We are considering the possibility of in-person rehearsals later in the term, but the Choir Committee proposes to begin our Autumn Term as on-line rehearsals via Zoom.

Obviously proceeding depends on a good level of support from our members.  Those who have participated over the last year will know that online rehearsals have been a very positive experience and a welcome opportunity to see familiar faces.  It’s not quite like singing together but it’s a good alternative.  The first two weeks’ rehearsals will be a taster sessions for those who would like to try out the choir.

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.

Bach’s Christmas Oratorio

Simon has proposed that this term we learn and rehearse Bach’s Christmas Oratorio , which we will do in an English translation. This is a work that the choir performed in German in our early days, but recent joiners may not have had the opportunity to sing it.  Simon feels it is a piece which offers some flexibility as he has been able to select movements depending on resources and time. He hopes a concert in some form may be possible at the end of term or shortly thereafter.

Rehearsal Schedule

We plan to have a ten-week term starting on 22 September 2021 – a rehearsal schedule is available here.

We hope that it may be possible to start meeting in person, probably after the half term break. If we go ahead, we also hope to offer a hybrid version where those who feel uncomfortable meeting in person can carry on via Zoom. For this reason, we are splitting the term into two parts.  Initial membership for the Zoom half term will be £10 to be paid by bank transfer: there will need to be an additional payment at half term depending on whether we are able to introduce in-person rehearsals. If we have to restrict numbers for any reason (e.g. to maintain social distancing) after the half term break, priority will be given to those who sign up now. Termly membership fees are not due at this point – a separate email will be sent to you with payment/transfer details if you decide to sign up.

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.


After the customary first two weeks’ taster sessions, you will need your own score – we will be using the Novello Edition (ed Neil Jenkins), which should be readily available new from Presto Classical or Amazon and from music shops such as Dots in Kentish Town.  You may also be able to find secondhand copies via Abebooks or Ebay.  You may also be able to borrow from a friend if you do not want to buy your own. Please note that if you decide to look for a second-hand copy, this edition is not the same translation as the old Novello edition (ed. Troutbeck) and the wording is quite different in places.


The BBC Record Review Podcast discusses a number of the excellent recordings available and how styles of performing Bach have changed over the years.  On this recording, Nicholas Kenyon particularly recommends the Jan de Vriend recording (available on Youtube, Spotify and Amazon Prime) – and Simon also recommends this recording.  Kenyon also likes the recordings by Harnoncourt and John Eliot Gardiner (both available on Spotify).
You may also want to read Jonathan Freeman-Attwood’s review of the recordings available in 2014.   He also recommends the Harnoncourt and Gardiner recordings.

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.

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.

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.