Saturday 3rd February 2018, 7.30pm | Albert Hall

Angela Kay MBE | Artistic Director

Victoria Barlow | Guest Conductor, East of England Singers

Nottingham Festival Chorus, East of England Singers and Nottingham Concert Orchestra

What’s interesting about this concert:

  • The Nottingham Festival Chorus of 220 singers is likely be the largest choir to perform a choral work of Carmina Burana’s scale in Nottingham this year. Experiencing this music (often used in films and TV) from a seat in the audience is a thrilling and uplifting experience.
  • Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, peformed by the orchestra, and Whitacre’s Five Hebrew Love Songs, sung by the East of England Singers, are sensual works born of love: Wagner’s for his wife, Cosima, daughter of composer Franz Liszt, and Whitacre’s for his then girlfriend, now wife, the poet and soprano Hila Plitmann.
  • Carmina Burana, meaning Songs of Beuern, is the title of both the collected 13th century poems Carl Orff used as his text and of his composition. The choir sings words in Latin, Middle High German, Old Provencal and Old French. (We always provide translations in our programmes.) The themes of the poems are as familiar in the 21st century as they were when first written: the fickleness of fortune and wealth, the mystery of life, the joy of the return of Spring, and the pleasures and perils of drinking, gluttony, gambling and lust.
  • Singing in a choir and listening to classical music have been shown to improve mental and physical wellbeing. During rehearsals our singers are learning useful Latin phrases from the poems, such as ‘In taberna quando sumas non curamus quid sit humus’, which means ‘When we are in the pub, we do not think how we will go to dust!’

Click here for further information and tickets.

Never mind the nights drawing in, come to a glittering afternoon concert of choral and orchestral music associated with coronations and fireworks, Sunday 29 October 2017, 3.30pm, Nottingham’s Albert Hall. Tickets: (Green button at bottom of link page)

The concert features the Nottingham Festival Chorus, East of England Singers and Nottingham Concert Orchestra, and four very special soloists, all of whom were once singers and players in Music for Everyone’s youth groups and events. They are now all professional musicians.

We are delighted to welcome them back, particularly in this our Year of Youth. Huge efforts are going into offering music making to younger people, many of whom have fewer opportunities for music in schools compared with some years ago, when instruments were loaned, lessons were free, and there was time in the school day for many musical activities. THANK YOU to everyone who has kindly donated so far to help us with this work.

Ruth Provost copy

Ruth Provost, soprano

Emily Hodkinson

Emily Hodkinson, mezzo-soprano

AT-18 copy

Adam Torrance, tenor

Geoff Williams copy

Geoff Williams, baritone







Ruth was a cellist Stringwise participant and later a member of the youth string orchestra. Whilst reading music at Cambridge, she decided to pursue a career in singing. As well as solo performances she has worked with leading choirs – The Sixteen and The Tallis Scholars, to name but two. She is a ‘local’, living in Southwell.

Emily recently graduated from the University of York, where she was awarded the highest Finals Recital mark in her year. She has a career in opera as well as oratoria and  solo performances. She sang in MfE Nottingham Youth Voices and East Midlands Youth Voices when a choral scholar at St Barnabas Cathedral, Nottingham.

Adam is currently a fellow at Guidhall School of Music and Drama, where he also studied. He performs operatic roles with a wide variety of companies and is also an accomplished song and oratorio singer. Additionally he is an assistant director. He, along with Geoff, was one the first members of MfE’s Youth Choir, which he enjoyed very much.

Geoff is an accomplished soloist who sings with some of the top London choirs, including Westminster Cathedral, and also enjoys operatic roles. He received a Masters with Distinction from the Royal Academy of Music. He has fond memories of his membership of MfE’s Nottingham Youth Choir, where he enjoyed the ambitious and varied repertoire chosen by their then conductor, Jane McDouall.

But back to the concert: The first half is devoted to George Frideric Handel, who was granted British citizenship by act of parliament in 1727. His sparkling Music for the Royal Fireworks is a great concert favourite. Two of his jubilant Coronation Anthems, including Zadok the Priest, will be conducted by another special guest, Jakob Grubbström, who recently conducted the much praised East of England Singers’ concert. The second half opens in the baroque period with Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto 3, which has what must be the shortest second movement in the entire classical repertoire – two chords, and if you’re lucky, a short improvisation! This is followed by Mozart’s joyful Coronation Mass, complete with MfE alumni soloists and conductor and MfE Artistic Director, Angela Kay.

