Meeting some of the singers with the University Chamber Choir. This week, alto Charley Tench.
At the Albert Hall: Charley Tench
How did you get into choral singing? I started singing in my local church choir back in Harrogate when I was six… only because the choir got the best biscuits and squash after church… Thank heavens for custard creams and Ribena!
What’s your favourite piece ? My favourite piece is Christus Factus Est by Bruckner as it was one of the most incredible and challenging pieces I’d ever sung. The outcome was always spectacular as it’s so powerful. Definitely a goosebumps moment!
What’s your best/worst memory about singing in a choir ? My favourite moment(s) are singing in Westminster Abbey and The Royal Albert Hall with my sixth form chamber choir back home. Both were equally overwhelming and emotional in completely different ways. Pure awesomeness. And my worst was setting a girl’s hair on fire with my candle during the procession of Once In Royal David’s City…
What do you find the most inspirational aspect about choral singing ? I love the balance and harmony of a choir. It’s so natural to get lost in music when singing as a team. It’s fabulous!
This week, the Cecilian Choir arrived at the Austro-German part of their programme; pieces by Brahms and Bruckner. Bruckner’s Locus iste is a hardy perennial, and gave the choir a chance to work on their vowel-shapes and sustained phrases. The third section is wonderfully chromatic and harmonically uncertain, ‘irreprehensibilis ist,’ and we strove to capture some of that hesitancy in both the dynamics as well as in the unfolding chromatic lines: there’s a tendency to want to crescendo too soon, but holding back and only reaching mezzo-forte before subsiding back to piano for the reprise keeps the excitement of the passage.
The Wanderer: Caspar David Friedrich
From Latin text to German: Ach, arme Welt by Brahms, and a chance to develop the linguistic skills of the choir by getting to grips with German. This chorale has some great colours to enhance the text – ‘’Du falsches Welt, du bist nicht wahr (You false world, you are not real) and ‘’Mit Weh und grossem Leiden (with pain and bitter anguish);’’ wonderful lines to sing in German. The most striking aspect of the piece is that, full of impassioned power and dynamics and crescendi, at the last phrase ‘hilf mir, Herr, zum Frieden (help me, Lord, to peace)’’ the piece ends with a diminuendo and ends piano on the final chord. After all the Sturm und Drang of the rest of the piece, it’s a great trick and creates a rapt ending.
We left German Romanticism behind and ended by returning to French neo-Classicism to revisit the first part of the Poulenc that we’d looked at last week. It’s still a terrific piece: I’m delighted we’re learning it.