While the prospect of mass vaccination offers some prospect of a return to rehearsals in person later in 2021, we have decided for the time being to continue with on-line rehearsals on Zoom.  Those who joined us last term will know that we had great fun. Many participants viewed it as a very positive experience to be singing and to see familiar faces.  It’s not quite like singing together but it’s a good alternative. Those of you on our mailing list should have received an email with details of how to sign up.  If you are new to the choir or do not receive the email, please contact us.

Mozart’s Mass in C-minor

We will be learning and singing, Mozart’s wonderful Mass in C minor, which we have not performed since 2009.  Simon feels this is a piece we can easily perform in a Come and Sing format when circumstances permit.  Some of you will remember singing it before and probably have the music already.  We plan to have a 10 week term starting 13 January 2021 finishing with a sing through on 24 March.  Membership for the term will be £20 to be paid by bank transfer.

Don’t worry if you miss the odd rehearsal or join the term a few weeks late. You can always use the learning resources and there will be ample time to catch up later.

Rehearsal Schedule

Rehearsals start on13 January and continue weekly until our final Zoom concert on 24th March, with a one week gap for half-term on 17 February 2021.

The full rehearsal schedule can be found here:  Spring Choir Rehearsal Schedule 2020-21 SCW.

Score

You will need your own score. There are several versions but we will be using the Peters Edition which should be readily available on-line from Presto Classical or Amazon and from music shops such as Dots in Kentish Town.  If you own another version, you should be able to follow along fine as long as you have bar numbers marked.

Recordings

For our Zoom rehearsals (see below), we will use the recording by the Academy and Chorus of St. Martin in the Fields conducted by Sir Neville Marriner (Soprano Soloist Kiri te Kanawa). This is widely available on a number of platforms (and to buy) and is also on YouTube. Simon likes this recording and thinks it is good for us to use for the following reasons:
  • It is at modern pitch, with standard Italianate Latin pronunciation.
  • The playing on modern instruments is terrific and the chorus sings lustily.
  • It is a slightly larger chorus than the others, some of which sound like they have 16-24 singers, which imitates our sound less well.
Simon says he listened to a range of other recording and these are the ones he likes:
  • Harry Christophers conducting The Handel and Haydn Society (who I haven’t heard of, but I am sure will be full of the standard best available players and singers in London at the time). This has a great recorded sound, and also some wonderful playing and singing, with Gillian Keith as soprano soloist (also excellent if very different). This is at Classical pitch (which is 430Hz, roughly halfway between Baroque pitch ,415Hz, and Modern Pitch, 440Hz). This is not on YouTube but is available to buy (for instance, from Amazon.)
  • Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists conducted by John Eliot Gardiner.  Also at Classical pitch, this is unsurprisingly excellent, if possibly a little mannered in places, depending on taste. Some of the music is very majestic and stately, but also very slow in places, making some of the high sustained singing in the Qui tollis and Sanctus particularly very demanding, even for professionals.  This is available on YouTube with the score on the screen, which is quite handy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97Twh_q8lQs
There is a BBC Record Review Podcast which talks about a number of the excellent recordings available. Interestingly it omits talking about the Neville Marriner or the Harry Christophers – let Simon know what you think! They favour the recording by the Bach Collegium Japan, conducted by Masaaki Suzuki. Again at Classical pitch (if slightly lower than the other two), this has much to commend it, the BBC review was quite rightly in raptures about the singing of Carolyn Sampson, the soprano soloist on this recording. They sing in classical German Latin, and the balance is more equal than on some recordings, leaving the orchestra a little prominent for us, but certainly bringing out other colours. There are of course 3 other soloists in each recording and some quite diverse, if all excellent singing.
There is also the matter of the double dotting in the Gratias which Neville Marriner does, as Simon did in the Come and Sing in 2016 and will again. Harry Christophers does single dots throughout and Suzuki and Eliot Gardiner single dot for the first half and double dot for the second half – all the fun!

Learning aids

Many of the learning sites provide aids to help you learn your part.  We find the following to be particularly useful:

  • Cyberbass – has a wide range of major works.  You can listen to individual voice parts or all voice parts, you can select a short passage to listen to over and over again, or you can speed up and slow down recordings.
  • John F’s Rehearsal Files – John Fletcher has an extraordinary range of music on his site, with individual files for each voice part or for all parts together. You need to set up a membership – this is free for out of copyright music.  There is a paid for option if you want to access copyrighted music – there are various options, but the individual rate for one year is £10.
  • Saffron Choral Prompt – you can order CDs at a modest price from saffronchoralprompt.co.uk 01799 586269.  You tell them the name of our choir (for a discount); which piece of music and name of publisher; your voice part.  You will receive a useful (though not beautiful) recording of a voice singing your exact line with a piano accompaniment playing the other parts.  This is clearly most useful for large scale works.
  • There are also several learning aids on Youtube.

How does Hampstead Chorus Online work?

There will be plenty of help on hand but most members have found it quite straightforward:

  • download ‘Zoom’ to your computer in advance of the session – it’s free video conferencing software
  • each week you are sent a link via email from Hampstead Chorus, which you use to join that week’s Zoom session from 7.15pm for 7.30pm start
  • sessions are an hour long and will be led by Simon Walton with assistance from Heather Tomala
  • sessions are typically a warm up, some rehearsal time in parts (you will be introduced to ‘break out rooms’!), a sing-through probably with a recording and finish with time for feedback and a catch up
  • a point worth emphasising is that, when you sing in Zoom sessions the only person who can hear you is yourself.

During the rehearsal, we will be splitting into Zoom breakout rooms for sectional learning sessions. Those who have signed up and paid will automatically be assigned to the relevant room.  If you would like to try out a session, please let us know so that you can be put in the right room.

When the rooms are allocated, all you have to do accept the move to the room and it should happen automatically, if a bit slowly!  Similarly at the end of the breakout session, all you have to do is accept the move back to the main room.

If there are two of you in the same location, unless you are the same voice part, you may wish to sign in from two devices so that you are put in the right breakout room.  If you are sitting near each other, please ensure both devices are kept on mute otherwise there will be a horrible feedback noise.

Further information on setting up Zoom and what to expect can be found here.