Post Concert Conductor’s Notes – Saturday 18th November

Blimey!!! I don’t think we’ve done a better concert since I took over from Peter, that was truly spectacular. Thank you all so much for your incredibly hard work over the term, and for really rising to the challenge of the Bernstein. A more detailed breakdown of the concert below, as well as some other important points, so thank you for reading through.

But, importantly before we crack on with the rest of the notes, we must thank Rowena! Not only has she played exceptionally hard music exceptionally well this term, (my personal highlight was when Ro played one rhythm on a drum and another on the piano) but she also sang in the performance, joining in our joyous music-making right to the end! I don’t know of many other accompanists who would do this. Thank you Rowena, we’re very lucky to have you!

Concert Feedback

As I say... wow! It really was a very special concert. I remember sitting in my old house in Birmingham over a year ago, with a glass of wine, in the arm chair, having thought how amazing this programme could be, and wondering if we could pull it off – and boy did we nail it! Let’s get the tiny things out of the way – there were one or two ‘less confident’ entries in the Bernstein and Jenkins, and a few early ‘S’ in the Sanctus, but apart from that... the performance as a whole was stellar! Everyone rose to the occasion and sang their hearts out, doing real justice to a poignant and moving programme.

I think the audience knew they were in for a treat when they jumped out their seats at the first chord in the Bernstein, with the orchestra and you guys coming in so confidently! It was full of energy, which you kept up all the way through! The First movement was filled with joy, and had a real sense of security with the rhythm – all that work paid off! The second movement was beautiful, Sops and Altos, and was terrifying (for all the right reasons), Tenors and Basses. We even got the “Yisahak”s in the right place, AND perfectly together with the orchestra! Thank you for your focus on that! Of course, we must thank Josh, our wonderful countertenor soloist, who sang exceptionally, and whose tone paired perfectly with the orchestra for this movement. Similarly, our other soloists deserve equal praise, for the last movement and the Jenkins – thank you Ben and Bethan for your fantastic singing! The last movement was wonderful, and full of warmth and heartfelt passion. Can I congratulate you for the ending, which was honestly so touching; gorgeous a capella singing, which stayed perfectly in tune... something not many choirs can do. Genuinely almost brought a tear to my eye – if only I wasn’t focussing so much!

At this point I’d like to thank the Adderbury Ensemble for joining us again and for playing so brilliantly! Chris Windass, who manages the group and fixes the players for us, had once again done the most incredible job, ensuring we can put on the best concert possible, and feel supported by players at the top of their game. I adored working with them, and I’m sure you all did too. The Barber was really stunning, and as Charles, the leader, said to me in the interval “not bad for 15 minutes rehearsal”! A member of the choir followed this up with “F***ing fabulous!!” We’re so lucky to work with the Adderbury Ensemble!

The Jenkins was an incredible performance. I told you it comes alive in the performance! I don’t think, given the piece’s repetitive nature, one moment was wasted or any note ‘dull’ – it all served it’s purpose, and that’s down to your fantastic performance of this behemoth of a piece. The tuning was perfect in the 1st movement, well done!! Eric’s timing on the recording was spot on. The Kyrie went incredibly well. Tenors and Basses, your Bloody Men was stonking! People came up to me at the end and commented on how great you sounded – how clear your diction was, how confident the entries, how blended the sound... I couldn’t agree more! Apart from the aforementioned early ‘S’s, (and a rogue “yacht” which somehow sailed into the concert...), the Sanctus was very effective, and turned the tide of the piece perfectly. Then I felt your resolution and fear in Hymn to Action, especially with your final “Lord, grant us strength to die”... shivers down the spine! The whole of the following sequence felt like something out of a dream. It ran so well, was so effective, and honestly moved me so much, along with many others in the audience. Sopranos and Tenors, your Benedictus opening was STU! NNING! So smooth, so warm. And then the place where my eyes watered; the “Hosanna in excelsis!” – my god that was utterly breathtaking! And to be able to end the concert with that well blended and tuned an a capella section... absolutely fantastic!

Comments have included “an inspirational evening”; Gill in the altos said “The Bernstein, and then the Barber brought tears to my eyes. The ovation at the end was well deserved!”; and ” I have never been so moved by any of our previous concerts as I was by this one.” If you haven’t seen, St Mary’s Church have posted about it, and the sentiment they’ve shared which I think we will all carry with us is that this concert was “one which will be remembered for a long time to come.”

I really do have the best job in the world!

Remaining Rehearsals This Term

As hopefully you’ve already seen, we’ll be continuing rehearsals this term, looking forward to our Spring concert on Sunday 24th March. The programme is Shearing’s Songs and Sonnets from Shakespeare, and Todd’s Mass in Blue. There are 4 rehearsals between now and our break for Christmas:

  • 22nd November,
  • 29th November (from 20:30 we’ll be having our AGM, which is important we all attend),
  • 6th December,
  • 13th December.

Following these, we’ll resume regular rehearsals on the 10th January in the new year.

Christmas Come-and-Sing Day

Now this concert’s over, it’s time to start sharing our Christmas Come-and-Sing Day! Tickets are available HERE, and do share the poster below! It’ll be a fun day of singing.

Future Events

A couple of concerts for you in the next week or so – the first is another choral-orchestral offering, from my OUP Choir and Oxford Sinfonia. The second is a CRAG concert... do please come along and support these wonderful events!

This Week’s listening

Just because he’s so wonderful, another piece by Bernstein – his Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs. Written in 1950, this piece is the epitome of his jazz writing, and I think shows some wonderful influences in his compositional style. It also contains one of my favourite markings in a score: “This repeat should be made at least three times, and as many times as seems psychologically right (that is, to an ‘exhaustion point’).” – what a visceral feeling!

In this recording, he introduces the work perfectly. Listen HERE.

See you all on Wednesday for some Jazzzzzz!