IMG_8969Well we can hardly believe a year has gone by since the last Summer School, but it has! This year we’ve moved from the University of Nottingham to Trent College. We wondered if those few extra miles out of Nottingham might put people off, but no! Bigger and hopefully even better than ever. A choir of 70+ and an orchestra of 80+ meeting together for three days of rehearsals, specialist workshops, Music in the Chapel concerts by visiting professionals, and the delegates’ showcase concert on Wednesday. With Trent College offering B&B, some folk have opted to stay over even though they live locally, making a mini holiday of it. Accommodation has also enabled others to come from further afield. There’s a cooked lunch for any who would like it and plenty of parking. We hear at least one person is staying not far away in a caravan. We’ll leave you to guess who…!

DSC05077The guest tutors today were choral specialists Blossom Street. Tomorrow there is a violinist, and on Wednesday two brass players. Blossom Street, a chamber choir, formed 10 years ago when the singers were still students. They are now a London based and much praised choir, usually of 8, but sometimes 16 or even only four, directed by one-time singing member, Hilary Campbell. Another member is local Ellie Martin, who conducts one of our Daytime Singers groups. Five members gave a lively workshop that proved entertaining and informative. It improved the choir’s sound by helping singers give a more nuanced performance. Hilary spent a few minutes talking about the importance of diction, that it is part of the music, and just as the choir blends the pitch and timbre of its notes, it needs to do the same with pronunciation, matching vowel and consonant sounds not only within a section, e.g. tenors, but between sections when singing the same words at the same time. It’s all in the listening, just as it is with the notes themselves. Blossom Street also had delegates singing rounds. Not, however, a round of the same tune, rather five different tunes and from memory! Three other members arrived in the late afternoon to bring the first day to a close with a beautiful concert, picking up this year’s Summer School theme of music from the Americas. We went home uplifted and relaxed. Their interpretation and rendition of Holst’s I love my love and Whitacre’s Sleep were sublime.

owen-cox (002)And for the others… there were rehearsals for the full orchestra, string orchestra and windband with a variety of tutors. More about those groups in the coming days. Two more Music in the Chapel Concerts, open to the public, take place tomorrow and Wednesday. Tuesday, 5.15pm, Owen Cox, violin, and Hilary Suckling, piano perform a programme that includes Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Elgar’s Sonata. Owen is a great favourite at the Summer School. As a boy he played in MfE’s Stringwise, he now teaches at Cheetham’s School of Music and performs around the world. You don’t want to miss it. Nor Wednesday’s concert by two superb brass players at lunchtime 1.30pm. Click here for details. 

Link to Blossom Street’s website – hear them on Radio 3 sometimes, CDs available.

DSC04261140 singers and instrumentalist arrived at the Music Department, University of Nottingham, for the first day of the three day School, now in its third year. After a welcome to all, the players went off to rehearse, and the singers began with a brighten-the-day burst of Haydn’s The heaven’s are telling the glory of God, from his oratorio Creation. Later the strings rehearsed separately, working on Vaughan Williams’ Lark Ascending, while the windband made a great sound with their own repertoire.

The rain dampened the coffee preparations but dried up in time for to the morning break to happen outside, as didIMG_5435 drinks and nibbles followed by lunchtime picnics. John Hess, Chair of Music for Everyone, gave a short talk to begin the afternoon – more about that to follow.

In the afternoon, choir and orchestra put together the instrumental and vocal parts of The heavens are telling. This was a new experience for some of the players, accomapanying asks for different listening and sensitivity skills. There were a few empty chairs in the orchestra as the flute choir – 15 in number – attended a separate workshop with one of the School’s guest musicians, flautist Rachel Holt. She helped them to focus on the detail to be found within the music, sometimes not by actual markings but by what can be felt as the composer’s intention. She highlighted technical aspects of pitch for certain tricky to tune flute notes, articulation and expression.

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After further rehearsals, the day ended with a short concert given by Appasionata, flute and harp duo Rachel Holt and Anna Christenson. Both have played for leading professional orchestras, and the programme included pieces that showcased each instrument. They delighted us all with music from the baroque Benedetto Marcello to the more modern John Marson, himself a renowned harpist.

