Well actually it's more like Been and Sung which I did yesterday.
I have really missed singing this year; prawn allergy armageddon, viruses, coughs and some very anti-social vapour rub on my feet (it really does stop you coughing...counter-irritant etc) all conspired to keep me away from even trying to hold a note, let alone singing several together and in the company of the rest of the choir, so I passed up the last season with Vocal Harem.
But we are blessed in Tavistock because each year the Exon Singers gather together in July and come to the town for a choral festival, and this year they organised a Come and Sing Day with John Rutter. I love John Rutter's choral music. It is accessible and singable for people like me who have lapsed in the church choral tradition, and there is something uplifting about the context of his words, and the melodies and harmonies. I was onto it in a flash and booked my ticket so I'll own up to a little moment of disappointment when the message came through that sadly John Rutter was unwell and the day would be directed by someone unknown to me, Christopher Robinson.
In fact it turned out we had fallen into the capable hands of another maestro...
"Christopher Robinson is widely recognised for the award-winning, best-selling series of English choral music CDs he made for the Naxos label with the Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge. He was Organist and Director of Music of the prestigious Cambridge choir for twelve years, following similarly important posts at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle and Worcester Cathedral, where he conducted at the renowned Three Choirs Festival.
He enjoys working with amateur singers, a field where he gained huge experience as conductor of the Oxford Bach Choir for 30 years and of the City of Birmingham Choir for nearly 40 years. His expertise in and affinity for Elgar’s music led to several highly praised performances of the Dream of Gerontius, and he conducted such notable 20th century works as Messiaen La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jesus Christ and Tippett’s The Mask of Time."
Yes a very safe pair of conducting hands.
Poor chap, having to apologise for not being John Rutter, but as a very close friend of his gave us an update (on the mend) as well as some background into just how busy John is, but also how generously he 'gives' of himself for choral music and recording in this country and around the world. Christopher then proceeded to lead about 150 of us through a packed day of singing and musicology. Music was provided and we sang both John Rutter compositions and arrangements all interspersed with some fascinating musical insights.
We launched right into All Things Bright and Beautiful to get us warmed up, then Bruckner's Locus Iste followed by the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Verdi's opera Nabucco.
Now anyone who has heard me moaning along the lines of 'Not MORE Wagner!!' on Facebook this week (the BBC Proms are recycling the flippin' Ring...sorry, I can't bear it) can have a good laugh that I have sung some opera.
Then two John Rutter anthems...
Look to the Day with its warm message of hope which was written for a service in support of Cancer Research and first sung in Ely Cathedral, and This is the Day, a setting of verses from the Psalms commissioned for and sung at the Royal wedding of recent times.
We squeezed in some 16th century music, O Quam Gloriosum by Tomas Luis de Victoria, and we sang someone's Ave Verum Corpus, just not sure whose but probably Mozart's. I fell in love with the loaned copy of The Oxford Book of European Sacred Music edited by John Rutter, and could hardly bear to part with it by the end of the day because I had also forgotten how expressive it can be to sing in Latin.
O quam gloriosum est regnum,
in quo cum Christo gaudent omnes Sancti.
Amicti stolis albis,
sequuntur Agnum, quocumque ierit.
No wonder everyone kicked up such a fuss when Henry VIII said they couldn't, the English translation hardly moves me to spiritual heights...
O how glorious is the kingdom
in which all the saints rejoice with Christ,
clad in robes of white
they follow the Lamb wherever he goes.
My best move was to arrive coincidentally at the same time as Rosemary, the MD of Vocal Harem, so seated next to a professional I was hardly likely to sing too many wrong notes (well maybe one or two, but well below my expected % for unseen music) and we had a really magical day. When the person next to me sings confidently and strongly, I do likewise (mostly) and so it spreads back and forth along the row... when that person coughs and stops... well it's a bit of an 'exposing' moment.
Christopher Robinson was delightful and quickly got the best out of us with a sense of humour and attention to the right detail, focusing on things that we could improve on instantly. Well almost... it's like vocal Pilates, so much to think about...phrasing, breathing, right notes in right order, fast-slow-loud-soft-whispered, pulse and rhythm and listening to the other parts too, and the piano, oh yes, and watching the conductor.
I emerged awash with that sense of elation you have after a jolly good sing, and oddly exhausted and almost glad it had rained and I wouldn't have to water the garden. Home to iTunes and downloading the music from the day as a wonderful reminder, and for a bit of a singalong on my own.
Is anyone else singing at the moment??
In a choir, or thinking about joining one in the autumn maybe??