favourites.
Weekly rehearsals for Spring term – Wednesday Nov 22nd to 13th December.
Christmas Come-and-Sing – Sunday 17th December, 10:30-17:30.

Spring ’24
Music: Bach’s John Passion.
Rehearsals start -Wednesday 10th January.
Friday rehearsal – 22nd March, 19:30-21:30.
Sunday rehearsal & concert – 24th March, 14:00-17:00. Concert 19:30-22:00.

Summer ’24
Music: Choral jazz.
Rehearsals start – Wednesday 17th April.
Friday rehearsal – 14th June, 19:30-21:30.
Saturday rehearsal & concert – 15th June, 14:00-17:00. Concert 19:30-21:30.

We’re also hoping to run a couple of workshops, focussing on music theory. More on these will be available soon, but they’ll likely be on a Saturday in 2024.

Forthcoming Events

Only one thing to share this week, and that’s the next season of CRAG concerts. Do check them out below and put a load in your diaries!

This Week’s listening

I want to share some Bernstein with you, so you can begin to understand him as a composer, as we tackle the Chichester Psalms. I hope everyone knows West Side Story, so I’ll share a song from another musical he did called Wonderful Town. This song, Wrong Note Rag is a brilliantly energetic and utterly hysterical piece, really showing off Bernstein’s incredible rhythm and delightful sense of humour. You can find out more about Wonderful Town HERE.

This recording features a young Sir Simon Rattle, and arguably the best orchestra in the world, the Berlin Philharmonic. Check out this great recording HERE.

See you all on Wednesday!
Ben

Continue ReadingConductor’s Notes – Wednesday 6th September

Pre-Start-Of-Term Conductor’s Notes

Hello all! It’s been quite a while since I last posted on here, and a lot has happened since. Firstly, I hope you’re all well and have had a lovely summer – it’s not always been the warmest or driest, but it’s certainly been a good one. Secondly, welcome if you’re new to the choir this term; this is where you’ll get all of your between-rehearsal information from me, and we look forward to singing with you. Finally, there’s lots of stuff below, so please do read through carefully.

Wedding & Honeymoon

What an absolutely incredible day, it was really very special indeed! Lots of great music, food, drinking, and especially friends and family. We’re so grateful for the lovely messages we received, and know that you were all thinking of us on our big day. A few photos for you below – I’ll bore you with them all in the pub if you ask!

Most importantly, we’d like to say an enormous thank you for the very generous gift you gave us! The boat trip during our honeymoon to Skye was unforgettable; such beautiful scenery, stunning food and drink, and a really fun day out that we’d never have thought of treating ourselves to. Again, pictures below – unfortunately no dolphins or whales on that trip, but seals, sea eagles, and a distillery tour!

The rest of your incredibly kind present has also been put to good use. For those of you who don’t know, we’ve just moved down to Chippy, and we thought of some lovely ways to spend your donations to our wedding/house fund, including on some gorgeous art from Skye. It really does feel like the perfect way to come back from a perfect honeymoon!

First Rehearsal Back

Term is nigh, and we’re all set to begin rehearsing our new programme. The first rehearsal is Wednesday 6th September, 19:30-21:30 in the Chippy Town Hall. Music will be handed out before the start of the rehearsal, so please do try to get there early so we can kick the term off promptly.

The other important thing we’ll do at the first rehearsal is remind you all/introduce our Section Reps. These guys are brilliant, and you can talk to them about anything – they’ll also be communicating with you about certain things across the term and year. A reminder that they are:
Sop – Sian
Alto – David
Tenor – Ruth
Bass – Martin

This Term’s Dates

A reminder that the concert is Saturday 18th November at St Mary’s Church, Banbury. The afternoon rehearsal with the orchestra is at 14:00-17:00, leaving us plenty of time for dinner.

There’ll also be the standard dress rehearsal on the evening of Friday 17th November, 19:30-21:30.

We’ve planned a Saturday rehearsal with a come-and-share lunch this term too. It’s on Saturday 30th September, 10:30-16:30, in the Chippy Town Hall, and will be a really important rehearsal, so please put this in your diaries!

All details for the project are below.

Marked Scores

The marked scores for the term are here. As always, I know you all understand the amount of time that goes in to learning, making decisions, and then marking up these scores, and I’m so grateful that you all put the markings in. I’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible to save you time in marking your copies, so please do try to get these in as soon as possible so we can make excellent progress in these rehearsals.

Learning Aids

As I try to do for each term, I’ve provided some learning aids for our programme this term. You can hear the full playlist on Spotify HERE.

