Conductor’s Notes – Wednesdays 24th and 31st January

Hello friends, I hope you all had a lovely weekend and a good start to the week. Sorry I missed the Notes last week, it’s been a very busy time which is both exciting and exhausting, so I hope you can forgive the delay in getting these to you; I know how helpful people find them.

It’s a bit of a long one as there are lots of important things below – I’m very grateful to you all for taking the time to read them!

What We Did – Wednesday 24th January

  • We started by refreshing the Benedictus, singing through the opening (remember Tenors to walk up the scale with the Basses just before your first entrance to help you find your first note!). We also went through the key changes, practicing feeling the ‘lift in sound’. Then we worked on the “Hosanna” section, putting in the accents and securing the notes in each part.
  • Then we split into sectionals to work on the Gloria, focusing on the 5/8 section on pages 21-24. We practiced the rhythms and then got the notes sorted. This paid off as when we brought it together at the end it worked perfectly! Huge congratulations for this!
  • We worked on the Sanctus in sectionals, firming up the notes, and these were on the whole much more confident when we sang it together at the end. It was good to focus on some of the harmonies and rhythms especially on pages 53 and 54.
  • We ended by looking briefly at the main themes in the Kyrie, ensuring they stay fresh in our minds.

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please sing through the Benedictus, and then look at the 5/8 section of the Gloria, and practice your notes in the Sanctus and Kyrie.

What We Did – Wednesday 31st January

  • We began by warming up with Who is Sylvia in the Shearing, working on beautiful long lines, direction of the music, and expression of the text (as well as ensuring all notes were secure).
  • Then we refreshed the 5/8 section of the Gloria, which went very well, and after some practice finding the notes we joined it into figure 23.
  • After this, we refreshed our memory of the Credo theme on page 30. We did some note-bashing to ensure everyone felt happy with the pitches, and then worked on some of the fiddly rhythms, including the top of page 34. We also went through the rhythms from page 45 to the end of the Credo, and sang through. We’ll do some sectional work on this!
  • We then worked on the Kyrie from page 12 through to page 16, especially looking at the transition and making sure the words lined up with the notes.
  • And finally we ended with some work on verse 4 (page 22) of It Was A Lover, looking at some of the notes, and feeling the rhythms of the music together. The harmony in this piece is deceptively difficult, so don’t worry if you’ve not got it nailed down just yet!

To catch up: If you missed this rehearsal, please sing through Who Is Sylvia, look at the Credo and Kyrie in the Mass, and go through your notes in It Was A Lover And His Lass.

What We’ll Do – Wednesday 7th February

  • We’ll begin by singing the whole of the Kyrie, seeing how much we can do.
  • After this we’ll split into sectionals to go through the Credo from page 45 – end – ATB will be with Rowena, Sopranos will be with me.
  • Then we’ll do sectionals on the Agnus Dei. SA with me, TB with Rowena.
  • If there’s time, we’ll do a small note-bash in sectionals on It Was A Lover.
  • We’ll come back together to sing through the end of the Credo and as much of the Agnus Dei as time allows.

To prepare for this rehearsal, please go and listen to the whole of the Mass in Blue, or at the very least the movements we’ll be doing. It doesn’t take long, and you can do it with a drink in your hand!

To give you plenty of advanced warning, we’ll be running the Mass in Blue on Wednesday 28th February to see what state it’s in. This will also help us get a great feel for the whole piece, so please make sure you’re prepared for this. (Don’t worry, there are still plenty of rehearsals after to touch it all up, but this is a vital part of the rehearsal process)!

Theory Workshops

Last Saturday we had the first of the Theory Workshops, which people found incredibly useful – there was a great buzz of learning in the room, and plenty of questions were asked (and hopefully answered!) If there are any questions remaining from the session, please do come and ask!

Below is the booklet for the day with the answers to the exercises at the end, in case you wanted to check your work! It’s the same password as the marked scores. We also have some physical copies left, so if you would like one please let us know on Wednesday.

You can still get tickets to the second workshop HERE.

Workshop 2
A Conductor’s Guide to Music Theory
Saturday 17th February, 2pm – 5pm
Chipping Norton Town Hall
While not compulsory to attend both workshops, this session will build on the first session by looking at the job of a conductor, including score analysis, decision-making, and contextual understanding. We’ll apply this to some conducting and singing in the second half.

Marked Scores

The marked scores are below. By now I hope you’ve all got the markings in – please don’t let the team down by breathing in the wrong place!!

For copyright reasons (as these posts are viewable by the public) we’ve had to password-protect the scores. Annabel sent an email out first week with the password in the email, but I’ll keep announcing it on Wednesdays. Please also feel free to email me or Annabel if you’ve forgotten it and we can share it with you.

Recommended recordings & learning guides

I’d highly recommend listening to the works, and you can hear my recommended recordings here:

There are a couple of places that offer free learning guides for these songs. The ones I’ve found are:


Todd – OUP
Todd – Choralia

Music Festival

As I shared at the start of term, we’ll be singing in the Chipping Norton Music Festival – a great opportunity to perform some of our concert works, and to participate in an amazing festival! As shared, the date is SATURDAY 9th MARCH. We don’t know what time yet as the day hasn’t been finalised, but it would be great to have as many people singing as possible, so we get a chance to perform some of the music before our concert!

Music is TBC, but we’ll likely do the Sanctus from Mass in Blue (the only movement without the Soprano Soloist), and a couple of movements from the Shearing.

Becca Wilkins

Speaking of the soprano soloist, we’ve booked a fantastic singer, Becca Wilkins, as our soloist. Bec and I were at university with her, and it’s been great watching her career take off in London, so we’re really lucky to have her with us!

You can hear her on Spotify, or on her website HERE.

Forthcoming events

There are a couple of events coming up soon, so do check them out and go and support those involved.

The first features some of our very own members. David and Gareth are fairly new members, and Rachel, who was the Soprano Section Representative last year, says:
“David, Gareth and I are currently busily involved with rehearsals for Banbury Operatic Society’s Forthcoming show Calamity Jane – 14-17 Feb 2024. Its going to be a great show!
Please take a look at the poster below and book your tickets now! You can book HERE.

The second is a come-and-sing Messiah. All details are on the poster below.

This Week’s listening...

I often write down ideas of things that I want to share with you, and I can’t remember exactly why this is on the list, but I remember mentioning the piece to Mark, either in a rehearsal or in the pub... either way, it’s a beautiful choice this week...

Spiegel im Spiegel is arguably one of Arvo Pärt’s most famous works. Translated as ‘mirror(s) in the mirror’, this standalone piece was originally written for piano and violin in 1978, and is in the minimalist style, using regular and repeated patterns. In fact, the style of minimalism Pärt employs was created by him two years earlier; this is the tintinnabular style, wherein a melodic voice, operating over diatonic scales, and tintinnabular voice, operating within a triad on the tonic, accompany each other.

Whether you’ve had a busy start to the week or are recovering from a busy weekend, take a moment to relax, reflect, and enjoy this stunning piece of music! You can check it out HERE.

I look forward to seeing you all on Wednesday.