Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 5th October

It’s October... and so we must begin our Christmas rehearsals! Plenty of important things below, so please read through.
For our new members who may not know about Conductor’s Notes, they will be posted weekly as a reminder of what we did, a heads-up about what we’ll do in the next rehearsal, and any other bits of information. If you do miss a rehearsal, please check here to find out what you missed, and what you need to catch up on.

To preface these Notes, I just want to say a huge thanks to the committee for helping these rehearsals run so smoothly, especially Susannah, Mark, Christophe and Nick, who have been on ‘music-duty’, handing out all of the Christmas music as well as the Brahms... thank you all!

What we did on Wednesday 5th October

We began with the ‘latter half’ of the Fantasia on Christmas Carols, reading from letter H. We sporadically learnt the melodies and some of the broader harmony sections towards the end, and channeled our ‘Britten-National-Anthem’ vibes for the final section at letter Gg. After the break we looked at the more florid section after letter E, and spent some good time building our sense of ensemble – something super important when singing in a choir with 100 people! A good start, so well done, and we’ll keep doing excellent work on this.

We ended the rehearsal by looking through as many movements of the Corp as possible. This was a great read through; for those who don’t read sheet music fluently, please don’t be put off – we’ll do plenty of work on these over the next couple of months and really break everything down to learn it inside-out!
We covered all movements but the Benedictus (page 27 onwards) and the Agnus Dei (page 30 to the end).

What we will do on Wednesday 12th October

Plenty to get going with, so we’ll work efficiently and quickly.
It’s Vaughan Williams’s 150th anniversary to the day, so I think it’s appropriate to begin with the homophonic section after letter E, and then sing through the rest (almost all of which we looked at last week). We’ll then learn the beginning of the piece, so we’ll have then sung it all.

After the break we’ll look at the Sanctus and Benedictus (page 24), then the Agnus Dei (page 30) of the Corp – the movements we didn’t cover last week. We’ll sing these through and then do some detailed work on them.

If you can name some of the Christmas carols in these movements, I’d be glad to hear... I reckon I only have about half of the total 70 in the whole piece...

Marked Scores

Here are all of the Marked Scores you’ll need for this term. Over the next few weeks I suggest sitting down with a glass of wine/gin/hot chocolate (your drink of choice) and putting these markings into your parts. The guide at the beginning should help you understand what each marking means. With everyone doing these markings – such as putting a breath in the right place – it saves us so much precious rehearsal time as I don’t need to stop to tell you what to do.

It took me many hours to put them all in, so I’d really appreciate it if you just find 30 minutes to mark up your own part... it really makes all the difference.
I’d be very grateful if they could be in by the time we come back from half-term in 4 weeks (this is my nice way of saying “I expect these to be in by then, please!” – haha!)

Playlist for Christmas

The Spotify playlist is designed to help you become more familiar with the programme, and to help you learn the music over the term; I often listen to these playlists in the car as I drive to and from Oxford! You can listen to it HERE.

If you’re new to Spotify, you can sign up really easily for a FREE(!) account, and listen to the playlist.

Learning Resources

As well as the Spotify Playlist above, there are a couple of helpful learning resources for our two main works in the programme:

John Fletcher Music A Christmas Mass
This is a paid-for site, but certainly a useful one, and one of the only places you can find rehearsal tracks for the Corp. Worth investing in if you know you might need the help with note-learning outside of rehearsals.

Choralia – Fantasia on Christmas Carols
It’s very, very rough and ready, but it might help in learning the notes... take it with a pinch of salt...

Concert Poster

Sharing the fabulous Mozart Oboe Quartet poster, as promoted at last week’s rehearsal. Do go and support this music series.

This Week’s listening

Something Eric shared with me – a beautiful piece by Norwegian composer Knut Nystedt; his stunning Immortal Bach. Based on Bach’s funeral song “Komm, süßer Tod” (Come, sweet death), we hear the music twice – firstly, the chorale as a whole, as harmonised by Nystedt; secondly, where all the singers perform the chorale again, but at different speeds, creating an amazing wash of sound, before everyone comes together on the final chord.
I was very fortunate to perform this in Berlin while on tour with the Birmingham University Singers and we did, as the composer suggests, sang this amazing work surrounding the audience.
You can listen HERE.

See you on Wednesday.
– Ben