As both the Bernstein and Jenkins are still in copyright, practice files are hard to come by free of charge. However, there are the ever-delightfully tinny Choralia links below:
Chichester Psalms
The Armed Man

I believe John Fletcher has rehearsal files for both works on his site, but those are both subscription-only.

We’ll be doing a lot of pronunciation work on the Chichester Psalms over the next couple of months as it’s in Hebrew. Please don’t let this scare you, it’s not too difficult. If you want to get ahead of the game, there are a few pronunciation guides on YouTube, including THIS.
There are even a few helpful recordings such as THIS, for the 3rd movement, where the parts are sung individually.

There’ll be lots of help for this term, but do feel free to do your own exploration of these pieces.

Other Dates For This Season

So you’ve got a heads-up of the entire year, the dates below are what we’ve got confirmed in the diary. We’ll be sharing more detailed information as things draw nearer and plans become clearer, but for now please do put these in your diaries.

Autumn ’23
Music: Chichester Psalms & The Armed Man.
Rehearsals start – Wednesday 6th September.
Saturday rehearsal – 30th September, 10:30-16:30.
Friday rehearsal – 17th November, 19:30-21:30.
Saturday rehearsal & concert – 18th November, 14:00-17:00. Concert 19:30-21:45.

Christmas ’23
Music: Christmas favourites.
Weekly rehearsals for Spring term – Wednesday Nov 22nd to 13th December.
Christmas Come-and-Sing – Sunday 17th December, 10:30-17:30.

Spring ’24
Music: Bach’s John Passion.
Rehearsals start -Wednesday 10th January.
Friday rehearsal – 22nd March, 19:30-21:30.
Sunday rehearsal & concert – 24th March, 14:00-17:00. Concert 19:30-22:00.

Summer ’24
Music: Choral jazz.
Rehearsals start – Wednesday 17th April.
Friday rehearsal – 14th June, 19:30-21:30.
Saturday rehearsal & concert – 15th June, 14:00-17:00. Concert 19:30-21:30.

We’re also hoping to run a couple of workshops, focussing on music theory. More on these will be available soon, but they’ll likely be on a Saturday in 2024.

Commission Comments

We’re still open for comments on text to use for the libretto for the commission to celebrate our 155th anniversary! We’ve already had a few people contact us or write down their thoughts, but we want you all to email me or Eric with:

– Any Local poems that you find interesting/exciting/mean something to you and are about our lovely part of the world.
– Your thoughts on what the choir, singing, music, and the Chipping Norton and District area means to you.

Forthcoming Events

A few events to share with you, plenty of amazing opportunities in the area!

  1. The Burford Singers are holding a Come-and-Sing Carmina Burana on Saturday 16th September. It’s an epic piece, and a great chance to learn it in a day. Check it out HERE.
  2. Cello’s Angels are playing at the Chippy Town Hall on Sunday 3rd September. Kath, who shared the poster below with me, played for the recent Mozart Requiem Sing-Day we did in memory of Shauni. I’d highly recommend going to this! Poster below.
  3. Oxford Orpheus are having some great workshops, their first at the end of September. Do check out the poster – you may recognise the odd thing or two...

This Week’s listening

I’m off to Germany this weekend to record a CD – we’ve also got a concert on Friday afternoon, and one of the pieces is just stunning; it’s the third movement from Poulenc’s Quatre petites prières de Saint François d’Assise (Four small prayers of Saint Francis of Assisi) – “Seigneur, je vous en prie”. If you’re interested in finding out more about these pieces, you can read about them here.

Although I’m sharing just the third movement here, I’d highly recommend listening to all four movements, they’re very short. You can hear it HERE.

I’m really looking forward to seeing you all on the 6th September!
Ben

Continue ReadingPre-Start-Of-Term Conductor’s Notes

Post Term Conductor’s Notes

Happy first night of the Proms, everyone! I hope you’re all well and aren’t too drenched in this horrible weather. A few bits to wrap up from this term, and a few important bits going forwards, so thank you for reading though each section.

Shauni Sing Day

Well, what a day that was! A huge thank you to everyone involved, it was an absolutely incredible day, and I think we can all agree with Peter’s sentiments that it’s not about the destination but the journey... however, what a phenomenal destination it was! I’m so pleased with CNCS’s contribution to the day, and thank you all for your energies and efforts throughout the day. I also want to say how enjoyable the rehearsals in the weeks preceding were. CNCS, as expected, offered a warm welcome to those non-members who joined us for the rehearsals, and I think we may have even persuaded a few people to join us in September.

