Church Day 2013 – Adult Course
A reflection from Rosemary Berry, member of the Adult Course
There is no better way to feel alive than to sing your heart out in beautiful surroundings with like-minded people.
We met first at St James where a wonderfully sunny morning was reflected in the warm welcome from the organisers and our musical leaders. Seated in comfortable chairs we began (after warm up exercises) with Lindsay Gray and within minutes we were soon deep into four of the anthems we were to sing in the Service which was to conclude the day.
John Rutter’s ‘The Lord bless you and keep you’ enabled us to concentrate on producing a true legato line. I liked the echoed ‘and give you peace’ alternating between sopranos and tenors, each time the phrase beginning on a note lower than the last, falling gently downwards and slowly ending peacefully.
From Rutter we moved to Handel! His “Zadok the Priest” is wonderful to sing. Almost everyone knows it so we sang with gusto and confidence, enjoying our high notes for sopranos. Lindsay’s understanding and knowledge of the Baroque style was soon evident with crisply detached notes and the use of dotted pairs of quavers. It was good to practise ‘the run’ of parallel thirds and to exercise good breathing control to keep it tidy, not only trying our own runs, but those of other parts as well to appreciate how it all fits together. However I have yet to sing in a choir where some hapless soul has not fallen into the trap laid by the rest before the final Alleluiah .’Our’ choir was no exception!
‘Oh taste and see’ by Vaughan Williams was composed for Queen Elizabeth 11nd’s Coronation in 1953, and like Zadok, has been a favourite of royal occasions ever since.
As a complete contrast, Herbert Howell’s ‘Jubilate’, written for the Collegium Regale, King’s College, Cambridge in 1944, was unfamiliar and quite a challenge, reading in 6 flats, then 3 sharps and back to 6 flats. I was immediately struck by the choice of a MINOR key for a Jubilate. It seemed incongruous but I knew there would be a good reason. The unexpected 3 sharps meant MAJOR key and all the more jubilant to having been in a minor key beforehand. It burst through like bright sunshine on a dull day. It must have sounded wonderful in the Chapel at King’s College!
After a pleasant 5 minute walk in the sunshine we arrived at St Mary Magdalene to relax, enjoy our packed lunches and renew old acquaintances and make new friends.
The afternoon’s work on Bob Chilcott’s ‘Agnus Dei’ was a joy. Singers who said they were unfamiliar with this piece said they loved it. It has exciting jazzy rhythms, unexpectedly as we were singing in Latin!
Having practised our anthems and motets, we rehearsed the hymns, which we mostly knew and it was exciting to find that all three of our master musicians for the day, Lindsay Gray, Miles Quick and Brian Cresswell, had written descants for the final verses. After a welcome cuppa and delicious cake we had a final practice to tidy everything up. It was good to hear the members of the Young People’s course with their ‘Leader’, Lisa Tustian, sing the beautiful “Tree of Life” from Vaughan William’s opera, “Pilgrim’s Progress”. They made a splendid contribution.
Finally the time came to present everything in a service led by Rev. Rod Corke, Vicar at St Mary Magdalene, and we duly quietened down to a respectful silence, focusing on what we were hoping to achieve.
The service started with Alan Cook, organist and choirmaster at neighbouring St Andrew’s playing, on the piano, Warlock’s ‘Pied en l’Air.’ A small congregation were sitting in the pews – mostly parents I suspect, but really the service was for us and Rod addressed us in his Welcome and Address. As well as our ‘pieces’ which all went off as well as we could have expected, we had two readings read by members of both the Adult and Young People’s courses.
Finally Miles raised the roof off with William Mathias’s ‘Processional’. It was the end of a very exciting day, meeting old friends and making new ones, and singing what brings us all together, the love of singing Church Music.
My thanks go to all the organisers, conductor and accompanists for brilliant organisation, a congenial relaxed atmosphere and a very happy day. It was good to be part of it. THANK YOU!