Music News November 2020

Img 2666-800The first major choral act of worship of the new academic year was the Patronal Festival at St Mary’s on 13 September, where the choir’s first physical contribution to a service since lockdown was undertaken by a quartet of 1 honorary and 3 actual choral scholars, with Elliott playing the organ as the departing Michael Swindlehurst scholar. In addition to live singing, the choir’s recording of Stanford’s Magnificat in G was played during the service, with a beautiful treble solo by Harry. Finally, Oli King and Peter De Vile had recorded a magical setting of the plainsong hymn Ave Maris Stella (Hail Star of the Sea), written by the French composer, priest, poet and musician Jean Titelouze, and first published almost 400 years ago in 1623.

In the service on 27 September, choir numbers increased to 6, and the haunting Cantique de Jean Racine by Fauré was sung during communion. It is hoped that participation can be increased gradually, with 8 choir members on 11 October, as confidence is gained in Covid precautions, which will enable a more significant proportion of the choir to support Sunday worship on a regular basis.

Meanwhile, preparations for recordings for Choral Evensong in October are continuing in Zoom practices. Once again this will be cleverly stitched together for YouTube listening by Oli and Peter from individual choir recordings, rather than being performed live. Stanford’s Nunc Dimittis in G will be added to the Magnificat which is already in the choir’s recording repertoire, and his Beati Quorum is also in rehearsal, together with psalms, hymns and works by Bairstow, Mendelssohn and Monteverdi.

Sadly, poor weather and an uptick in infections meant that the face to face rehearsal in the churchyard did not take place at the end of September. Another, we trust temporary, casualty of Covid is that the search for the next organ scholar has been postponed. We hope to have more to report soon.

On a happier note, 12 members of the Junior Choir and 3 Choral Scholars have completed stages of ribbon training, supported by numbers of the adult choir. Even more excitingly, the Juniors have enjoyed their first face to face, socially distanced rehearsal, and it is hoped that they will be present at and supporting the Family Service in October, albeit without their smart, claret robes, since they all seem to have grown several feet (in old money) over the summer.

It is impossible to predict how the musical life of St Mary’s will have evolved by the time you read this, let alone by Christmas. One thing is, however, certain. All the musicians, from the most junior to the most senior, are determined not only to keep it going under trying circumstances, but also to develop it and enhance it, whether in person or by using all the tools of modern technology. Watch this space!

Ottilie Lefever