Music News July 2020

IMG 2704-800This month’s newsletter focuses on the Junior Choir, with many thanks to Bron Ferland and Karen Goddard for their contributions to this article, as well as to all the families who have encouraged and facilitated the juniors’ participation in music making for St Mary’s.

During lockdown the normal rehearsals and training programmes for our Junior Choristers and Choral Scholars clearly cannot take place. However, we want to deliver as much continuity as possible. Karen explains that in normal times our choristers all have the opportunity to work towards the Voice for Life awards scheme devised by the Royal Schools of Church Music: these range from the introductory white ribbon award for probationary choristers up to higher levels which include advanced musicianship skills. As well as lessons, the choristers also complete written exercises in their workbooks at home and when a workbook and assessment have been completed, the choristers are presented with their award in a church service.

Bron and Oli set about facilitating online teaching of the material during the lockdown period, using the Zoom video conferencing software, which we have all rapidly learned to love or loathe. The choristers (and/or their parents!) signed up enthusiastically and Bron and Oli recruited a small army of volunteer trainers, willing to teach the children each week in pairs or very small groups. Of course all the necessary safeguarding checks and risk assessments have been completed both to comply with diocesan guidance and to ensure that our children always are safe and feel safe.

Karen works with some of our youngest, newest choristers. The programme they are following includes some beginner skills such as learning to read music, understand repertoire and the routines and disciplines of being part of a choir, as well of course as the key skills for singers at every stage of posture and breathing. The children seem to enjoy the sessions and this theoretical knowledge underpins and strengthens their practical singing experience in the choir. The children are very experienced already with online learning from the teaching they receive from their schools, so it has been a relatively easy transition to this new format.

In addition to the ribbon training, Bron reports that the Junior Choir have now been meeting via Zoom for just over a month. All but three members have joined the practices and are enjoying the warm-ups and singing. Oli King composed music for an Ascension-tide hymn ‘The Lord ascended up on high’ which the children, supported by a few of the Choral Scholars, recorded individually. Oli then merged the tracks (a very skilled and time-consuming part of the process) to produce a recording which was incorporated into the church online and Zoom services on Pentecost Sunday. Elliot, our Organ Scholar, working with some of the Choral Scholars, produced the music used in the services the previous week.

The adults and Choral Scholars have also been busy. As well as regular Zoom practices, we have been recording our second lockdown anthem, and, with the Junior Choir, are working on recording a new anthem written by our assistant organist, Jeremy Allen, for use in July.

Ottilie Lefever