Rounding off the splendid 2017/18 MfE season was a Festival of Summer Music. Groups of all ages took part: Nottingham Youth Band, East Midlands Youth Windband, Girls Voices, Young Voices, Nottingham Youth Voices, Stictly Strings, East Midlands Youth String Orchestra, Adult Flute Choir and Swing Band.  (Apologies if I’ve missed anyone!) There was a relaxed atmosphere and the audience enjoyed stawberries and cream while the music played on. Spot the clothes pegs securing music to stands! It was a windy day, but the challenge of hanging on to the copies added to the fun.

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Thank you to everyone who made a donation during the season to enable MfE to set up new singing projects for people with learning difficulties. It was much appreciated. The 2017/18 focus will be The Year of Youth. We want to make it possible for as many youngsters as poosible to experience the joy and friendship that comes from making music together. More to follow.

The Music for Everyone Summer School begins at the University of Nottingham tomorrow and ends with a concert on Wednesday evening. We’ll be blogging about it each day. Also catch the news on our social media @mfenotts #mfesummerschool

CheeseWineRehearsals over, and before the Showcase Concert, the delegates, tutors and volunteers enjoyed cheese and wine on a glorious summer’s evening. The University of Nottingham has been a generous and helpful host of an amazing few days of music making. What a rich experience has been had by all – rehearsals of repertoire perhaps not encountered before, small ensemble workshops for instrumentalists, a singing masterclass with Carris Jones followed by a recital, insights into ensemble playing from the Cox Quartet and Equinox Saxophone Ensemble open rehearsals and concerts by both groups, a fascinating talk about Shakespeare and music by John Florance, developing technique sessions, the opportunity to ask advice from the experts in voice and instruments, making new friends, and performing in a concert.

0OrchThe concert gave each group an opportunity to showcase its Shakespeare inspired repertoire to the other delegates of the School and a small audience (fire regulations limiting the number of people allowed in the space). A slight hiccup preceeded the concert,  which led to some relieved and kindly singing fun – Oh dear, what can the matter be… etc etc!

0choirThe full orchestra played a medley from Kiss me Kate, Mendelssohn’s incidental suite A Midsummer Night’s Dream (often known as The Wedding March, sometimes played as the couple leave the church), music from William Walton’s Henry V suite (for the Olivier film of the same name, and with a movement for the String Orchestra only), and Vaughan Williams Serenade to Music. The last two pieces included the choir. The windband played both within the orchestra and on their own with a lively performance of a medley from Westside Story, Bernstein. As well as singing both the choir and solo parts of Serenade to Music, the choir performed two of Rutter’s Birthday Madrigals, Emma Lou Deimer’s Three Madrigals, The Agincourt Song from Walton’s Henry V and William Harris’s tender and poignant And Will A’ Not Come Again. 

We hope all the delegates enjoyed the Summer School as much as we all did. Thank you for your hard work, friendliness and for making it such a wonderful few days. Here’s to the next one!

If you use Facebook, you’ll find more photos and videos from the Summer School on the Music for Everyone Facebook page. ‘Like’ us, and news will pop up in your feed. You can also sign up to follow this, the MfE blog, by email (see box to the right).

 

And so to the final day of the MfE Summer School 2016. For the choir, full and string orchestras and windband, today was a day of polishing in readiness for the evening showcase concert. The saxophones were in for a added treat.

Equinox 2The Equinox Saxophone Ensemble, led by Alistair Parnell and founded by him in 2005, gave an open rehearsal masterclass. There were many similarities with the points made in Owen and friends’ string quartet rehearsal – listening, discussing, resolving and settling on a way to perform a piece and convey it to an audience. Alistair spoke of the time needed to warm an instrument properly, how the duration of that period increases with the size of the instrument. This is key to tuning and intonation, both of which are notoriously difficult with the saxophone. We marvelled at the six sizes of sax played – two other sizes exist, the contrabass (very low) and soprillo (very high).