Tickets: (Green button at bottom of link page)


Music Background.

Do you play a musical instrument or recorder? Then join this summer’s Blow the Dust off Your Instrument on Saturday 10 June for a day of ensemble playing – string orchestra, windband, full orchestra, recorder consort. An addition to the programme this year is guidance in the Alexander Technique to ease the aches of practising and performing. We know we’ll all find it beneficial. Music for the day is sent out in advance and we make sure there are parts for players of all abilities between Grades 2 (or equivalent) and 8 and above. Click here for more information and to book your place. An informal concert for family and friends begins at 5.00pm.

If you’re a singer, then  sign up to be part of the Nottingham Festival Chorus (NFC) for a weekend. Perform a range of works accompanied by the Albert Hall’s mighty Binns organ. This is a rare and not to be missed opporunity. Singing Parry’s ‘I was Glad’ will be a spine tingling, exultant experience. Workshops take place on Saturday and Sunday 24/25 June culimating in a splendid concert of music performed by the Festival Chorus, conducted by Angela Kay, the East of England Singers, with guest conductor Jakob Grubbström, and organist Michael Overbury. There will be an informal and unticketed concert at 3.00pm on Sunday 25 June (note the earlier than usual start time).

Our annual, popular and praised Summer School for adult singers and instrumantalists is now open for booking. This rich three-day experience includes workshops, concerts and masterclasses from visiting professionals, and social events. It takes place in the easily accessible and pleasant surroudings of the University of Nottingham and University Park. Each year the School has been greatly enjoyed by participants both local and from as far afield as the US and Australia! Take a look at the programme and book your place. We look forward to seeing you there. Accommodation for delegates from further afield is not part of the package but the luxury Orchard Hotel located at the other end of the campus is currently offering great rates – £189.60 for THREE nights bed and breakfast.

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MfE-9839Tickets are still available in all seating areas for Saturday’s concert of exciting music: Haydn’s Nelson Mass, Dvorak’s Carnival Overture and Te Deum, they’re just no longer available online.

You can buy tickets at the Albert Hall during Saturday afternoon – just ask for Music for Everyone’s ‘Phil’, or from the Box Office from 7pm onwards. Come early and choose a good seat to enjoy the Nottingham Festival Chorus, Nottingham Concert Orchestra and six outstanding soloists conducted by Marcus Farnsworth. Click for additional information. 

Feeling the chill of winter coming on? Warm it up by booking for one or both of our opportunities for adults, or tickets for the Festival Chorus Concert.

DSC01424Blow the Dust is for instrumentalists, including recorder players, on Saturday 7 January 2017 at Nottingham’s Albert Hall. We suggest Associated Board Grade 2 and above (or equivalent). You will play in different groupings of instruments to give you a wide and enjoyable experience during this orchestral playing day. If you play the recorder, any size of recorder, the ensemble meets in the afternoon only. For more details, click here.

What will we be playing?

The music has been chosen to give scope to players of all abilities and will include Berlioz’s rousing Hungarian March, Tchaikovsky’s lyrical Waltz from his Serenade for Strings especially arranged for full orchestra, the well known Trumpet Tune by Purcell and Elgar’s stirring Pomp and Circumstance March No 4.

There will also be items for windband (conductor Gill Henshaw) and string orchestra (conductor Ann-Marie Shaw). The recorder ensemble will have a varied diet of music carefully chosen by their conductor, Chris McDouall.

MfE-9839The Nottingham Festival Chorus event is spread over two weekends. The rehearsal course, always fun and a challenge to polish up those notes and your singing ability, will be led by Angela Kay, and takes place on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 January at the Bluecoat Academy, Aspley. The final rehearsal and concert are the following Saturday 4 February in the Albert Hall. For more details, click here.

What will we be singing?

This year, there are two works. One of the favourites of the choral music repertoire, Haydn’s Nelson Mass, which is packed full of memorable themes and classic choruses. And then, from the declamatory opening to the final exultant flourish of chorus and orchestra, Dvorak’s Te Deum is a joyous whirlwind of vitality and excitement! We are delighted to welcome Marcus Farnsworth as guest conductor of the concert. What a privilege and treat.

