HANDWASHERS’ NEWSLETTER 16th May 2021
As you will read below, there has been a change of programme for our November concert. We fully intend to revisit our scheduled programme of Thomas Linley and Handel Coronation Anthems on another occasion but, for a variety of reasons – some musical, some practical – it was felt that an alternative programme was needed as we return from lockdown and get the choir up and running again.
I am well aware that many members of CCS will not have sung for well over a year. The majority of those who have attended the Tuesday Zoom rehearsals over the past few months have indicated to me that you felt your voices were somewhat rusty and in need of some TLC! As the priority for me is to get the choir singing again, the November concert will be entitled ‘Great Choral Classics’ and include a selection of works which have been performed by CCS in the recent, and not so recent, past. Hopefully, this will mean that most singers are familiar to some degree with much of the repertoire, allowing us to focus on singing well and the sheer joy enjoying – something we have all missed for far too long!
One of the items selected for this concert is Haydn’s splendid motet, ‘Insanae et vanae curae,’ known by generations of mischievous choristers as, ‘Insane and vain curates!’ I have specifically chosen a version with organ, rather than orchestral accompaniment, as our November concert will also be accompanied this way. Let’s hope it is not too long before CCS is making sounds like this! https://youtu.be/BC9NqsJ065k
PROVISIONAL PLAN; MAY REVISION
In March we updated our original December Provisional Plan to fit the circumstances we could foresee then. If anything, the likelihood of Step 4 (‘All limits on social contact indoors or outdoors are lifted’ timed for ‘no earlier than 21st June’.) being implemented on time and in full has increased.
However, as Carleton explains above, it has been decided to change the programme of music for the 6th November concert to this:
GREAT CHORAL CLASSICS
Haydn: Insanae et vanae curae
Mozart: Ave verum corpus
Parry: Crossing the bar
Stanford: For lo! I raise up
Click here for Provisional Plan May Revision
PENNY JOINED A FRENCH CHORAL SOCIETY
Many years ago, when I was a student, as part of my French studies I spent a year as an English language assistant in a French school. I was sent to Annecy, in eastern France, to a dauntingly huge lycée. I had always sung in choirs, and I had resigned myself to a year without singing as I had been told that there wasn’t a choral society tradition in France. It was 1968 and the French education system had been seriously disrupted by the student riots of that year, and this on top of the natural process of adjusting to a very different life made the early weeks of my Annecy time pretty difficult.
One day I saw a poster. It told me that the ‘Harmonie Chorale d’Annecy’ was looking for new singers. I went home, chewed my pen and eventually produced a letter of application, which resulted in an invitation to a rehearsal. Thus began a great joy of my time in France. I found that the choir had been going for many years, owned its own rehearsal room, and was at that time directed by a man with a fine tenor voice. They were about to begin learning L’enfance du Christ by Berlioz, in commemoration of the centenary of his death in 1869. This was a great piece of luck as I would be singing in French — good for me, though not for the choir if I made a jarring English noise, so I had to be careful! In fact, early rehearsals were held in tonic sol-fa, which floored me until M. le directeur said, ‘Vous pouvez vocaliser, mademoiselle.’ This meant that I could just go ‘la la’ while learning the notes.
As you would expect, the singers were a good bunch. I was a bit puzzled, though, when people kept asking after my health, until someone explained that the previous year an English assistant had joined but been taken ill with appendicitis. Happily, I stayed the course and very much enjoyed the Berlioz, which we performed in the cathedral before the local bishop. We all remember the Shepherds’ Farewell, don’t we? Later on I coached M. le directeur in his English pronunciation when he was a soloist in Messiah. Happy, happy memories!
VIOTTI AND THE BLIND FIDDLER Tim tells a story of another blind musician . . . . well, a would-be musician anyway:
The great Italian violinist and composer Giovanni Battista Viotti (1755-1824) was strolling with a friend in the Champs-Élysées when they were distracted by a terrible screeching noise. The racket was coming from a blind street musician playing a tin fiddle. Intrigued, Viotti offered to buy the fiddle for 20 francs but, before sealing the deal, he played the tin fiddle producing a remarkable and beautiful tone. Meanwhile his friend passed his hat around the audience which had gathered and gave the proceeds to the street musician.
Giovanni Battista Viotti
Viotti prepared to pay the agreed 20 francs but the old man had second thoughts. ‘I did not know my violin was so good, Monsieur, I ought to have at least double the amount for it.’ Pleased with the implied compliment, Viotti gave him 40 francs.
As he turned to walk away with his purchase, there was a tug on his sleeve. The blind musician’s tinker nephew offered to make him as many tin fiddles as he wanted for 6 francs apiece!
(Paraphrased from Stradivarius: Five Violins and a Cello by Toby Faber)
The Viotti Stradivarius
As well as for his compositions, Viotti’s, name lives on attached to his own violin (made of wood-not tin!) and labelled Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis Faciebat Anno 1718. It was purchased by the Royal Academy of Music for £3.5 million in September 2005.
Here is Viotti’s Violin Concerto No. 22 played by South Korean, Yoonseo Lee, aged 12: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcKBnwLD-sQ
or, as two for the price of one, his violin duos played by Franco Mezzena and Patrizia Betotti: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDi51F7B7Dw
SCHOLAR CANTORUM Margaret McIvor spots a development at Tewkesbury Abbey:
Rafi Bowen is among one of the first girls to join Tewkesbury Abbey Scholar Cantorum. She is a pupil at Dean Close Preparatory School in Cheltenham which supports the education of the young choristers. Girls will start singing alongside boys in September.
CHOIR LEADER WANTED We’ve received this plea for help which speaks for itself. If you might be able to help please email firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll forward it:
Hi, I’m wondering if you could help or point me in the direction of someone who might be able to? Before the pandemic, we supported a community choir who used to meet once a week at St Lawrence Church, Chesterton. They are not a professional choir, just a group of older people who enjoy the social aspect of coming together and singing. The membership was round 40 and they had been fortunate to have had a great choir leader who unfortunately cannot continue now due to ill-health. They are in desperate need of a new leader when they are able to meet again and I’d hate to see them fold, so if you could help us find or advertise for a new choir leader for them, we’d be really grateful.
AND FINALLY . . .