SaxEnsembleAfter a quick change, Equinox entertained us with a concert that both astonished and inpsired. It converted saxophones sceptics to huge admirers. The ensemble showed the versitility of the instrument through their wonderful playing of arrangements of music from Mozart to Ravel to Oscar Peterson, arrangements made by Alistair and other members of the ensemble.

Members of the group then led a workshop with the saxophone delegates of the Summer School. They provided the players with either the Ensemble’s normal parts or simpler parts. A hugely inclusive approach that led to a rich sound in a very short space of time. Later, the combined ensemble performed to an appreciative audience – the rest of the Summer School.

“If you like an instrument that sings, play the saxophone. At its best it’s like the human voice.” Stan Getz

ClarinetsWell that was quite a weekend! String, reed, brass and recorder players spent a fun Saturday learning and playing new pieces, which they later performed for family and friends. It was a great day for discovering more about playing in an ensemble, band or orchestra, and making music together. MfE’s Blow the Dust (off your instrument) day will be back early next year.

If you came along, or it sounds like something you would enjoy, the Music for Everyone Summer School might be just what you’re looking for. There is a singing option as well. After last year’s successful first School, we listened to participants’ feedback and have made some changes – longer breaks, opportunities to listen to other groups, and less repertoire so that it can be honed to a nuanced performance standard. The hour-long closing concert will showcase the best of the pieces worked on during the time together.

PatGarden2016The heavens opened on Sunday, but that didn’t deter a group from the East of England Singers from going along to sing in Pat Collings beautiful garden. Thank you, Pat, for all your hard work to put on the event and raise money for Music for Everyone. And thank you to everyone who came along, armed with brollies, to look and to listen.

On Saturday 23rd April at 7.30pm, St Mary’s Church Clifton, the East of England Singers and New Classical Players will be performing a concert of music inspired by the Bard. We warmly invite you to enjoy a programme ranging from Purcell’s comic and delightful Fairy Queen to Walton’s dramatic film score for Henry V, Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music, and other Shakespearean texts set to music. The choir welcomes Ant Dean as guest conductor, and Angela Kay to the alto section!

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Some of the pieces being performed will be included in the Music for Everyone Summer School repertoire, so if you’re coming to that, do come along and listen to the treats in store for you in August. Book your tickets for the concert here. Tickets will also be available on the door.

P1110328Imagine a very large rectangular hall, high-ceilinged. The orchestra filling a third of the space, the choir in four rows along a wall running the length of the hall, and an eager audience of about a hundred.

First Robin Reece-Crawford introduces the evening and comperes the concert with information about the composers and the musicians.

Every configuration of instrumentalists and P1110376singers from the Summer School perform several pieces with great enthusiasm. The atmosphere is fantastic. As I’m tucked away in a far corner, which is fine – love those tymps! – I’d handed my camera to Charlotte Pullen, daughter of one of the violinists. See what happens when you sit in the front row! During the concert she takes some wonderful photos to give us a collection of happy memories. Well done, Charlotte, and thanks.

P1110378There is music from Byrd to the Beatles, Pergolesi to Gershwin, Vivaldi to Rutter. In addition to the groups, tutor Owen Cox plays as he conducts Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and tutor Gill Henshaw, accompanied by the orchestra, plays a movement of Weber’s Clarinet concerto. Stunning.

The choir sings in different configurations under the ‘baton’ of three conductors. (Not that we’ve have seen a baton all week, have they gone out of fashion?) Here is the lower voices’ moment of glory, with Mike enthusing them from the front. P1110356

The concert comes to an end with a rousing performance of Johann Strauss’s Radetzky March, and choir and audience clap along. Beat that for enthusiasm, Vienna Philharmonic!

P1110382And then our three amazing days of music making, learning new pieces and techniques, listening to first class music, being lead by dynamic conductors who worked so hard and brought out the best in us for the short time of the School, is over. Not forgetting the concerts and masterclasses. We trip off into the night with tired bodies but light hearts, new friendships made, challenges risen to, fine music and much laughter.

