Category Archives: Bass desires

Bass Desires: a poem about choirs and Christmas

Drama graduate and bass in this year’s Chamber Choir, Dave Newell, reveals his bardic side in this reflection on the choral year and Christmas carol-learning.

A Singer’s November

‘Twas two months before Christmas,
Under towers and spires,
Singers were bringing out
Carols for Choirs.

Their friends all had bonfires,
Guy Fawkes to remember.
But when you’re in a Choir,
Christmas starts in November.

“But Advent is ages away”
Their friends cry.
“You can’t yet sing Ding Dong
Merrily on High”

Then the singers will turn
Like a great wounded beast.
“Do you want Christmas
To be a musical feast?”

“Then we must take carol books
Down from the self,
‘Cos Christmas won’t sing
The damn carols itself.”

You look forward to Christmas
And I know that that’s true.
But remember the choirs
Get there much before you.

See for singers the year
Is two months ahead,
So do not be angry,
Think this way instead;

Lent in January,
All Saints in September,
Easter in February,
Christmas – November.

David Jonathan Newell

(See other views from the bass section in ‘Bass Desires’ under the category section to the right.)

Opportunity for young singers with The Sixteen!

News just in of an opportunity for young singers aged between 18-23 to audition to be part of Genesis Sixteen, a new project ”to identify and nurture students with exceptional musical ability and the potential to become professional ensemble singers.” The project aims to bridge the divide between student and professional practitioner.

During the course of a year, a series of intensive weekend and week-long courses for singers will be led by key artists from The Sixteen, including founder and conductor Harry Christophers.

And, as an incentive for cash-strapped students in the current financial climate, participants will be fully funded for travel within the United Kingdom, accommodation and board.

Four courses are running between August 2011 to August 2012, with two in London and one each in Manchester and Oxford. The opportunity to work with The Sixteen, who featured in BBC4’s recent Sacred Music series, should not be missed….

Click here to visit the website.

Bass Desires at Christmas

Fourth-year Drama student Dave Newell reports from the bass section.

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the choir is so delightful. Christmas in The Chamber Choir is the most terrific time of year. Spring term is always seen as being the biggie with the Crypt Concert and end of season outings to Canterbury village churches, but Christmas magic grips me time and again every year and makes me smile.

Filled with...angels...singing ?

Understandably, the 5 November fires were still being extinguished when our Christmas season crackled into view, and initially was met with some scepticism. I mean, let’s face it, who wants Christmas n early November, but needs must and we did and now we are here.

I write this on the morning of the University Carol Service in the Cathedral; until recently the Chamber Choir’s only formal booking over the Christmas season. But this year we have added another string to our bow. On the afternoon of a snowy December 6, the Chamber Choir arrived at St Mildred’s Church for a rehearsal of Advent by Candlelight. The rehearsal lasted a few hours before we retired to The Old Buttermarket Public House in the City Centre for a hearty meal (and perhaps the odd pint of ale). Then, bellies full, we headed back to the church, which by now had been transformed from a cold church with scaffolding holding up the north aisle into a sparkling Christmas card scene with candles, and as the audience slowly drifted in the atmosphere became warm, even if the church itself wasn’t, and full of anticipation. It was a concert full of scintillating moments; highlights including I Saw Three Ships, my friends’ favourite The Holly and the Ivy and the debut performance of Dan’s A Babe is Born. Obviously I was in the choir, and so only got part of the picture, but we received nothing but praise from those in the audience (except some excellent mince pies and nibbles provided by the church at the end).

By no means the choir’s only bookings over the festive period; we were excited to be offered the chance to sing at the turning-on of the Christmas lights alongside the Cathedral Choir and Sid Sloane  – a “celebrity”… apparently. It must be said, whilst the performance itself was enjoyed and appreciated by the audience of shoppers, the best bit was mince pies and German sausage in Whitefriairs afterwards, where jolly onlookers and slightly bemused stall holders were treated a bunch of students singing this, that, and the other.

Tonight is to the big one however, the largest congregation the choir ever performs to; The Carol Service. From my years of singing as a boy chorister in Wakefield Cathedral, and thus performing endless concerts and services in countless venues, especially at Christmas time, you, and I would expect there to be a dulling of the excitement for such an occasion, but the exact opposite is true. Standing up on the steps looking down on the brass band and beyond them hundreds and hundreds of students and staff with flickering candles and the large Christmas tree, belting out O Come all ye Faithful, it send shivers up the spine to say the least.

For those of you coming this evening, I hope to see you there, and it only leaves me to wish you a very merry and musical Christmas!

David Newell

Bass Desires

Fourth-year Drama student Dave Newell reports from the bass section.

2pm, Saturday 16th October 2010. A lecture theatre on The University of Kent Campus turns twenty six students mad, as they are heard to be singing “I’m a train!”.

One of the big problems with university choirs is the ever-changing membership; student lives usually last at the most four years, after which people graduate and thus void their entry requirements to join student choirs. From a chorister’s point of view, this means that friendships between choir members are often short-lived, and at only two-hour rehearsal a week (squeezed into the busy schedule of not doing much and sitting…;-)) can take some time to begin. This however is not the case at The University of Kent Chamber Choir.

Alastair Hume

King's man: Alastair Hume

Early in October every year the choir welcomes Alastair Hume, ex-King’s Singer counter-tenor, for a fun-filled day of singing. It was this day, in my first year, when I really began to feel a part of the choir, and four years on, things have changed little. The first few rehearsals are, as I am sure Dan (our director) will corroborate, some of the most important of the whole year, not only because it is crucial to get off to a flying start on learning the repertoire, but also because the choir must feel like a choir to sing like one, to sit together and blend, rather than sounding like a lot of people singing.

Alastair’s day certainly fulfils both of these criteria. This year we focussed on three pieces:  Hark, All ye lovely Saints Above by Weelkes, Gibbons’ O Clap your Hands and I’m a Train originally by Albert Hammond, but later covered by Al’s own King’s Singers, and it was the latter we practised. These were interspersed with much laughter and banter and it must be said that the pieces were sung with… let’s say varying levels of success, but all were thoroughly enjoyed. The Weelkes is one which is to go into the choir’s line-up for a concert in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral in February, and “I’m a Train” is to be performed in November as part of a Kent Music Society showcase.

WorkshopThis is all well and good, but the true success of the day is surely bringing the choir together. In the middle of the day we have a picnic, organised this year by Nicola Ingram, which adds to the charm of the day, gets the choir used to each other and used to singing together.

This being my last year I would like to extend my personal thanks to Alastair, whose workshops are great fun. I will never forget Seaside Rendezvous, The Humpty Dumpty Jazz or your startling array of pretty stonking trousers.

David Newell, 1st Bass, University of Kent Chamber Choir 2007-2011.