Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 1st February

Good afternoon lovely choir – I hope you all had a great week, and are enjoying your weekend so far. We had a great rehearsal on Wednesday, covering a lot of music, and we’ll continue to build on this over the next couple of weeks.

What we did on Wednesday 1st February

A good start to Movement V Ihr habt nun, both with the learning of notes and way we produced the sound (m.v. – mezza-voce, or ‘half-voice’), which created a beautifully sweet sound. We did a little bit with the phrasing too, including giving direction to the suspensions, such as in the Soprano part in bars 22 and 23. We focused on the lovely melodic lines in bars 35 and 36, and then finished the movement with a flourish, while making sure the notes were accurate.

After this we started on Movement VI Denn wir haben, “do”-ing our way through learning the notes, and keeping the rhythm absolutely metronomically precise. We practiced the entries at bars 18, 20 and 22, making sure the notes were accurate. Again, enjoy the suspensions at Letter B in the Tenor part. We then did the join at bar 69 zu der Zeit der letzen Posaune, focusing on the dynamics, accents, and text, building up the intensity. After the break we worked on the turbulent ‘Vivace’ section at bar 82, learning the notes and putting the aggression into the music. It was great to look at the pairings of voices, such as the Sops and Altos on the triplets, and the Altos and Tenors from page 65 to 66. We also looked at the notes on pages 69 and 70, and the dialogue between the upper and lower voices. We also looked at the start of the Fugue (bar 208), learning the subject and then the counter-subject in the Alto line.

To end the rehearsal, we did some excellent work on Movement VII Selig sind die Toten, starting with learning the main melody, first heard in the Sopranos. We note-bashed the first section, and then worked on the ethereal atmosphere of Letter B. We finished by singing through until bar 100.

What we will do on Wednesday 8th February

We’ll begin with the opening of Movement VI Denn wir haben, putting the text to the notes we learnt, and then move on to a complete sing through of Movement VII Selig sind die Toten, before working from where we got to last week (bar 103). We’ll finish by singing through, and working on, Movement II Denn alles Fleisch, which we’ll be performing at the Chipping Norton Music Festival.

Just as a heads-up: on Wednesday 15th February we’ll be having a tutti rehearsal on Movement III Herr, lehre doch mich from Letter E (the only section we haven’t covered), and then some tutti work on the Fugue (bar 173). After the break we’ll be splitting off into sectionals for the Fugue in Movement VI Denn wir haben, bar 208.

Marked Scores

The complete Marked Score is now below so do go through and put the new markings in, as well as any you may have missed before.
(Due to the size of the original file I’ve had to compress it. If anything is unclear, do email me and I’ll send you a link to the large 145MB original version!)

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!

BBC Singers Performing Brahms

The BBC Singers are performing the two-piano version of the Brahms Requiem on Friday 10th February at St Martin in the Fields. If you’d like to go along to pick up tips and hear it live, or just want an excuse to go down to London, you can find out more HERE.

This Week’s listening

This week I thought I’d share with you a piece I’m doing with another choir this term – part of our newCHOIR programme “They That Go Down To The Sea”. It’s a piece by Finnish composer Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, paying homage to the sinking of the ferry Estonia in 1994, called Canticum Calamitatis Maritimae. It’s a very powerful and moving piece, as well as being fairly fiendish to sing... an absolutely incredible work, I highly recommend a listen HERE.

See you on Wednesday 1st.
– Ben