Angela’s Guide to Learning the Missa Solemnis – Part 5

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?!)