Tag Archives: Rheinberger

Finding our (choral) feet

This week, the second week of rehearsals with the Chamber and Cecilian Choirs, has seen a real development since last week’s tentative feet-finding first sessions.

Chamber Choir is still ploughing through its repertoire for the Crypt concert in March – we’ve a weekend workshop this Saturday as well, at the end of which we’ll pretty much have sung through nearly all the pieces in the programme. I’m expecting us all to feel slightly more relaxed after Saturday – a few movements from the Brahms’ Sieben Lieder aside, we will now start returning to repertoire we’ve already seen, which will (I hope) start to make the pieces feel more familiar – instead of being confronted each week by new pieces.

And the Cecilian Choir is really starting to develop a terrific sound; we revisited the Hassler ‘Kyrie’ and moved then into the ‘Gloria,’ before departing Germanic Renaissance for the contemporary shores of Ola Gjeilo’s Ubi Caritas and then back to Germany for Rheinberger’s richly-sonorous Abendlied. As the Choir revisits passages we have previously seen, it starts to grow in confidence, and there’s the potential for a lovely ensemble sound to emerge as we become more confident in singing. As we work to develop the three-dimsensionality of the pieces by bringing out the dynamic contrasts and, in the Hassler, the individual subjects as they enter, the choral sound is really beginning to blossom.

Whilst at the start of the week, the upper-voice incarnation of the Cecilian Choir (we’re still working on a name…) met for the first time to explore music by Hildegard of Bingen and send some medieval monophony soaring around the concert-hall. We’ll be experimenting with performing it with and without a drone accompaniment, and establish the wonderful flexibility of the lines as we become more familiar with Hildegard’s colourful melismatic writing.

Exciting to be here as it starts to unfold…


Kick-starting the choral year

And finally, after all the preparations, amassing the repertoire and two days’ worth of auditions, both the University Chamber Choir and Cecilian Choir each had their first rehearsal this week.

On song: Chamber Choir meets for the first time

On song: Chamber Choir meets for the first time

There’s no gentle easing in for the Chamber Choir; the first commitment, ‘Music for Advent’ looms in about eight weeks’ time, and the Crypt concert in March, and we have to go from zero to full performance assuredness in no time. Ergo, the first few rehearsals represent a whirlwind tour of the full range of repertoire, in order that the singers can get a feel for the geography of the programmes and see what kind of pieces they will be expected to perform. (The other reason for whirling rapidly through pieces is that, if there’s a piece someone doesn’t like, at least they know we won’t be dwelling on it for hours at a time in these early rehearsals).

I’m pleased to say that everyone seems to be taken with Whitacre’s colourful Lux Aurumque with which we ended the rehearsal – the student conductor, Matt, opened with Byrd’s serene masterpiece, Ave Verum Corpus, and I followed with two movements from  Brahms’ Sieben Lieder op.62. After the break, Matt led the first steps into Rutter’s Dashing Away With The Smoothing Iron, which is deceptively simple and offers some real challenges as it builds.

And yesterday, the Cecilian Choir reconvened, this time in mixed-voice formation; sister-choir to the Chamber Choir, it looks as though it might number close to thirty singers, which is particularly exciting! A whistle-stop tour of some of the repertoire for this particular Choir took in the ‘Kyrie’ from Hassler’s Missa super Dixit Maria, the middle section of Maskat’s evocative Prayer to the Night, the first few pages of Rheinberger’s purple-hued Abendlied, and the second section of Sir John Tavener’s Hymn for the Dormition of the Mother of God, which had the sopranos and altos gliding in medieval-esque parallel fourths whilst the basses were slightly confounded by their line which, on paper, reads simply but actually works against the upper voices to provide those typically Tavener dissonances.After all the preparation and learning over the summer months, it’s a relief finally to be getting to grips with the music, meeting the singers, and getting the Choirs off the ground. Ice-breakers and warm-up exercises served to get people introduced to each other and to singing together in a rudimentary fashion – these first few rehearsals, I always find, are somewhat hesitant as people grow accustomed to singing with strangers and finding their feet with new repertoire in a brand-new choir.

But it promises to be a very exciting year for both choirs – and on Monday, the upper-voice incarnation will meet for the first time to explore some medieval pieces. Watch this space…