Conductor’s Notes – Wednesday 6th September

Good morning everyone, I hope you’ve all had a lovely weekend, despite the stifling heat on Saturday. Apologies for the delay in getting these notes out, I must admit I completely forgot – not yet back in the habit of doing them! A short one for you all, mainly as a heads-up for Wednesday.

For anyone new to the choir, do check these notes each week as I provide information about the week’s rehearsal, say what we’ll be doing at the next rehearsal, share helpful information, and publicise anything else that’s important.

What We Did – Wednesday 6th September

A cracking first rehearsal back, thank you all! I’d like to first off start with a thank you to Susannah and Mark for the smooth registration and score handout, and to also thank David and his team who set up each week – we ended up moving more chairs upstairs as we had roughly 95 singers... we’re back with a bang!

We started with some really thorough and thought-provoking warm ups, listening to blend, thinking about pitch, and working on tuning intervals. It’s great to be doing this so early on, and certainly something we’ll keep doing throughout the rehearsal process so we keep making the best choral sound possible.

Then we worked our way through The Armed Man, learning some of the French in the first movement, working on the odd section of melody and harmony, but mainly bashing through each movement to get an overview of the whole piece. We didn’t cover the last movement, but everything else went well. We also sang the unison section in the last movement of the Bernstein, from Figure 45 on page 38.

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please spend some time at home listening to and reading through the Jenkins. If you’re not as confident with the sheet music, try and follow as best as you can, focusing on the words and shape of the music – a lot of Jenkins’s musical lines are very singable, and often quite simple.

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 13th September

We’ll begin by looking at the last movement of The Armed Man, reading it through and roughly learning it in this first instance. Then we’ll do some serious work on the Bernstein, so please do at least have a listen to it before the rehearsal.

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

Marked Scores

The marked scores for the term are here.
I know you all understand the amount of time that I put into learning, making decisions on, and then marking up these scores, and 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 these rehearsals.

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.

This Term’s Dates

Saturday 18th November (19:30) – Concert Day!
The afternoon rehearsal with the orchestra is at 14:00-17:00, leaving us plenty of time for dinner.

Friday 17th November (19:30-21:30) – Rehearsal in St Mary’s Church, Banbury!

Saturday 30th September (10:30-16:30) – Saturday rehearsal with a come-and-share lunch.
It’s in the Chippy Town Hall, and will be a really important rehearsal, so please treat it as compulsory, like a regular Wednesday rehearsal.

Other Dates For This Season

One more time – so you’ve got a heads-up of the entire year, the dates below are what we’ve got confirmed in the diary. We’ll be sharing more detailed information as things draw nearer and plans become clearer, but for now please do put these in your diaries.

Autumn ’23
Music: Chichester Psalms & The Armed Man.
Rehearsals start – Wednesday 6th September.
Saturday rehearsal – 30th September, 10:30-16:30.
Friday rehearsal – 17th November, 19:30-21:30.
Saturday rehearsal & concert – 18th November, 14:00-17:00. Concert 19:30-21:45.

Christmas ’23
Music: Christmas favourites.
Weekly rehearsals for Spring term – Wednesday Nov 22nd to 13th December.
Christmas Come-and-Sing – Sunday 17th December, 10:30-17:30.

Spring ’24
Music: Bach’s John Passion.
Rehearsals start -Wednesday 10th January.
Friday rehearsal – 22nd March, 19:30-21:30.
Sunday rehearsal & concert – 24th March, 14:00-17:00. Concert 19:30-22:00.

Summer ’24
Music: Choral jazz.
Rehearsals start – Wednesday 17th April.
Friday rehearsal – 14th June, 19:30-21:30.
Saturday rehearsal & concert – 15th June, 14:00-17:00. Concert 19:30-21:30.

We’re also hoping to run a couple of workshops, focussing on music theory. More on these will be available soon, but they’ll likely be on a Saturday in 2024.

Forthcoming Events

Only one thing to share this week, and that’s the next season of CRAG concerts. Do check them out below and put a load in your diaries!

This Week’s listening

I want to share some Bernstein with you, so you can begin to understand him as a composer, as we tackle the Chichester Psalms. I hope everyone knows West Side Story, so I’ll share a song from another musical he did called Wonderful Town. This song, Wrong Note Rag is a brilliantly energetic and utterly hysterical piece, really showing off Bernstein’s incredible rhythm and delightful sense of humour. You can find out more about Wonderful Town HERE.

This recording features a young Sir Simon Rattle, and arguably the best orchestra in the world, the Berlin Philharmonic. Check out this great recording HERE.

See you all on Wednesday!