Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 18th January

Good afternoon, lovely choir! What a great rehearsal last night, I’m so pleased with all of the work we were able to do – such fine detail at such an early stage in the rehearsal process. I can already tell that this is going to be a special one.

What we did on Wednesday 18th January

We began with a read-through of the main melody of Movement III Herr, lehre doch mich, first sung by the Baritone soloist. This set us up nicely to learn the harmony parts and put it all together. Aside from learning the notes, we did lots of work on this first section with the text and the expression of the music, including using glottal stops to accent certain vowels (“und” and “ist” on page 30). Altos, Tenors, and Basses, remember to keep the energy alive at the top of page 30 to support the Sopranos with their melody. Before the break we had a look at the opening of the fugue in bar 173. We learnt the subject and counter-subject in the tenor line, before applying it to our own parts, and making a very good attempt at singing it through, getting to page 41 before it really fell apart!

After the break we started working on Movement IV Wie lieblich sind, really delving into the beautiful melodic lines and the gorgeous expressions of the piece. We learnt in detail the parts until bar 43, and it seemed as though most people are fairly confident note-wise with that first section. Then we sang through from bar 46 until bar 84, with a particular focus on the staggered entries from bar 48. Then we sang through from Letter C to the end, and settling on working from Letter D to the end – be very self-indulgent with the text and melody here; it’s super slushy, so enjoy it!

What we will do on Wednesday 25th January

The first half of the rehearsal will be tutti in the main hall, rehearsing Letter C in Movement III Wie lieblich sind, and Letter L to Letter N in Movement II Denn alles fleisch. After a short break we’ll split off into sectionals with T/B downstairs in the lower hall with Rowena, and S/A upstairs with me: we’ll be note-bashing the fugue (bar 173) in Movement III Herr, lehre doch mich. If you have time, please do look over this section in particular – it’s worth using the learning resources below to slow it down and listen note-by-note.

Marked Scores

I appreciate last week’s Notes came out after the weekend (sorry!), but this time you’ll have the whole weekend to make sure they’re in. I promise you that your time putting them in is well spent – the ensemble benefits and you get into the music in detail, so thank you for doing it!

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!

Chipping Norton Music Festival

As Sarah Cobb mentioned last night in the break, do check out the Chipping Norton Music Festival. We’ll be performing on Saturday 11th March in the afternoon, and we’ll be doing a bit of the Brahms. There’s so much going on that you’re completely spoilt for choice! Check out all the events, along with information on how to participate or watch events, HERE.

Run By Singers

An excellent opportunity for a choral singing holiday! They wrote to us directly to advertise places, so if you fancy travelling and singing all combined into one, check it out. In their own words:

“If you’re passionate about singing great choral music and enjoy the company of other singers, then you have probably come to the right place. A singing holiday with Run by Singers is an unforgettable experience.”

Find out more HERE.

CRAG Concert

Fran has asked me to share this concert poster – a great programme of music, and an excellent cause!

This Week’s listening

I mentioned in the rehearsal ‘the perfect fugue’ – Shostakovich’s Fugue in A major, number 7. It’s a perfectly constructed fugue without a single note of dissonance, but still has so much interest and excitement, particularly because of its arpeggio-based subject. There are plenty of brilliant recordings, but this recording allows you to follow along with the music and all of the different chords that are being played (just ignore the talking before and after). You can check it out HERE.

See you on Wednesday 25th.
– Ben