More photos to follow – it might take a few days!

Here’s hoping there will be another Summer School – this one was aided greatly by the generosity of the University of Nottingham (my alma mater), who provided the space and facilities. Thanks too for the Summer School go to the Assistant Artistic Director of MfE, Alex Patterson P1110368(I think this was his baby, if you see what I mean), Artistic Director Angela Kay, Adult Programme Co-ordinator Robin Reece-Crawford, Anne, Su and Gemma from the office, tutors and conductors Owen Cox, Mike Gregory, Gill Henshaw, Jane McDouall, Isobel Bounford, accompanists Stefan Reid, Tim Uglow and Martyn Parkes, and other musicians who kindly gave of their time to fill in the gaps or to encourage parts and sections, and of course to all the delegates. (Apologies if I’ve missed anyone.)

Now you might be wondering what happened to Quote of the Day. Well, it was awarded to Angela Kay, we had a titter about it but it is unprintable, so come along to a Music for Everyone event and join in the music making and fun. Thanks for reading – around the world, we gather!

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Helena 

P1110208Today’s blog posts will be the bread either side of the filling that’s my dinner. Chicken salad. What a day!

Jane McDouall led a warm up for the SATB choir – keep the shoulders down and your face bright – as though greeting someone you’re pleased to see. Alex took over and we sang movements from Vivaldi’s Gloria, shaking off all ‘not quite awake’ feelings.

I slipped out to see what the orchestra was up to and walked into the tranquillity of Elgar’s Nimrod being played with great sensitivity. Hang on, though, what an unusual configuration of instruments! Strings as you would expect. Then how many? Yes, 13 or so flutes and a similar number of clarinets, but no one blaring out, the orchestra blending well under Angela’s baton. There were saxophonists, a tympanist, and to add to the loan double bassist, Chris McDouall on electric bass guitar.

The choir then split in two (no pain was involved, you understand). Sops and altos staying put, P1110212and bases and tenors heading to another room. Jane and Angela introduced the ladies to music by Richard Rodney Bennett and Kodály – unison songs (written really for single voice) and songs for 5 part upper voices.

Once that was underway, I went in search of the lower voices – not all male, you understand, some women’s voices are naturally low enough to sing tenor.

P1110216Their session was being led by a new-comer to MfE (I think), Mike Gregory, who is awarded quote of the day: ‘Sing it like Jeremy Clarkson would.’

I’m sure you can hear it already. Then again, looking at the picture… But once the ignition was turned… !

Right. Dinner time. More for dessert.

Helena 

The first day of the Summer School was intended for those with little experience of the technical aspects of music, but it was helpful that some with more experience had chosen to come too, they lentP1110183 their neighbours a hand.

Through the double act of Angela and Alex, we got to grips with notation, time signatures and rhythm. Angela used various beverages to help us feel the difference in length of notes: tea – crotchet, coffee – two quavers, coca cola – four semi quavers, and beer – a minim. Someone wanted to know the drink for demi-semi-quavers. Suggestions on a postcard please.

The instrumentalists went to the recital hall to look at transposing instruments, how individual parts work and how they fit together. Angela talked about the importance of counting rests by numbering the bars on the first beat: 1 2 3 4, 2 2 3 4, etc. She explained that brass players with oodles of bars rest can “read the newspaper, drink a pint of beer and still come in on time”. That’s what the trumpeter in me likes to hear.

Alex helped the singers tackle intervals (the gap between one note and the next) and reading the dots. Oh, and not forgetting reading the rests, of course.

We were all reminded of the importance of inserting pencil marks into copies:

  • to mark our particular part and aid navigation
  • to highlight the dynamics and the style the conductor requests
  • to make it easier to not just sing this note and that but to produce a nuanced performance that comes from the heart

As Angela said, no one can remember all those details, there is no shame in using a pencil!

After tea we tried our hand at conducting. P1110196For this session instrumentalist played and vocalists sang – fun as well as informative.  Then that was it for today. Repertoire days to come. Now where’s my music… ?

Helena