Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 1st March

I hope you’ve all had a good weekend, working away at the Brahms and prepping for the Music Festival this coming weekend. Our concert draws ever closer, and we get our first ‘dry run’ this Wednesday, along with a performance of the 2nd movement on Saturday... how exciting!

What we did on Wednesday 1st March

We started in bar 54 of the 2nd movement (page 13) to warm up into the piece, and immediately did some good work on blend and precision. We built on this from letter C, ensuring all entries are correct and confident, so just revise some notes you may not be 100% happy with if you need. We paid particular attention to the pulse of the music so Rowena’s subdivisions kept us moving forward, and to the tuning of the long notes so that they don’t go flat. From Letter H we did some great work on the text and character of the music, and then getting into page 20 I need all eyes looking at me for the tempo change – Basses, remember you need confidence of the gods here! A little bit of work on the notes and harmonies in this next section, such as before Letter L (careful here!), but we mainly focused on bringing out the performance. At Letter N keep everything incredibly beautiful – the sound will carry as long as it’s a well-blended and lovely sound. Remember your notes here, we did lots of work on finding each entry, especially Basses!

After the break we did some sectional work refreshing the 3rd movement fugue from bar 173 (page 38). Sops and Altos did most of this a Capella, so well done there, and Tenors and Basses made good progress with Rowena. When we came back to put it back together, we seemed very confident with the subject and counter-subject entrances (such as at the start of this section), but just be careful when they’re slightly different, or come in sooner than you think, like at Letter H. We can do more with the accents I’ve marked in on the syncopations at bars 185-188 and 202-204 to give it more flair and energy.

What we will do on Wednesday 8th March

As I said in the rehearsal, a very important one on Wednesday – we’ll be running the entire piece from beginning to end, as though it were a concert. This is the only time we’ll do it before the concert itself, and it’ll be the opportunity for you all to feel what it’s like to sing it all the way through.
Make sure you come prepared!

Chipping Norton Music Festival

This Saturday is our performance at the Festival. We’ve got a great number signed up, so here’s a reminder of the details:

Saturday 11th March
– Location: Chipping Norton Town Hall
– ‘Class’ time: 14:15 (performing second, around 14:25)
– Meet at: 14:00 in the Main Hall – there’ll be a warm up from the adjudicator first.
– Dress: All Black
– Other information: We’ll be singing Movement II of the Brahms (Denn Alles Fleisch) – do support the other choirs.

Do also come along to The Acafellas concert on Sunday 12th March, Town Hall, 19:30 – some great music for you, and an evening of fun music!

Other important dates this term

Here are the important dates, times and locations you need to know for the rest of the term. We still have regular Wednesday rehearsals, obviously.

Friday 24th March: Rehearsal in venue
– Location: St Mary’s Church, Banbury
– Times: 19:30-21:30

Sunday 26th March: Concert Day
– Location: St Mary’s Church, Banbury
– Set-up time: 13:00 – as many people to help set up both choir and orchestra as possible please
– Rehearsal: 14:30-17:30, but hopefully finishing earlier, around 17:00
– Concert arrival: Back at the church at 19:10 – dressing rooms provided (I believe)
– Concert: 19:30 concert (no interval), finishing around 21:00
– Dress: Concert dress – either all black or dinner jacket – more details soon

Marked Scores

As you’ve got a whole week off now, that’s plenty of time to make sure these markings are all in! It’s so important to know the details of the music, especially where to breathe and where we’re putting consonants. If you see your neighbour without these markings in, give them a gentle nudge...

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!

Discovering Music – Brahms Requiem

I came across a wonderful documentary about the influences of the Requiem, as part of the BBC’s Discovering Music programme. It’s very interesting, and well worth a listen! You can hear it HERE.

Poster and Tickets

Below is the wonderful poster Brian has produced, so start sharing it far and wide. You can also get your tickets HERE.

This Week’s listening

No separate piece this week, just go and refresh the Brahms for our run on Wednesday!

See you on Wednesday 8th March.
– Ben