Post Concert Conductor’s Notes

Hello everyone; I hope you’re all having a relaxing week in the lead up to Christmas, and managed to indulge in the post-concert-glow on Sunday. A short update before Christmas, so thank you for reading all the way through.

Christmas Concert

A huge well done to you all for the concert. It was absolutely brilliant, and I had such fun conducting you all that evening. I’ve had some lovely feedback from many people (as well as birthday wishes, thank you so much for those), both in the audience and in the choir, and Eric will be sharing more with you.

A quick run-down of the concert, from my point of view:
Corp: Despite us finding it rather challenging throughout the rehearsal process, I’m so grateful for the work you all put in, and it paid off completely. The audience loved it, and I gather I’ve even managed to change some opinions in the choir! I was so proud with how everyone performed it, but two standout moments for me were the ‘Crucifixus’ in the Credo (which was beautiful) and the end of the Agnus Dei (which was very exciting).

Carols set 1: A Capella singing with 87 people is hard, but with Past three a clock and Coventry Carol, I thought you did incredibly. Past three a clock was engaging and exciting, you told the story well, and you followed my direction without fault – mainly because so many of you were watching and performing. The quiet singing in Coventry Carol was to die for, and the 2nd (loud) verse was so terrifying... as a conductor, one can often ‘feel’ the atmosphere in the audience without seeing them, and the horror and excitement of that middle verse was palpable.

Vaughan Williams: What can I say – it was utterly brilliant. A really good performance of this, and significantly better than any of the rehearsals. The opening section was confident and supportive of Charlie, and had a beautiful flow to it. The second section had real character, and each of the upper/lower voice openings were well sung and full of energy. In the third section, I thought the dialogue between the choir and Charlie was perfect – it really helped convey the nature of each carol, and kept it very dance-like and joyous. The ending was SO good; exciting unison singing, and a tender and exquisite final few bars. Well done all.

Carols set 2: Well done on these. You led the audience with gusto in Good King Wenceslas, which was very good fun. Silent Night had its moments, but we recovered well, and that’s part of the joy and excitement of live performance – if you wanted to hear something perfect, listen to a studio recording! Having said this, you conveyed the expression and character of the piece very well, and people enjoyed the more ‘gentle’ carols. In the bleak mid-winter was great... nothing more to be said... well done!

Carols set 3: Again, beginning this set with A Capella Ding dong! merrily on high was so exciting, and you sang it superbly. All the ‘campness’ was executed perfectly, and it had such joy in the quality of singing. Hark! the herald-angels sing was a great audience pleaser to end off, and Sopranos can thank Bernard for putting it down a tone so you didn’t have to sing that top A... haha! Jingle Bells was the perfect way to close the concert, and the audience absolutely loved it! When I told you in rehearsals to dial it back and keep it ‘classy’, knowing you would ‘let loose’ in the concert, I wasn’t wrong... and you gave it such an exuberant performance that everyone left with huge smiles on their faces.

The last musical thing I must mention is our soloists and accompanists. Firstly, a MASSIVE thank you to Rowena for accompanying us over the term. Without her support, it would’ve been half the concert it was. Then, a huge congratulations and thanks to Bernard for his faultless playing in the concert. Not only was the accompaniment for the choir perfect, but the solos were magnificent and were a pleasure to listen to. Bec’s solo cello playing was beautiful, and really helped make something special of the Vaughan Williams, brilliantly complimenting your excellent singing. Finally, Charlie’s singing was, of course, a marvel, and I remember watching a few faces light up in the rehearsal when he first sang. And, I hope you can all agree that the reading was incredibly effective and supportive to the Ukrainian families we had in the audience – read with real emotion.

The most enormous thanks goes to the Committee and the people back-stage who make this happen; I get the fun part of waving my arms and taking bows, but these guys do the real hard work. I won’t list everyone by name (as I’m sure I’ll miss people off and feel guilty for doing so), but I’ll try to remember the jobs: Planning the concerts (Committee), tea and coffee in the breaks, setting up and clearing down chairs, serving refreshments at the interval, and selling programmes and tickets. I know I’ve missed a lot off, as so much goes on in the background I can’t keep track of it all, but your support of these concerts is what makes them truly special. Thank you all!

Overall, an incredibly memorable concert, and you should all be very proud of what we achieved. With an estimated 170 in the audience, all of whom loved it, I think we can say it was a complete success. Well done everyone!

What’s next

Just a heads up for next term. More will be shared after Christmas, but for now, let this whet your appetite.

Rehearsals start on Wednesday 4th January.
No rehearsal on Wednesday 22nd February.
Concert is Sunday 26th March in St Mary’s Church, Banbury.

Venue Change:
As you may know, very excitingly, we’ve booked the Town Hall for the next couple of years. We will occasionally be unable to use it, but we’ll keep you informed when that is. For both the 4th January (first rehearsal) and the Breathe Workshop (more below) please meet in the Town Hall.

Breathe Workshop:
Is on Saturday 7th January. It’ll be a fun and interesting day, and I hope to see many of you there. More information can be found in Eric’s emails, as it’s a private link. He’s already sent this out once, but I’m sure will do so again.

Please find below an unmarked score – I’ve not had time to put anything in this yet, but I hope it gives a good heads-up for those who weren’t at the September rehearsals. More on this next week once the madness of Christmas is over.
You can also get listening to a suggested recording HERE: we’ll be using a small orchestra, in this orchestration – I’ll explain more in the New Year, but it’s very exciting.

This Week’s Listening

... is a bit of self promotion I’m afraid... I’ve been asked to sing in the Midnight Mass service from Leeds Cathedral, and I thought I might share it with you. You can catch it on BBC Radio 4 at 23:30 on Saturday 24th December, either live or via this LINK. I hope you enjoy.

I look forward to posting again soon with more exciting information about next term, but in the meantime, have a very restful and happy Christmas and New Year. I can’t wait for more excellent music-making in 2023.
– Ben