Happy Christmas everyone! I hope you’ve all had a lovely and restful Christmas, filled with joy and merriment. This is my final Conductor’s Notes of 2022(!), and a time to look forward to what the New Year will bring. It’s very exciting to think that I’ve been doing this for a year now... how time flies! I’ll save the summary of what we’ve achieved in 2022 for the AGM Reports, which will be shared on here soon, and will instead focus on the next week as we get going again.
What we will do on Wednesday 4th January
Time for some Brahms! We’ll be picking up where we left off in September, and introducing the piece to our friends who couldn’t join us then. We’ll cover the first two movements – I. Selig sind and II. Denn alles Fleisch – which, while having their tricky moments, are relatively accessible, and will be a good way to reintroduce the German language and Brahms’s incredible harmonies.
Below is the Marked Score for the first two movements only. Please try to get some of these markings in before the 4th, and the 11th, as we’ll be covering these two movements then.
Also a reminder that we’re in the TOWN HALL – don’t go to the Methodist Church.
Breathe Workshop – Saturday 7th January
“Due to a combination of the lasting effects of Covid and the cold weather, many of us have felt that our breathing when singing is not what it once was. Having run a workshop entitled ‘and Breathe…’ with newChoir, focusing heavily on helping those whose breathing had been affected by Covid and educating those who want to understand their breathing better, Ben was encouraged by one of our altos to run a similar workshop for CNCS.
Using exercises and choral pieces as our basis, the afternoon will look at techniques to improve breath control, vocal stamina and voice projection. The event will be in the Chipping Norton Town Hall on Saturday 7th January 2023, from 2:00pm to 5:00pm. The ticket cost includes free tea/coffee and cake in the breaks.”
You can still get your tickets through the link in Eric’s emails. Having put together the booklet of music and exercises, I can assure you it’ll be worth it – I’ve tried to be as thorough as possible, so you can take away so much from the day.
There are many fabulous recordings of this piece, including this one by the late great Bernard Haitink.
However, we’re doing an incredible version for chamber orchestra, with our friends from the Adderbury Ensemble. In this chamber arrangement, the arranger (Joachim Linckelmann) keeps all of the wonderful colours and atmospheres of the original orchestration, but reduces the orchestra to a manageable size. This is my recommended recording, and you can listen HERE.
Fortunately, there are plenty of resources out there to assist you in your learning – please take the time to listen to the learning tracks, and to digest this piece properly; it’s tricky, and you’ll need to be on it.
We’ll be doing lots of work on the German pronunciation, and will be getting some coaching through the rehearsals too. However, you can make a good head-start on it by listening to this Pronunciation Guide.
These learning tracks are great as they are real singers amplified for the respective voice parts! It may help you to have real singers leading your learning, and it’s free! Just be aware that the ‘wobble’ on each voice can be quite pronounced (great for Brahms, but can lead to slightly flat singing if you slow it down).
John Fletcher Music
Another great aid in learning, particularly as you can isolate your part or have all parts together. The sound is clear and easy to pick up, but it doesn’t do text. Check it out here.
The most flexible option here as you can speed it up/slow it down, get certain voices to become more prominent, and it has a click track to help you keep in time. However, it’s the most rudimentary sound of the lot, so try not to sound too ‘computer-like’. Have a look.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, so if you find these don’t help then feel free to do your own digging. The most important thing is that you engage with this, and put the time in at home to learn it. We all saw the difference it made over 3 days for the Christmas concert... imagine how incredible you’ll sound if you start now!
This Week’s Listening
A piece I’ve been listening to recently, having fallen in love with it as a child and then learning it at university – Britten’s masterful Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings. It’s a selection of six poems by English poets on the subject of night, including both its calm and its sinister aspects. It was written at the request of famous horn player Dennis Brain, and featured Britten’s partner, tenor Peter Pears. In Britten’s own words: “It is not important stuff, but quite pleasant, I think.”
Listen to Pears and Brain sing my favourite movement (Nocturne – Blow, bugle, Blow) HERE.
I hope you all enjoy the New Year’s celebrations, and I look forward to seeing you in less than a week’s time!