Post Concert Conductor’s Notes

Hello everyone, I hope you’ve had a fabulous week, and are still basking in the glow of an absolutely incredible concert on Sunday. I’ve still not come down from how amazing it was! Some feedback on the concert, as well as information about forthcoming events, and next term, so thank you for reading through!

Brahms Concert Feedback

Well, what a concert! I thought the overall performance, quality of sound, and level of commitment from you all was just outstanding. I can honestly say that was one of the best concerts I’ve been a part of, and certainly the most fun I’ve had conducting – a long time to focus that hard, but we all achieved it exceptionally.

Before I give a brief run-down of the music, I want to thank you all for being so excellent during a very emotional weekend. To lose a choir member is always tragic, but particularly after a rehearsal on the weekend of a concert is absolutely devastating. Tony told me how much he enjoyed singing in the choir, how much it meant to him, and how much he was looking for the concert. We would have sung well on Sunday regardless, but to perform that concert in Tony’s honour I think led to a very emotionally charged and powerful performance. I’m incredibly proud of you all, and I know he would have been too.

The opening of the concert was magical. A huge thank you to the Adderbury Ensemble for their fabulous playing, which kicked the performance off so delicately and intimately. But, your first entry, was completely extraordinary! It seemed to creep out from nowhere with such poise and presence that captivated the audience, and we knew what we were in for right away! The unaccompanied singing was just great! I thought the whole of this movement was a huge success, especially when it came to the blend of voices. Musical phrasing was top notch, and the pronunciation was generally really good. In that acoustic it’s hard to get much text, but I could see how hard you were all working to produce good vowels and clean consonants!

The opening of the second movement was as menacing as I could have hoped for. When you got carried away and starting singing too loudly you responded to my gesture and kept it excellently refined, saving ourselves for a big climax. The loud sections were, as I asked the timpani for in the rehearsal, absolutely cataclysmic, which was so exciting! The whole of the fugue-like section was handled brilliantly, with confident entries, clear text, and a good direction to the music.

Most of the third movement was top-notch too! It was a pleasure to welcome back James Berry, who always delivers an exceptional performance, and you all took his baton and ran with it when you first came in – mournful, dark, and precise all in one. The slushy section was beautiful, and the “Nun Herr”s nice and clean. Then came our first ‘slightly dodge’ moment, which happens; it’s live performance, and there’s nothing we can do about it now, other than to appreciate you still performed it well and no one really noticed, haha! The fugue was on the whole really great! Clean entries, smooth lines, and you could hear everything that was happening. Well done!

Movement four was, as expected, just delightful! Well done in all the exposed lines (Tenors and Basses in particular), it was gorgeous. The punchy section at the end was great fun, and again we could clearly hear the interplay of the music. For movement five we welcomed Natasha Page who sang utterly beautifully – I could tell you were all enjoying listening to her in both the rehearsal and the concert, and the audience were understandably blown away by her. It was a struggle to keep it together for me in this movement, you sang it so exquisitely, and the text took on a new meaning over the weekend.

Movement six was completely enthralling, all the way through: from the first line of music and the hushed way you delivered it, and the loud and aggressive vivace sang with such bite and energy, to the perfectly executed fugue, maintaining the energy all the way to the end! Some of my favourite moments in this movement, and every time I pushed you for more, you delivered! The final movement had some really special moments too, with the beautiful lines sung with gorgeous expression, and the text nice and clear on the whole. Your “Ja, der Geist spricht” moments I felt were especially powerful. I could tell we were tired by the end, but you kept pushing through, singing exceptionally, and it really paid off.

Of course, a MASSIVE thank you to Rowena for accompanying us over the term. She’s put so much time, effort, and energy in to ensuring we have excellent rehearsals, allowing us to learn the music perfectly. Not to mention how incredible her playing was at the Music Festival! And to top it all off, it was a delight to see her smiling face singing from the alto section in the concert – we couldn’t ask for a better accompanist! As I said above, the soloists and orchestra were simply a dream to listen to, and a dream to work with, so a huge thanks to James and Natasha for their beautiful singing, Simon for his outstanding leading, the orchestra for their first-rate playing, and to Chris for fixing such a brilliant orchestra.

Finally, 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, providing food for the orchestra, 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!

Certainly a very emotional but exciting concert, and a huge, heartfelt thank you to you all for the energy you’ve put in this term and the joy it’s been to work with you. A great term, and I look forward to what’s next.

I’ll end with Sian’s feedback – due to recovering from Covid, Sian unfortunately couldn’t sing in the concert, but enjoyed being ‘on the other side’:
It’s not just any Requiem, it’s the Brahms Requiem in German – a sublime, heart-breaking and demanding piece, requiring commitment, sensitivity, stamina, and heaven knows how many man and woman hours of study. The result was an amazing and beautiful concert. The choir’s performance had it all: the altos were gorgeous, the basses were brilliant, the tenors tuneful, and the sopranos sublime. We were wowed by choir, orchestra, soloists and our brilliant director’s passion in equal measure. And it’s surely thanks to the commitment and communicated confidence and passion imparted by Ben, that such heights can be achieved. A joy to be one of your delighted and emotional audience, but impatient to be back in the fold. Like I say, not just any choral society – the Chipping Norton Choral Society. Bravo everyone.

What’s next

As a heads up for next term, please see details below. I’ll be posting again before we start, sharing a digital version of the booklet of music we’re putting together, so keep an eye out, but here are all the important things.

Important Dates:
Rehearsals start on Wednesday 19th April.
No rehearsal on Wednesday 31st May as it’s half term.
Dress rehearsal is on Friday 16th June in St Mary’s Church, Chipping Norton.
Concert is Saturday 17th June in St Mary’s Church, Chipping Norton.

A full list of dates can be found here (thanks to Heather for putting this together):

Shauni’s Remembrance Come-and-Sing

More details will be shared tomorrow, via the Chipping Norton Music Festival, with whom we’re partnering for this project, but below are the important dates and bits of information. Even if you didn’t know Shauni (like me), do come and support this brilliant project, and honour someone to whom the choir meant so much.

Repertoire: Mozart Requiem

Open rehearsals for all comers in Town Hall
Wednesday June 21st – 19.30 – 21.30 Rehearsal 1
Wednesday June 28th – 19.30 – 21.30  Rehearsal 2
Wednesday July 5th – 19.30 – 21.30  Rehearsal 3

Sunday July 9th – Come-and-Sing Day and concert
Sunday  July 9th – 09.30 – 17.30 Rehearsal
Concert 19.30 – St Mary’s Church

This Week’s Listening

A choice of two concerts tomorrow – do come and support members in both choirs! newCHOIR are performing music inspired by a life on the waves, including a very moving piece by Finnish composer Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, and Cherwell Choral Society are singing an incredible setting of the requiem text by British composer Ian Venables. Plenty of choice, so do go and support!

A huge congratulations for this term, it was truly special. Have a lovely Easter break, and I look forward to seeing you all again on Wednesday 19th April.