Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 20th September

Good evening all, I hope you’ve had a lovely weekend? We’ve been back in Birmingham helping my best man Eoin move house. A few important things below, so thank you for reading these Notes carefully.

What We Did – Wednesday 20th September

We started with a brief warm up before throwing ourselves heads-first into the 1st movement of the Bernstein. We began by speaking through the text, and I feel happy saying that with every time we see it we become more confident in the pronunciation – a long way to go still, but each time is better! We also familiarised ourselves once again with the funky 7/4 rhythm, in order to prepare for the note-learning in that section.

We then split into SA/TB sectionals, with the sole purpose of learning the notes. A massive thank you to Rowena for leading the Tenors and Basses. We rehearsed in great detail the rhythms of the opening section, and then how each part takes over from the previous part, building to bar 32. It was really good to isolate some of the trickier notes and build confidence with them. It was also important to start fitting the text to the notes really clearly, so we practiced some of the rhythms slowly (bar 40 onwards, for example) to ensure everything was slotting into place. We clarified the notes for all the split parts, such as in bar 66 onwards, and then finished the sectional at bar 85.

After we’d worked on it in SA/TB sectionals, we came back and put it all together, singing through from the opening to bar 85. It certainly wasn’t flawless, and I wouldn’t expect it to be for week 3, but my goodness it was good, and we could all tell how great the progress had been! My little scream of joy hopefully proved how pleased with it I was! We spent a short time refining the odd moment, including putting ‘rousing’ energy into the opening, and feeling the different exciting characters Bernstein puts into his music.

We ended by looking briefly at the Sanctus from The Armed Man, tuning the chords, and refining the text, and tidying up the rhythms. A focussed way to end an intense but constructive rehearsal.

Please bear in mind, the Saturday 30th September rehearsal will feature a lot of sectional and tutti stuff, building on this fantastic foundation we’ve started with – please do ensure you come to the Saturday rehearsal!

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please spend some time at home going through the learning tracks for the 1st Movement of the Bernstein, in order to familiarise yourselves with the notes and rhythms. The learning tracks can be found further down this post!

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 27th September

This week we’ll begin with a brief recap of the first movement, after a thorough warm up! Then we’ll split off for sectionals again, this time looking at the 2nd Movement. You may want to have a listen to this movement in advance of the rehearsal.

If we’ve got any time left at the end, we’ll work on the Agnus Dei from The Armed Man.

Marked Scores

The marked scores for the term are here.
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 each rehearsal.

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.

Chipping Norton Music Festival

It certainly feels a long way in the future, but the excellent team at the Music Festival have published their dates for 2024 already. For those who don’t know, the Chippy Music Festival is a great couple of weeks of music making in the community, and they always have a ‘Choirs’ day... in which we always partake! We normally do music from our Spring concert, and it’s a fantastic way to “dry run” some of that concert’s music.

In 2024, the ‘Choirs’ day will be Saturday 9th March.

Sarah Cobb will be sharing more information closer to the time about the whole Festival, but for now please put the date in your diary now, so we can have good numbers for this day!

CRAG Concert

The first CRAG concert of the season approaches, so if you’re around do go and support a wonderful charity putting on amazing concerts!

This Week’s listening

A couple of weeks ago I shared with you the Wrong Note Rag by Bernstein, which I hoped highlighted his incredible understanding and use of rhythm, as well as his fierce sense of humour.
This week I share with you a piece I came across years ago which perfectly exemplifies Bernstein’s grasp of harmony. In this piece, the interval of a major 2nd is heard throughout the work, which means the music is always ‘scrunching’ with itself – it’s a suspension which wants to resolve and never does. Even at the end, the chord is so joyous and clear, but there’s the constant hint of instability in the harmony as the music never properly settles. It’s utterly fascinating, and I hope you enjoy it.

You can listen to Bernstein’s Olympic Hymn performed by the stunning Boston Pops and John Williams HERE.

See you all on Wednesday 27th!