dreamstime_l_27523004background removed copy1smallDo you know a child who loves to sing? Have they been following Tim Peake? Then Reach for the Stars – the theme of Vocals! this May – is something they won’t want to miss. Vocals! offers two weekends of space-themed musical fun for children of primary school age.

During the first weekend the children will learn songs such as Reach For The Stars, Space Oddity, Half The World Away, the space musical Blast Off, and more! The following Sunday, they will polish up the songs for a concert in Nottingham’s wonderful Albert Hall, where lighting and sound effects will add to the excitement. Mad_Science_Logo_3D_M

And if all that inter-galactic magnificence were not enough, there will also be a special appearance at the concert by the national science sensation MAD SCIENCE! What a star-spinning experience for youngsters and adults alike.

The rehearsal weekend will be Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th May, and the concert Sunday 15th May.

Click here for further details, or drop into Boookwise in Hockley and pick up a leaflet.


DSC01583 copyThe soloists – Paula Sides, Ciara Hendrick, Nick Pritchard and Tim Dickinson were a pleasure to work with, and superb singers, both individually and as a quartet. Thank you, Paula, for committing to come so soon after giving birth. Gorgeous baby, by the way! The orchestra was wonderful, and Helen Tonge played the violin solo so beautifully.

All the hard work put in by Angela Kay, the choir and orchestra over the weeks was well rewarded, and the odd minor glitch passed in a flash. A performance is not simply a matter of accuracy, rather of the musicians conveying the composer’s intent to the audience through their understanding of the piece, singing or playing it with feeling, variation in dynamic, tone, good diction etc. This musicality came across so well and fulfilled Beethoven’s inscription on the Missa Solemnis manuscript: From the heart – may it return to the heart. An audience member said afterwards, ‘I could just listen to that all over again. It was amazing.’ William Ruff, music critic for the Nottingham Post, seems to have agreed.

Many similar comments followed.  The choir had a real sense of achievement from having tackled one of the most challenging works in the choral repertoire. As the performance had proceeded without interruption, to enrich the audience’s experience, both audience and performers enjoyed a well deserved celebratory drink afterwards.

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The photographs were taken at the afternoon rehearsal.

Thanks too to the Albert Hall staff who were, as always, so obliging.


TDSC01530he Nottingham Festival Chorus met over the weekend to continue rehearsing Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. Angela was delighted with the progress made and is sure the concert will be a wonderful occasion – a rare opportunity to perform and hear this astonishing work.

Singers wrote all kinds of notes into their copies to capture the many moods and meanings Beethoven wrote into the music, and the ways in which he intended it to be performed. He gave a copy of the manuscript to the person for whom it was composed. Above the Kyrie he wrote: “From the heart, may it in turn go to the heart.” Other instructions of Beethoven’s are still published in scores today: “With devotion”, and above the words Dona nobis pacem (Grant us peace), “A plea for inner and outer peace.”

A recap for singers of Angela’s tips from the course:


  • Check that you’ve written into your copy everything you need to enable you to navigate the score with ease and to not come in with the soloists – yikes! (And if you could bring a rubber to rub markings out after the concert, that would be great.)
  • Write everything in BIG enough to be read easily.
  • Mark in those places where you don’t want to be caught out as the only person singing on a beat that should be a rest – argh! Put a slash after the sung note to make sure you come off it quickly.
  • Copy in the ‘stands and sits’ from the sheet given out on Saturday.
  • Put a ring round changes in speed, time signatures, and dynamic markings.  sfz = sforzando, suddenly, with force. The accent is on the beginning of the note, then the sound drops back to the dynamic of the section in which it occurs.  So sfz don’t mean loud throughout the note, nor to shorten its length, rather to emphasise the initial sounding of the note.
  • Remember not to sing an ‘ay’ sound (as in ‘Ay up me duck’) at the end of a word that should come over as having an ‘eh’ sound  e.g. kyrie and miserere
  • Be very liberal with putting in the numbers of beats in a bar to make counting easier, even in places where you’re not singing – the rhythm carries the music along. All DSC01547good musicians mark up their scores. Angela will make entries, pauses and endings very clear – watching her is key.
  • Check that you’re confident with the notes and rhythms of the unaccompanied sections.
  • After all your hard and thorough work, enjoy the performance. Once we are with the orchestra, the full glory of Beethoven’s genius will shine through.
  • Ladies – wear a white top with sleeves of some length as well as your black trousers/long skirts 😉

It’s going to be amazing, invite all your family and friends to come and hear it. Tickets are available here.

(The weather forecast is excellent – absolutely no threat of snow like we battled through a few years ago. Do you remember the trombonist with his snowy ‘hat’, and everyone trying to keep a straight face?!)