Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 11th January

Hello everyone, I hope you’ve all had a lovely weekend. Huge apologies for the delay in getting these Conductor’s Notes out to you; as I mentioned in the rehearsal, I’ll try my best to get these out before the weekend, but some weeks there’s just not enough time in the day to get them out before then... this week was one of those!
Anyway, lots of great stuff below, so thank you for reading.

What we did on Wednesday 11th January

We ran through the opening of movement I Selig sind, putting into practice everything we’d worked on in the first week. A few minor things needed to be reminded/corrected, such as the Bass entry at Letter C, and the text at bar 88, but it sounded very solid on the whole, for week 2. We then worked from bar 100, bringing out the beautiful melodic lines, and pairing the voice parts together (such as at the bottom of page 9). We broke down 4 before Letter F, and really locked in the ending.

After the break we looked at Letter C in movement II Denn alles Fleisch, not only working on the notes but the phrasing and flow of the music. Just a reminder to be careful when we have staggered entries (such as at Letter D) to come in confidently with your note, and to continue the musical line from the part before you. Tenors, bottom of page 15, keep your descending notes really bright – you’re the most important part there. Then we looked at Letter H, creating a punchy and powerful start to this new section. At Letter K, we looked at the motif he uses (in the Sopranos), and how he uses this in other parts (rhythmically stretched in the Tenors). We put this all together until around Letter L, before looking at the ending from Letter N – remember, beautiful singing here!

What we will do on Wednesday 18th January

We’ll begin with the opening section of Movement III Herr, lehre doch mich, all the way until page 32. Before we break, we’ll have a gentle refresher of the fugue (bar 173), relearning the ‘subject’ and ‘counter-subject’. After the break, we’ll look at Movement IV Wie lieblich sind, finding that beautiful flow to the movement, and bringing out the different characters at each point (such as the ‘proud’ feeling on page 51).

As a heads-up: on Wednesday 25th January we’ll be having sectionals on the fugue (bar 173) in Movement III, as well as from Letter L in Movement II. More detail in the next Conductor’s Notes.

Marked Scores

Here are Movements 3 & 4 – trust me when I say it took me a long time to make decisions about the 3rd movement. You don’t need to make those decisions, you just need to put the markings in. If you don’t already have the markings in for movements 1 & 2, please look back on previous Conductor’s Notes to find them there.

Recommended Recordings

There are many fabulous recordings of this piece, including this one by the late great Bernard Haitink.

However, we’re doing an incredible version for chamber orchestra, with our friends from the Adderbury Ensemble. In this chamber arrangement, the arranger (Joachim Linckelmann) keeps all of the wonderful colours and atmospheres of the original orchestration, but reduces the orchestra to a manageable size. This is my recommended recording, and you can listen HERE.

Learning Resources

Fortunately, there are plenty of resources out there to assist you in your learning – please take the time to listen to the learning tracks, and to digest this piece properly; it’s tricky, and you’ll need to be on it.

Pronunciation Guide
We’ll be doing lots of work on the German pronunciation, and will be getting some coaching through the rehearsals too. However, you can make a good head-start on it by listening to this Pronunciation Guide.

Chord Perfect
These learning tracks are great as they are real singers amplified for the respective voice parts! It may help you to have real singers leading your learning, and it’s free! Just be aware that the ‘wobble’ on each voice can be quite pronounced (great for Brahms, but can lead to slightly flat singing if you slow it down).
Bass 1
Bass 2

John Fletcher Music
Another great aid in learning, particularly as you can isolate your part or have all parts together. The sound is clear and easy to pick up, but it doesn’t do text. Check it out here.

The most flexible option here as you can speed it up/slow it down, get certain voices to become more prominent, and it has a click track to help you keep in time. However, it’s the most rudimentary sound of the lot, so try not to sound too ‘computer-like’. Have a look.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, so if you find these don’t help then feel free to do your own digging. The most important thing is that you engage with this, and put the time in at home to learn it. We all saw the difference it made over 3 days for the Christmas concert... imagine how incredible you’ll sound if you start now!

Robin Howard’s Funeral

Some of you, particularly Basses, might remember Robin Howard, former member of CNCS. I’ve been asked to share details about his funeral with you, in case you’d like to go. His funeral will be in Enstone on Friday 20th January, and you can find all details HERE.

Three Choirs Festival – Bach!

Eric has asked me to share this with you, in the words of the Gloucester Three Choirs Festival Committee:

“A unique musical opportunity – The Bach Marathon

Imagine all 48 of Bach’s Preludes and Fugues played by a superb musician in just two morning sessions. These exquisite works of art encompass every possible note in music, a microcosm of what music is, being played in all 12 major and minor keys.
Friends of Gloucester Three Choirs are delighted to be able to bring these performances to Gloucester, thanks to Adrian Partington, Director of Music at Gloucester Cathedral. Better still, we will be live-streaming this supreme marathon effort for those who cannot attend in person to watch it live or who wish to watch it later.

On Saturdays 18th (book 1) and 25th February (book 2), Adrian will be putting himself through Bach’s paces to play a whole book of 24 Preludes and Fugues without a break. Adrian has happily taken on this challenge, rehearsing for months to pull off this feat of playing.
The Bach Marathon will take place in the Ivor Gurney Hall, adjacent to Gloucester Cathedral from 10:00 – 12:00 on both Saturdays. We invite you to come, listen and watch for just £5. Come for the whole performance or just listen to a few. Tickets available on the door, cash, or card.

If you can’t manage to be there, you can watch it live or later. The link will be available on the Three Choirs website.
For more information about this and other events, go to Three Choirs website.

AGM Chair’s Report

Eric has very kindly written up his Chair’s report from the AGM – well said then, and well written now. I encourage you all to have a read of it below.

This Week’s listening

A bit more Brahms this week, because why not? One of my favourite motets that Brahms wrote, it sets Paul Flemming’s incredible poem Geistliches Lied (Spiritual Song) as a ‘double canon’ – the same tune is used in different parts, following on from each other (a little lit like the round Frère Jacques) – only Brahms takes it to the next level. It’s a beautiful piece, and has one of the most spectacular ‘Amen’s ever written at the end. Listen HERE.

See you on Wednesday 18th.
– Ben