Handwashers’ Newsletter 10th May 2020
Although Hubert Parry was born in Bournemouth, he spent most of his formative years in Gloucestershire, living at Highnam Court just outside Gloucester. Many of you will be aware of the links between Parry and CCS – indeed he even conducted the choir on one occasion. He went on to become Professor of Music at Cambridge and Director of the Royal College of Music where his students included many of the leading musicians of the next generation.
In my time as conductor of CCS we have performed two concerts featuring Parry’s music. Although often remembered simply as the composer of ‘Jerusalem’ and the great Coronation anthem, ‘I was glad’, he was prolific in many musical genres including symphonic writing and chamber music.
So, a break from choral music this week, as I commend to you Lady Radnor’s Suite for string orchestra. This attractive work dates from 1894 and was commissioned by Helen, Countess of Radnor, an enterprising amateur musician who directed the first performance herself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1q5oO2pX7_M
UNDER THE VW BATON Therese Munro-Warwick remembers:
Carleton’s article about RVW reminded me of why I love being part of a choir so much.
When I was at boarding school way back in the 1950s, I was part of our rather good school choir. We took part in many competitions, led by our choir-mistress Miss Griffin, with a fair degree of success and we learned to love all sorts of sung music, from duets, quartets and madrigals to being part of large choral works. The highlight each Lent was always singing in Bach’s St Matthew Passion under the baton of Ralph Vaughan Williams in Dorking. He looked exactly as in the photo shown on last month’s newsletter and could be rather impatient with the main choir but was always very tolerant and helpful to us youngsters. We sang the Ripieno parts and ‘helped out’ the sopranos in some of the higher sections. We even sang the Passion a few times at the Royal Albert Hall but only the Ripieno part there. Especially memorable was when the great organ let rip on the bit about the ‘veil of the temple was rent in two’. Wonderful!
EDITOR’S REMINICSENCE Tim went to school!
Therese’s story reminds me that when our school Music Society put on Bach’s St Matthew Passion (some trial for my new bass voice) a professional London orchestra was hired.
At the afternoon rehearsal, bass attentions were drawn to the double bass player, Francis Baines. Behind a high forehead he had an uncontrolled mane of curly black hair which flew all over the place as he bowed with great enthusiasm. In those days, chaps had short back and sides, neatly parted, so this was an arresting sight!
Mr Baines turned up for the evening concert in DJ with his hair stuck down, probably with Brylcreem. All went well until we came to the moment where Bach illustrates the rending of the Temple veil with demi-semi quaver arpeggios on the bass. Baines’ con brio bowing was too much for his hair which, escaping from the adhesive, took on a spiky, what nowadays we’d call ‘punk’, appearance; certainly, something none of us had seen before.
I hope we recovered our composure in time for the next movement, Bach’s great choral affirmation, ‘Truly this was the son of God . . . ‘
NOYES FLUDDE Margaret McIvor plays a part (A Nightingale I’m sure. Ed.)
Your plea for contributions got me thinking back to the 1950s when I was lucky enough to be chosen to be an animal (or maybe a bird?) in a performance of Benjamin Britten’s “Noye’s Fludde” in Edington Priory Church, Westbury, Wilts. It’s all a bit of a blur, but I remember marching down the aisle with my fellow animals and birds, singing “Kyrie, kyrie, Kyrie Eleison”. Hearing the brass, especially the bugles, was hair-raisingly exciting, and the joyful feeling of participating in a grand and moving work has never left me. https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=noyes+fludde+video&&view=detail&mid=6942C08A53BB7797A1E36942C08A53BB7797A1E3&&FORM=VRDGAR&ru=%2Fvideos%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dnoyes%2Bfludde%2Bvideo%26%26FORM%3DVDVVXX
JERUSALEM – THE LOCKDOWN VERSION Lesley Nelson offers a version for our time:
And did our feet, pre-Covid times,
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And were our children out at play
In England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did those rainbows so divine
Shine forth upon our window sills.
For NHS, much needed here,
Amongst towns, villages and hills!
Bring me my soap, to wash my hands.
Bring me my shopping I require.
Bring me my health, and my household.
Bring me the strength that I desire.
We will not cease to fight this blight,
Nor spread this virus by our hand,
Till we have stayed six feet apart,
To free our green and pleasant land!
(with apologies to William Blake) (Not to mention Sir Hubert Parry! Ed.)
THE GILKS’ MEMORIES Sue and Vic have sung in many venues and have lots of memories. Here Sue tells us how to audition:
We went to audition to sing in Mahler 8 as members of the LSC in a Proms concert conducted by Michael Tilson-Thomas.
There were 10 people in the waiting room and absolute silence. As we listened to the soprano in the other room I noticed she had been singing for quite a long time. I mentioned this to Vic and told him of my concern. I was to sing from the Messiah – “But who may abide” but had learnt the Larghetto but not the Prestissimo “For he is like a refiner’s fire”. A man in the room heard us and said “Why don’t you tear the page out of that bit. Others in the room laughed and thought this was a canny move.
I sang the whole of “Abide” then the pianist went beserk and played the introduction to the “Refiners fire” a bit like a manic Vincent Price on the organ in a horror movie. But, somehow, I got through it (gosh it was fast!) and thought that that would be that. Oh no! – the pianist went back to the beginning and repeated both again!
I went back to the other room and as I entered everyone applauded! Vic said my face was puce coloured and I looked shattered due to the effort involved and the concentration. Still we both passed the audition which was gratifying.
Sequel: I was taken ill on the day of the concert so I didn’t sing in the performance although Vic did.
(We’ll bring you a memory from Vic next time but, meanwhile, a big aaaaah for Sue everyone. Ed.)
SOMETHING DIFFERENT Here’s a gentle video from a free lunchtime recital at St James, Piccadilly featuring the Flaugissimo Duo of baroque flute and theorbo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjTPQUNjImA&list=RDIjTPQUNjImA&start_radio=1 (I bet, like me, you hadn’t heard of the composer, Princess Anna of Prussia. Her sad story is worth checking out here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Amalia,_Abbess_of_Quedlinburg Ed.)
St James Piccadilly which holds free lunch time recitals
AND FINALLY . . .
I dropped a large jar of Omega 3 capsules on my wife’s head. Fortunately, her injuries were only super fish oil.