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!