Music News June 2020

Martin Hugall-0987-800Two individual achievements for the SMMA to celebrate this month. First, our organ scholar, Elliott Randall, has been awarded a highly prestigious place to study the organ at the Royal College of Music Junior Department in September. This is tremendous news, and a great tribute not only to Elliott but also to all those who have been giving him training and support during his scholarship, both in St Mary’s and at home. Second, and rather belatedly, we also congratulate James Razzell from the Junior Choir who obtained a distinction in his Grade 3 piano exam back in March.

On a less upbeat note, it was decided at an Emergency General Meeting of the SMMA that it was regrettably necessary to cancel the planned summer concert series this year.

In these difficult times, the St Mary’s choir has been a great source of inspiration and support. Virtual Friday evening Zoom choir practices have continued under the direction of our Director of Music, Oli King, ably supported by leaders for each voice. During lockdown we have been rehearsing parts of The Messiah, as well as motets by Byrd, Tallis, Wesley and Ralph Vaughan Williams. This week we have individually laid down tracks of ‘If ye love me’ by Tallis, which Oli is hoping to incorporate into the online service in the second week of May. It is quite daunting singing alone into a smart phone which is perched precariously on an ironing board, while trying to listen to a guide track through headphones, keep time to a metronome, and not drop the music. However, I am sure that by the time you read this, Oli’s technological wizardry will have transformed the nearly 40 individual recordings into one harmonious whole. You will already have heard musical contributions to services from various members of the choir and other musicians, and these will be continuing.

In addition to these serious musical matters, the choir has been having fun in other ways. This week an excellent virtual vestry (aka pub) quiz was organised by Caroline and Peter De Vile after choir practice. Sample questions (answers at the end of this note – no peeking!) included the following 4 questions (out of a total of 60). Good luck!

1 Name a hymn or carol referring to the following parts of the body: a) Head; b) Feet; c) Heart
2 Name a hymn or carol referring to the following animals: a) Lamb; b) Cattle
3 The choir often have to learn to sing in languages other than English. Name 4
4 Name the hymn which is sung to the tune Saffron Walden.

As 8 May is the VE Day Bank Holiday, there will be no choir practice. To fill the gap in the Friday evening schedule, Patrick Li has organised a dramatic Zoom reading of Under Milk Wood. It should be a most entertaining event.

Meanwhile, the Junior Choir has also been busy. They of course have not met face to face since lockdown, but it was decided that it was time we re-engaged with them as by now they are more than used to working from home! Oli introduced a new piece he has written for them at their first Zoom session. After that most of them stayed online to take part in the Voice for Life Ribbon training. This is definitely a first for us! Normally we offer ribbon training only to the Juniors, but we decided to see if any of the choral scholars would also like to take part, and four have taken up the opportunity. The youngsters have been put in very small groups at the different levels and we currently have no fewer than nine adults each teaching one group in the online breakout rooms, with Oli moving round from room to room to help out as needed. All great fun – and it means that although we can’t physically meet we can at least still be part of the choir virtually. Practice one complete: we’ll update you as to how this is working in a future edition…

Ottilie Sefton

Answers to quiz questions

1 Lots of options, but could include a) O sacred head sore wounded; b) Jerusalem – And did those feet; c) In the bleak midwinter – Give him my heart
2 Again, lots of options including a) Little lamb who made thee; b) Away in a manger – The cattle are lowing
3 Any 4 of Latin, Greek, Welsh, French, German, Russian and Spanish
4 Just as I am without one plea