Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 27th and Saturday 30th September

Hello everyone, I hope you’re all well on this stormy evening – I also hope you weren’t badly affected by the power cut which stalled my writing earlier this evening.

Before I go into details below, I just want to thank you for the pleasure that is this term already; I’m really enjoying sharing this music with you all, and I’m so grateful for the hard work you’re all putting in, especially on Saturday’s rehearsal. This programme is incredibly important to me, and I know it’s going to be a fantastic concert – I’ll be talking more about it on Wednesday, as a few people have asked me about the music already.

What We Did – Wednesday 27th September

After another focused and thorough warm up, thinking in particular about good-quality annunciation and warming up our words, we split off into sectionals; while T/B set the chairs up downstairs I went through the pronunciation of the 2nd movement of the Bernstein with the Sops and Altos. T/B worked on the middle of the 2nd movement, slowly building up the rhythms and the text, then putting notes to the rhythms by singing one part at a time, and finally singing our own parts which are often a beat apart. We did this for the whole time, gradually improving and building speed. S/A went through the outer parts of the 2nd movement, learning the notes and rhythms, and listening to each other to keep the tuning in place. After this there was a bit of time to learn movement 9 (Torches) of the Armed Man, focusing on the rhythms and annunciation of the text. S/A also recapped some of the 1st movement of the Bernstein from the previous week.

After this, we came back and put it all together, at a slower tempo for the sake of the Tenors and Basses. I can proudly say it was a very good first attempt!! Well done for your hard work all. We ended with a brief refresher of the very opening of the Bernstein, followed by a bit of work on the Agnus Dei from the Armed Man; this mainly focused on early breathing, preparing space, and blending the voices with each new entry.

What We Did – Saturday 30th September

As above, thank you all for your hard work and commitment to this rehearsal day – it’s the first time we’ve done an all-day rehearsal, and I think we all agree it was worth doing as we covered a lot and built so much confidence with a lot of the music. I’d also like to thank everyone who helped put on the day, and especially to Elizabeth, Annabel, Sue, and everyone (sorry I’ve missed people by name) who suggested, organised, set up, and ran the tea/coffee/biscuit breaks; a much-needed addition to the day!

In terms of the music, we covered a lot! We started by looking at the tutti section in the Kyrie of the Armed Man, thinking about blend, harmony, and musical interpretation of the text. Lots of good refining indeed. After this we split off into sectionals with T/B working on the 2nd movement again, going through the text and speeding it up while ensuring notes were correct. S/A worked with me on a bit more of the Kyrie, then looked at the high sections of Charge (page 55) during which we learnt the notes, worked out where we get our starting notes from, and practiced the rhythms. We did a small bit of work on Torches once more, before we turned to the 2nd movement of the Bernstein to refine the tuning of the opening and ending sections, as well as clarify the rhythms.

After the morning break Sops and Altos worked with Ro on the last movement of the Armed Man, while I worked with T/B on Save Me From Bloody Men. During this we explored the plainchant-feel freedom of each phrase, working on ensemble, as well as checking the notes and pitches were correct. A very powerful movement sung very well. Before lunch we came back together to look at Hymn Before Action and Charge, confirming notes and looking at how they flow into each other.

After lunch we did a lot of work on the Armed Man, confirming what we did on the Agnus Dei on Wednesday, refining parts, entries, and confidence with notes. We spent a lot of time on the rhythms in Charge, which I’ll explain more clearly on Wednesday too. Then we worked on the last movement getting the rhythms and notes correct of the “Ring” motifs. We ended the day with a bit more Bernstein in the form of learning the ending of the 1st movement.
*Please note, this was a long day and I can’t remember the *exact* order in which we did things... this is all we covered, and I think in the right order!

Can I just also take a moment to say a massive thank you to Rowena for, as always, her brilliant accompanying, but more importantly her hard work in helping lead sectionals! This term is very ‘bitty’ in that regard, and we (I!) certainly couldn’t do it, and make this much excellent progress, without her!

To catch up: If you missed either of these rehearsals, the most important thing to do is to listen to the Bernstein, having a look at the text for the 2nd movement in particular, and to sing through the movements of The Armed Man listed above. Thanks!

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 4th October

October already, wow! We’ll look at the 1st and last movements of the Bernstein, and then work on the opening and closing movements of the Armed Man. I’d also like to look at Angry Flames, which is arguable the hardest movement, so please do have a listen to it beforehand!

I’ll also be talking about the programme itself, so it’ll be important to get an understanding of this concert.

Marked Scores

The marked scores for the term are here.
I’m hoping, dare I say praying, for these to be in your copies by now...

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.


Our poster is available now, and looks incredible – huge thanks to Brian for his spectacular work on it!

It’s going to be such an amazing concert, so please spread the poster far and wide!!

This Week’s listening

Two for you this week – the first is the Chichester Psalms which was played on BBC Radio 3 – I caught only the very end of it last week. You can catch up with it on BBC Sounds HERE – the timestamp you need is 2:41:00.

The second is a little fun number called El Grillo (The Cricket) by Josquin des Prez. The reason I’m sharing this one with you all is due to the lyrics, and the madness of trying to annunciate them! There’s a moment where the voices sing: “Dalle, dalle, beve, beve, grillo, grillo, canta.(After drinking, the cricket sings), and it is the hardest bit of text I’ve ever had to sing... harder than the Tenor and Bass section in the Bernstein, which is what got me thinking about it!!
Do give this silly piece a listen, it’s only short and is guaranteed to brighten your day.
It’s sung here by my friends, the German male-voice choir Man(n) Singt! – Listen HERE.

See you all on Wednesday 4th!