Concert: To book tickets for the Festival Chorus’s concert, click here.


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?!)


aea181dadc47ed5aff1e2b97ae5dafdcWith only a week to go until the course, here are a few more tips from Angela.

HD: We always start the weekend with warm up exercises. Are these something we should do whenever we’re going to sing for some time, even at home?

AK: Well, a few exercises are good to help with technique, even with how you should stand. More than anything, they’re a mental thing to get you out of still being stuck in the traffic jam, or some other stress, and ready to sing. At a rehearsal you’ve got to feel differently from how you would were you sat at your desk or trying to get the kids to have a bath. With a big choir, if the singers have been practising on their own, then even just a few warm up exercises, say singing arpeggios that sound nice, help people to think, ‘Ah, that sounds ok, this is going to be good.’ It gets them in the right frame of mind.

HD: Some warm up exercises seem to be more about relaxation than voice production.

AK: If people are all tense [Ang makes sounds of fear and panic], they can’t make a nice sound, so you want to calm them so the sound that comes out is rich and encouraging.

HD: How should we make the most of the rehearsal time in the course?

Angela and her younger daughter, Sarah, rehearsing solo sections of Pergolesi's Magnificat

Angela and her younger daughter, Sarah, rehearsing the solo parts of Pergolesi’s Magnificat

AK: When I sing with a choir, I really enjoy just trying to sing my part in my head, or hum it very quietly, against another part that’s being practised, just to see if I can fit it in, find my notes. So when, as conductor, I’m rehearsing a particular part that’s not yours, say the tenors, you should be following the tenor part and looking how your part fits in with it. Unfortunately, many people just switch off – or talk – and think it’s nothing to do with them, whereas they could be… you can be… rehearsing all the time, even when you’re not singing.

HD: When there’s a new entry, coming in can be quite scary, could you give us some tips about that?

AK: Well, people get really panicky about the note to come in on, but if they’ve learnt it properly, they’ll instinctively come in on the right one. When it gets into your brain, it’s just there. It can make life too complicated if you’re looking at other parts, thinking the note you want is in the bass line, etc. It’ll be too late because the entry will have gone in a flash. In Classical composers [like Beethoven] and Baroque composers, to a certain extent Romantic, the harmonic structure is such that the note you come in on is unlikely to be way out, it will fit, you’ll get a feel for it.

To give confidence, I do try, don’t always succeed, to look at parts to prepare them that they’re coming in and give them a signal, whereas if people have got their head in their copies worrying that they’ll miss the entry, they probably will! Then it’s hard to get back in – you can have lost it for a long time.

HD: So some of it’s about looking ahead. Sometimes I extend the music lines at the end of a page and write in what’s coming next, especially if it’s the final note of a phrase, or a new entry that starts a the top of the next page.

AK: Yes, so that you’re not caught out. Or you could just put the note you’re going to come in on and the word. In some of the scores, when we look at them after a concert, there’s tiny writing in them that singers were probably trying to read during the performance, and wondering what it was they’d written. By then they would have missed what they were supposed to be singing. If you’re going to write something in, and I really hope you will, write it big enough to read, and big enough to read without holding your copy under your nose!

We hope you’re enjoying rehearsing. We’re really looking forward to next weekend, when it will all come together. It’s going to be great.

(The other parts of this Missa Solemnis series can be found here, here and here.)

If you missed Part 1 click here, and if you missed Part 2 click here. (But do come back for Part 3!)

Sectional Rehearsals and Pencils

HD: Tell us a little about the sectional rehearsals this week.

AK: Well hopefully, if people have looked at their parts beforehand and marked them up, the sectionals will help everyone make more sense of it all, which will make it easier to rehearse a bit more before the course.

HD: So it helps us to identify the difficult bits?

AK: Yes, we will also work on those on the course when it’s all put together. We’re going to have some sectional rehearsals within the course this time, too.

HD: When we register at the course, we’re always given an MfE pencil. What do you hope we’ll do with it?

AK: (Sharp intake of breath) Use it to put in words of wisdom from me (laughs) and highlight bits you know you’ll need to look at yourself later. I put those as a list at the front [of my score].

HD: I put a cross at the top of the pages where I go wrong.

