Swedish Singers

I once tried to learn Danish, but found some of the sounds quite difficult….to say the least. I had no reason to learn Swedish, but imagined it to be very similar in looks and sound…..and no easier to learn!

On Saturday and Sunday, we had a visiting choir, the Gustavi Vocal Ensemble from Gothenburg Cathedral (picture above), joining us at St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow. Only 12 in all, from the Swedish Cathedral Choir….but what a sound they made! Everything was sung a capella, with a simple chord from the piano, and they launched into a great variety of old and new pieces, ones familiar to our ears and some less so, from their native country.

Sometimes they formed-up in the conventional choral-part arrangement, and then for the next piece, would move about so that the parts seemed ‘mixed-up’. This meant that the sound seemed more ‘together’ and to come at us with a greater ‘gentleness’ for want of a better word. It is quite difficult to explain the sensation. We all know that some orchestral conductors have a particular way of arranging the various players to achieve the sound they want, but it was strange to see it applied in a choir during a performance.

Maybe it was the language, but even in the British pieces, there was a distinctive Nordic sound, and for me, it would take some time to assimilate into my psyche. It appeared much lighter in texture than what we hear in the cathedral, and this may have been partly due to the lack of accompaniment.

Having said that, it proved a marvellous experience of clear-crisp, disciplined, exposed singing and whilst a visit to their home town has never been in my top-ten wish list, I may well have to revise the list and have a long weekend to get the chance to hear the complete choir in action.

…back to practices

 

The Cathedral ‘Songs of Praise’ event has come and gone and one still marvels at the breath-taking beauty of the land in which we live and the Cathedral in which we worship. Angelus is now back into practising for our next two events, one in Dunbar (with a Willis organ) and one in Duror (with an organ which is probably the oldest one in regular use in Scotland). After that, there is to be an event in a City centre church in the new year. In many ways all quite different and yet linked together in our love of the words and music of Evensong…..but more of these in later posts!

Practices have started and as is usual, music which seems impossible becomes easier, and (hopefully) ultimately enjoyable as the notes, words and parts all come together. The great unknown is the folk who will join us from the area for the afternoon practice before each event, but I am still astonished how quickly it all comes together.

Some new pieces will be involved and it is lovely to hear music sung for the first time…even if I have to face the criticism of those who find it is not as easy as I first hoped! 

Never mind, it’s great to get the tonsils moving again! ………and I mustn’t forget to oil the music stand!

Double Joy!

Had you been fortunate enough to watch the Lessons and Carols service from Kings College on Christmas Eve, and then attend St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow for the Midnight Eucharist, you would have a chance to join in a magic moment twice in the same day!

On both occasions the choirs sang ‘O magnum mysterium’. by Morten Lauridsen….see photo above. The words are few….’O great mystery and wondrous sacrament, that animals should see the newborn Lord lying in their manger. Alleluia!

This is one of those pieces which seem to transcend all time, all space, all religions, all emotions, all words or language. Anyone who fails to be moved in some way by it really has not yet gripped the concept of something existing beyond us. On an emotional par with the Allegri ‘Miserere’, this piece should be listened to in a quiet place and with the mind at peace. 

Such was St Mary’s, just after Communion, and with the lights gradually dimming , we were led into some other inner world, where not even a cough was heard, the breath was held, and the faint lights around the window ledges and over the Choir screen seeming to sparkle even brighter. As the final notes faded, the silence became more intense and some kind of tiredness set in as if we had been part of the choir and that heavenly host.

The link below gives you the music but not the sensation, as the audience permits no pause between the final notes and the applause……such a piece needs no applause only appreciation!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1J0O8wTzvIc

 Far better to get a CD, and sit at peace in your own space, and let the music and emotion wash over you……you are unlikely to ever be the same again!

The Choir

The Choir programme

I hope you’ve been watching ‘The Choir’ on BBC each week when a young highly-enthusiastic musician has bullied and cajoled various groups from around the country to improve their singing skills and join in a public performance of (sometimes) a relatively-difficult piece.

Although the timescale is greatly contracted and the whole thing is intended to make good television, it is still very-interesting to watch what can be done. If you haven’t seen it before, give it a try!

R.I.P. Gordon

 Gravestone

We record the death  of Gordon Moore, (2.1.1927-11.5.2009) someone known to most of our Choir. He was a great lover of church choral music, and in spite of the increasing disability caused by his deafness and Meniere’s, he continued to sing in the St Cyprian’s choir till just a few years ago. Even when the church choir was at a low ebb, he was always there in the back row.

His knowledge of music notation was not good so he learned his part by rote. His records about when and where hymns, tunes, anthems, chants etc had been used previously was often referred-to, to ensure variety in worship.

He was   also very good at Scottish Country dancing and the writer was once persuaded to go to an open night. Despite instructions from Gordon, feet, brain, and music failed miserably to co-ordinate, to the consternation of Gordon, who expected that everyone should be as good at it as he was.

Let’s hope that he can find a choir and/or a country dancing group, in the hereafter.

Ballachulish Colourful Choristers

We were very lucky to have Frank Conn with us when we went to join with some local choristers at St John’ for Evensong…as he is a very good photographer! The following two were taken on a miserable wet day, but still have a sparkle about them….. or maybe it is the rainbow colours of choir robes!!

choir-31

choir-11

On the Communion Table behind the choir were the Communion vessels allegedly used before the battle of Culloden.