Welcome and Happy New Year one and all....
I’m trying a new-year resolution format for the blog, with headings to keep it organised and focused and hopefully a little more frequent than last year. I may not be able to fulfil these ambitions, but it’s courageous to have some! It works for H. M. Government and they seem to get away with it. So look out for:
Soap box: Headlines, general news and info, thoughts and Man at the Front rants and ramblings.
Voicebox: Practical activities for you to try at home (and I do mean ‘try this at home’) e.g. warm ups, voice work, exercises, songs.
Opportunity knocks: Links to stimulating stuff which will feed your souland keep you connected – online activities, articles, books etc
Music box – The inspiration slot – for your listening
Chatterbox – Quotes, extracts, articles, funny and serious, including gems from the old Leading Notes
Return to Singing (R2S): The current lockdown and general uncertainty about the course of this pandemic makes planning impossible, but we are constantly reviewing the way ahead. R2S will continue as soon as we safely can, similar to our session in December, building in capacity as conditions allow – that’s all we can say right now. The Rossini Petite Messe Solonelle is still on the table! If this is too tantalising, there is an opportunity in November with the Oxford Orpheus Choir (see link below)
STOP PRESS – CHIPPING NORTON MUSIC FESTIVAL (March 6 – 20)
Important announcement: Undaunted by the pandemic restrictions, the festival is committed to its principles of inclusion and opportunity, so this year it will be a virtual festival. Performers will enter a video recording which adjudicators will adjudicate in the usual way, in their own time. Feedback to performers will be given via a zoom session during the festival fortnight. There will not be any workshops or concerts; ensemble classes (e.g. choirs) might happen if there are enough entries. Please pass on this info to anyone you can. We already have an entry for Edinburgh! See website for details: www.cnmf.org.uk
Are you singing at all? Whether or not you are participating in online activities, it’s essential to give your singing voice some attention regularly to prevent atrophy, and better still to keep it in good condition! This Voicebox section of the blog encourages you with exercises, activities and things to sing, developing over time. Find yourself ten minutes as regularly as you can to develop a vocal practice. Of course, as members of an outstanding choir you can already sing brilliantly and have performed some of the most challenging pieces, so don’t let this stop you ‘giving it large’ whenever you like. It’s good to reconnect with basic techniques though and particularly useful if you haven’t sung for a while.
Session 1 is just b-r-e-a-t-h-i-n-g. Future sessions will link with huMMMMing, then singing, using a range of simple material to create an engaging and hopefully useful warm up routine.
Here are some suggestions for you – no equipment needed! Try the following routine:
SESSION 1 – BREATHING No equipment is required, just a quiet space....Allow yourself 10 mins in a quiet space to JUST BE – Sitting or standing comfortably with relaxed shoulders, breathing slowly, through your nose at all times if possible
Attend to your breath and notice how it is
Place one hand over your heart and the other over your belly – keep breathing
Attend to your belly hand and notice how it is moving – imagine the air is filling the space behind it. Close your eyes.
Establish a beat or pulse in your head (about 60 beats per minute [bpm]) – breathe in for 4 beats and out for 4 beats.
Repeat this cycle four times then breathe normally – i.e. without counting or thinking!
Repeat above and exhale for 6 beats
Now inhale 4 – hold 4 – exhale 4
Repeat above and exhale 6
Relax and breathe normally. Congratulate yourself for achieving this, or if it’s no challenge then just for bothering!!
Now link all three exercises in cycles of four, with no breaks for normal breathing
Extended finish: Inhale 4 – hold 7 – exhale 8 for a cycle of four times.
Relax. Notice how you are. Do you feel any warmer, colder, no different? Is your mouth drier or more moist than when you started?
Do you do YOGA? You might enjoy the Youtube yoga sessions with Adriene which started this month. She was a hit during the first lock down. Her latest series of 30 sessions is called ‘Breath’ and she makes a point of exploring breathing techniques through the yoga practice. You can join for free, go to:
An Oxford group called newChoir is offering something online which looks exciting and everyone is invited. Their new conductor, Benedict Goodall says:
“The first session, which will be on Tuesday 26th January at 19:30-21:00, will be a webinar on the wondrous piece Belshazzar’s Feast by William Walton. In these sessions, I will be dissecting the piece, analysing it, and giving as much information as possible on the history of the work, as well as describing what it is like to perform it. We will then have the opportunity to talk about it as a group to really understand these masterworks.
BOOK IMMEDIATELY AS NUMBERS ARE LIMITED TO ACCOMMODATE THE DISCUSSION
The second session is on Tuesday 2nd February at 19:30-21:00, and will be a fun quiz, heavily focussing on choral music.
We hope you will be interested in taking part. Booking is through Eventbrite and the link for the first event is https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/belshazzars-feast-by-william-walton-tickets-136826338261?utm-medium=discovery&utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&utm-source=strongmail&utm-term=listing
Check out the choir website and read about the conductor: https://www.newchoir.org.uk/
Rossini Petite Messe Solonelle – Workshop on 13th November 2021
Depending on what is allowed and sensible by then, here are some provisional dates for the Oxford Orpheus Choir workshop. Wesley Memorial Methodist church in Oxford has been booked for a celebratory daytime workshop and evening concert of the original version with piano and harmonium.
The day my voice broke: What an injury taught me about the power of speech
This ‘Long Read’ from the Guardian is very interesting. It highlights how we should be careful with our voices and what our spoken voices say about us. Do we really know what we sound like?
This is the inspiration slot. Lovely and/or interesting music which is worth sharing. Tiri vamwe means ‘we are together, we are one’ with multi languages added by The Joyous Choir
Dixit Dominus by Handel – This 40-minute work was completed in 1707 when Handel was in Italy. It’s uplifting and full of energy with some delightfully reflective solo movements. CNCS has never performed it – a future challenge?
Deserted Discs I bet that somewhere in your collection of CDs there is lurking a favourite piece of VOCAL MUSIC (choral or solo), a recording you had forgotten about, or something you think everyone might like to hear. Maybe there is a significant piece associated with an important time or occasion in your life. With a nod to Radio 4 and Roy Plumley, if you have something you are prepared to share from the CNCS desert island, let me know. Include a youtube link or just the details and I’ll find a recording if I can and post it. A short introduction or biog reference would be interesting OR let the music just speak for itself. You might even enjoy provoking your listeners by stretching their ears with something different.....
It’s been a pleasure – see you again soon