It’s becoming increasingly clear, as rehearsals progress and the choir develops as an ensemble, that mixed-voice singing really suits the group. The strength and depth of sound, the richness of the chords and the accuracy of the ensemble, all are quite different – and vastly improved – when standing with the voices all mixed. Talking with some of the group afterwards, it seems that they prefer a mixed-voice formation – they like the sound that it produces, and they are keen to keep rehearsing as such, in order to see if we can perform in this fashion as well.( And when the group themselves are asking to keep doing something, you know it’s a good sign!)
Last night’s rehearsal was a long one – lasting almost three hours – as we’re rehearsing in the church, at which we’re singing our Advent concert, next week, and it was important that the group had gone through all of the repertoire for the programme before adjusting to the performance space. We used the piano less and less during last night’s session, and I’m hoping to spend less time behind the piano and more time actually working with the sound between now and the coming performances.
The antiphons are starting to discover a sense of freedom; there’s a wonderful flexibility starting to emerge as we become more familiar with the lines they weave. There’s a lively sense of fun in The Holly and the Ivy and Ding, Dong, Merrily on High, and a lovely sombreness to Remember, O Thou Man.
We also looked for the first time at a carol written by a second-year student studying at the University; a serene and intimate setting of In the Bleak Mid-Winter, of which we’ll be giving the première at the Advent concert, by Rachel Richardson. It’s a great opportunity to be able to give a young composer the chance to hear their work performed, and her carol will suit the space in the church very well.
Last night, too, was the first time we’ve gone through Steve Martland’s Make We Joy Now, without the safety-net of the piano; a couple of hair-raising moments where the unity of the ensemble was, how shall I put it, not quite as tight as in other pieces, and there wasn’t quite the sense of confidence in some of the voices that there is elsewhere; but we’ve two weeks to go, and even by the end of last night, the improvement was considerable. (You have just got to go away and look at your verses in between rehearsals, tenors and basses!).
Overall, a really good rehearsal; time to start cranking up the momentum as we head towards the first concert in just over two weeks’ time.