HANDWASHERS’ NEWSLETTER 14th MARCH 2021

CARLETON’S COLUMN

As this Sunday is Mothering Sunday I am sharing with you a setting of Ave Maria, the traditional scripture-based prayer in honour of Mary, the mother of Jesus. There are, of course, numerous musical settings of these familiar words and the great Austrian composer, Anton Bruckner, set the text three times. The best known is this magnificent a capella motet for seven voices.

Anton Bruckner (1824 – 1891)

Bruckner is best remembered for his epic symphonies and large scale choral works, together with smaller scale motets designed for liturgical use. (If you come to the Zoom rehearsal on Tuesday, we’ll be singing his beautiful ‘Locus iste’!) He was also well known as an organist and was organist of Linz Cathedral for some years. The dramatic pauses at the word ‘Jesus’ were clearly designed with the cathedral’s resonant acoustic in mind!

This performance is from a recording by the Choir of St Bride’s Fleet Street, London. This notable church designed by Christopher Wren, became known as the journalist’s church, due to its location. Its distinctive spire is said to have been the inspiration behind the traditional wedding cake. I have a personal connection with the church as I was organ scholar there for two years whilst a student!  https://youtu.be/vbHKnUhdv8g

St Bride’s organ console by John Compton 1957 (Looks a bit of a handful for a student!)

PROMISING HEADLINE for us in yesterday’s paper:

JO REMEMBERS THE WAR REQUIEM

I wrote a while ago of a disastrous trip to London for the Verdi Requiem. Happily, this next was a weekend memorable for all the right reasons.

Benjamin Britten 1913 – 1976

The Swindon Choral Society MD, Nicholas Riddle, was a big Britten fan and had ambitions of performing the War Requiem, partly in Britten’s spirit by involving international choirs.  This happened in 1995, 50 years from the end WW2.  Someone knew an American choir in Macon, Georgia, and the chairman wrote to the German choirs who were performing it the same year.  The response was enthusiastic, and we finished up with representatives from 5 of them, plus members of the Reading Festival Chorus and choristers of Bath Abbey and Tewkesbury Abbey School.  We filled every spare bed available to the choir and friends and the overflow went to the Hoburne Holiday Park, South Cerney. I hosted the American choir leader and one of her students, and a young German couple who were all lovely.

The only venue that could cope with 400 choir plus orchestra, and an audience that queued round the block to get in, was the Oasis sports hall but the aesthetics were more than compensated for by the atmosphere generated.  It might not have been the definitive performance, but we all found it quite overwhelming and the whole weekend has gone down in choir history.

About 30 of us did the return trip to Macon for a performance on Veterans’ Day, Nov 11th, with yet another German choir, and included a tour to Charleston and Savannah. In the following years we had several successful exchanges with a Hamburg choir.

The performance of Carmina Burana that Tim remembers was June 1993, again at the Oasis, with Walton’s Facade.

(Lorna also sang in that War Requiem concert together with current CCS members Valerie Lambert and Sonia LaFontaine according to the concert programme:

I WAS THERE! remembers Valerie Lambert

I remember singing the War Requiem but not a lot about the performance except the last rehearsal on the day of the concert when there was some difficulty getting some parts together especially when the choir boys were singing from some distance away from the main choir. I think they were from Tewkesbury Abbey.  Also, the day was very hot and all the singing we did in the afternoon and again in the evening left me feeling I needed a G & T when it was all over. I remember there was a screen behind us with slides illustrating the war (I think) and it was frustrating not to be able to see them. It all seems a long time ago. 

(Here is a performance of the War Requiem in 1964 introduced by Richard Baker and conducted by Britten himself: https://youtu.be/HwBEtfXXsvU but, if you would prefer a technically up-to-date recording, here is Rattle with the Berlin Phil.: https://youtu.be/IGAzIIZRczw Ed.)

AND PATSY SANG THE WAR REQUIEM with the London Philharmonic Choir:

In the 1960’s, when I was a first-year student nurse, which I loathed, (it got better), I realised I needed an activity outside of the hospital in order to stay sane. I had enjoyed being in the choir at school, and there was a girl (Welsh, needless to say) in our group who was also interested in singing, so we applied to the London Philharmonic Choir, somewhat bravely. We had to have auditions, my friend sailed in, and I was told I would have to have singing lessons.

I had two, with a very operatic lady who needed the money. I was on night duty by this time, and I missed my third lesson because I overslept. I had to pay for it, and being a penniless student, I cancelled any further lessons. I continued to go to rehearsals, thinking that someone would check up on me, but no-one ever did. So, I had a wonderful two years singing with a prestigious choir, under totally false pretences! 

London Philharmonic Choir 2018 Proms

Our first concert was Benjamin Britten’s ‘War Requiem’ which was extremely challenging, and I did wonder what I was doing there!  My memory being what it is, I can’t remember what else we sang, but we certainly sang in a Promenade concert, which was very exciting. It’s been downhill ever since, except for Cirencester Choral Society, of course!

MISSING VOWELS COMPETITION

and the runner up is . . . Jane Read (correct entry despatched at 18.31 7/03/21)

and the winner is . . . . . . . . . .

LIZ FLEMING!

(correct entry despatched at 16.49 7/03/21)

And now for something entirely different:

ASTOR PIAZZOLA the Argentinian tango composer and bandoneon player was born 100 years ago last Thursday. His ‘Tango for Four’ string quartet is a favourite of the Gloucestershire-based Carducci Quartet: https://youtu.be/2AC6yhNv20E

Astor Piazzola (1921 – 1992)

AND FINALLY . . .

Sue Burton asks:

Why is being a soprano like staying in a cheap hotel? Because they can come in when they like and not have to worry about the key.

(Sue, being a soprano herself, should know! Ed.)