AK: Yes, people have different ways.

HD: When there’s a tricky page turn, I find it helps write the first notes of the new page at the bottom of the previous page – extend the lines, write in the notes and the words.



AK: Yes!

AK: Things to write in during the course will be dynamics – I might put in different ones from the score, or you’ll need to put a ring round those that are there so as not to miss them. I might shorten a note, so that needs to be marked, as does where to put the final consonant. Then there’s marks where to breathe and where not to breathe. People think they’ll remember, but they won’t be able to, not when they’re in a concert situation. There you need as many props as possible to keep you on the straight and narrow.

HD: Perhaps some people think they’re not very good if they need to write a lot in.

AK: Which is absolute rubbish.

HD: Remember that clarinettist’s score at the Summer School? It was covered in markings.

AK: The best people assiduously put everything in.

HD: So would you recommend writing in the beats of a bar in some places? I find it helps me to count rests especially.

AK: Oh yes. You just need to put beats in to make it easier for yourself, and maybe an ‘and’, like 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +, especially for off the beat, syncopated sections. The notes are important, of course they are, but it’s the rhythm that’s more important, because if the rhythm’s not there, you haven’t got a hope.

(AK starts singing a few bars. Very nice.)

Sectional rehearsal are THIS WEEK. Thursday for the tenors and basses, Friday for sopranos and altos, both at NTU Clifton Site, 7.30pm.


Ludwig van Beethoven as imagined by Wesley Merritt

Ludwig van Beethoven as imagined by Wesley Merritt

If you’re singing in the Nottingham Festival Chorus February 2016 concert, you have hopefully now received your brown envelope containing a score of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, 2 rehearsal CDs and useful information.

To borrow enough copies, we have had to use three different editions. If you have been sent a Breitkopf or Novello score, there will be two green sheets in your envelope. If you were lucky enough to receive a Peters score, you won’t need the green sheets.

Marking up the Score

HD: The brown envelope is now in our excited hands. What is the first thing we singers should do having opened it?

Angela Kay: Well. The first thing to do is to rub out ALL the pencil markings that have been put in by previous singers. I’d like everyone to do this because as a conductor, it’s pretty annoying when people say, ‘Well in my copy it says this’ or ‘Last time we sang it we did that.’  Those markings were from another choir, another conductor or me at a different time, which isn’t to say that they weren’t right, but because February’s will be a fresh performance. Music is a living organic thing, and research has changed interpretation, so I might well do things differently.

HD: What next?

AK: For those of you without a Peters score, please, please, please, and I appreciate it’s a bit tedious, use the green sheet and write the Peters letters into your Novello or Breitkopf score. You won’t be able to follow the CD or the rehearsals without doing this.

Then look through the score and mark both your own line to sing…

HD: I tend to use a tick.

AK: … and something to ensure you don’t come in by mistake when it should be a soloist singing.

HD: Mine has crosses in it for that very reason. It would be SO embarrassing.

AK: Yes, anything, as long as you know where you need to be on the page, especially as some of it is fast and tricky. Please do it all in pencil as opposed to highlighter pen, which we have actually had. We can’t return those copies to the library and have to buy new ones to replace them.


HD: What’s on the CDs

AK: There is (with a modest twinkle in her eye) myself, giving words of wisdom. I go through each movement in more detail than I have done in the past, line by line. I’ve played some of the more difficult bits on the piano and just generally tried to be enthusiastic, because I am, and I hope the singers will be, too.

Introductions and solo bits have been cut out. I’ve actually put the difficult bits on at a slower speed but at the right pitch, especially the fugues, so that you can sing along. During the course we’ll have time to look at these tricky bits, and we’re going to have additional sectionals during the rehearsal weekend to help with them.

HD: I do have a piano, but I’ve been trying out some piano apps on my iPad. I can pick out the tunes from the comfort of the sofa.

AK: (Laughs) And there are rehearsal tracks available online, like at Choralia.

[We played around with a few of these and decided that, as long as you sing along with the score, the version for ‘voice, with metronome and organ’ is the best one to use. Click here to go to that page.]

HD: And there’s Choraline if folks would like to buy a CD of their part, or download them as mp3 files.

AK: Yes, lots of ways to get a good feel for the piece before the sectional rehearsals in January.

To be continued…