An enormous congratulations to everyone who contributed to running and planning the day. The logistics were not easy, but because of the work and dedication of everyone behind the scenes, especially Susannah and Sarah, the day ran completely seamlessly! And wow, what a pleasure to work with Peter again. It was such a pleasure to be a small cog in a big machine to celebrate Shauni, and it’ll certainly be a day I don’t forget anytime soon. Well done all!!

Social

We had such a lovely evening on Wednesday eating, drinking, and most importantly chatting with brilliant people! It was so good to see so many people filling the Town Hall not with music but with laughter and great conversation. Thank you to all who brought food and drink, and to everyone who set up/packed down/wash up chairs, tables, plates, cutlery, glasses, etc. – it was such a great evening. This is what CNCS is all about, and I feel very lucky to be involved with it!

The New term

An important update on next term:

We’ll be starting rehearsals on Wednesday 6th September, and we’ll go through to the concert week with no half term. The concert is Saturday 18th November at St Mary’s Church, Banbury, and there’ll be a dress rehearsal on the evening of Friday 17th.

We would like to do a Saturday rehearsal with a come-and-share lunch this term too. We can confirm now that we’ve been able to book it in for Saturday 30th September, so please put this in your diaries!

And just to remind you of the lovely repertoire:
Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms
Barber’s Adagio for Strings (played by the orchestra)
Jenkins’s Armed Man: A Mass For Peace

All details for the project are below.

Section Reps Meeting

We had an excellent meeting with our new Section Reps on Wednesday before the social, covering a lot of exciting stuff! This is a reminder that they are always open to hear your feedback and comments, so do get in touch with them.

They’ll also be sending an email round over the Summer with some important things in, so keep an eye out for that.

Commission Comments

As I mentioned at the social event, we want you to be a part of the commission. I’ll be sharing with you all the details once they’re ready, but we want to get going with collecting ideas for the libretto text that we’ll set to music!

We’ve already had a few people contact us or write down their thoughts, but we want you all to email me or Eric with:

– Any Local poems that you find interesting/exciting/mean something to you and are about our lovely part of the world.
– Your thoughts on what the choir, singing, music, and the Chipping Norton and District area means to you.

Ukraine Concert

I’ve been asked to share this concert by the Kyiv Classical Duo. Looks like it’ll be a great concert for an excellent cause, so do go along and support!

Wedding

I just wanted to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for all the love and support you’ve all shown me and Bec as we prepare for our wedding. It’s going to be such a brilliant day, and thanks to all of your generosity our honeymoon will be unforgettable! We promise to show you all the photos and tell you all about it when we’re back in Chippy! Next time we see most of you we’ll be a married couple!

This Week’s listening

A very important bit of listening this week – the BBC Proms has just kicked off with a bang! Featuring Sibelius’s monumental Finlandia, Grieg’s infamous Piano Concerto, and Britten’s joyous Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra, it’s a must-watch! Oh, and it’s got the BBC Singers in it – can you believe that the BBC almost cut them?! You can catch up with it on BBC iPlayer, and I’ll be sharing some more with you over the next couple of months. Do go and support live music!

Have a lovely summer and see you all soon.
Ben

Continue ReadingPost Term Conductor’s Notes

Shauni Sing Day

Hi everyone, just a quick post to mention a few things. Won’t take long!

Sing Day Update

We’ve had some great fun rehearsals bashing through the Mozart Requiem in preparation for Sunday, and it’s sounding great! A huge thank you to Janet Lincé for taking the first rehearsal and doing a whistle-stop tour of the whole thing! I’ve then been dissecting each movement, and we’ve really got it in a good place so there’s a core of people who’ll be really confident on Sunday. We also took a look at the booklet, which will be explained by Peter on Sunday.

It’s not too late to get your ticket to sing or watch in the evening, and with a HUGE(!) choir plus a great orchestra of professional musicians, and stellar soloists, it’s certainly not one to miss.
Get your tickets HERE!

Rehearsal Tracks For the Mozart

Brian has very kindly shared some rehearsal files with me, if you’re interested in looking over them before the day.
You can find them HERE.

Concerts

Two concerts to share with you, and both are TONIGHT!

Firstly, the Cherwell Choral Society have their concert ‘Americana‘. Secondly, the Banbury Symphony Orchestra have their programme ‘Cornucopia‘ (which features lots of amazing music for the french horn!

Both sound like they’ll be amazing, so it’s worth choosing one to go to if you can make it!

Hope to see you all on Sunday!
Ben

Continue ReadingShauni Sing Day