After two years of disrupted singing we are hopeful of better times ahead, although, as we have learnt by bitter experience, this pandemic is not over yet.
Those of us who sang with the choir for the Autumn term in All Saints’ Church felt it was a great step forwards when compared to Zoom singing, which is what had kept the choir alive during the dark days of lockdown. We were together in the flesh and could talk to each other face to face! We worked on Mozart’s Sparrowmass and Haydn’s Te Deum (in English). One huge drawback was the wearing of visors for singing in order to manage the risk of Covid. While singing in a visor is rather like singing in a shower and you can hear yourself quite well, you have no idea what everyone else is singing. It gives one a very distorted and unreal experience of choral singing. Our Music Director, Sebastian Thomson, persevered magnificently even though he could only hear mumbles – I suppose it had to be better than not hearing us at all during Zoom sessions! At least he could not criticise our diction! We owe him a lot for keeping things going over these last two years.
Our rehearsals were therefore limited; by not being able to hear everyone else, by the cold (old churches are difficult to heat while ensuring adequate ventilation), by the noisiest firework display ever (see below) and by the wonderful arrival of Sebastian’s baby daughter, a little earlier than expected. We were glad we had not planned a concert in November!
We ended the term with a successful AGM (members can access the draft minutes on the members’ part of this website) and a small social gathering, while maintaining social distancing.
This next term we are planning to meet up again in the Matrix to sing – without visors. Covid precautions will be taken very seriously; we will be spaced out and the room will be well-ventilated. Furthermore, all participants will need a negative lateral flow test prior to the meeting. And this time we will be working towards a concert – provisionally booked for 22nd May 2022 in All Saints’ Church – our first for more than two years.
The pieces we will be singing are:
Haydn’s Te Deum in C – in Latin
Please watch this website for more news about the concert as the term progresses. We do hope you will come and listen, if you are not actually singing in the choir.
While it wasn’t planned, the Suttone Courtenay fireworks celebration of Guy Fawkes Night provided accompaniment for our Friday rehearsal. It was a little challenging to hear in the church since the fireworks were just outside! Happily it only lasted half an hour. Here’s a short extract.
A lot has been happening for the choir recently as things open up after lockdown.
On 18th August we had a tea party to celebrate Patrick Salisbury’s presidency of the All Saints’ Singers after his retirement earlier in the year. Twenty-four of us, both past and present members, met for a lovely tea in the River Room at All Saints’ Church. Our chairman, Sandra Knowles, presented Patrick with a beautiful tumbler engraved with the All Saints’ Singers’ logo. Val Bronsdon, one of the original choristers at the foundation of the choir in 1982, shared memories of the early years and described the tremendous support and inspiration that Patrick had given to the musicians of Sutton Courtenay in both the choir and orchestra. She thanked him for all that he had done for the choir over the last four decades. We also heard that the contributions to his leaving present had funded a prize for Musical Endeavour to be presented to a Sutton Courtenay schoolchild every year for the next 10 years – the Patrick Salisbury Music Prize. Additional support from the Matrix has added to the prize, the winners of which will be decided by the staff at that centre.
We have started singing again! Rehearsals are taking place in All Saints’ Church and we are wearing visors because of Covid restrictions, but we are physically together and enjoying each other’s company. Not everyone has returned as yet, preferring to wait until restrictions are no longer needed, but we do have some new members. We are singing Haydn’s Te Deum in C and Mozart’s Sparrow Mass, ably directed by Sebastian Thomson. We are not planning a concert in November, but certainly plan to have one at Easter if this pandemic continues to submit to the vaccination programme.
It is now more than a year since the choir have been able to meet physically and sing together. It has been a year of significant change, in many ways, and we are pleased to report that we remain buoyant, and confident that we will sing together again before too long.
We have also got to grips with virtual singing practices on Zoom under the remarkable leadership of Sebastian Thomson, our musical director, supported by the IT skills of Ralph Knowles. Sebastian does not hear our voices but is still able to motivate us and help us learn quite difficult sections. These sessions are a poor substitute for our normal practices, but they have kept us in voice and have cemented our friendship.
In the Spring term we sang ‘Thou Wilt Keep Him in Perfect Peace’ by Samuel Sebastian Wesley, ‘Verleih uns Freiden’ (Grant us Thy Peace) by Felix Mendelssohn and ‘Te Deum in C’ by Franz Joseph Haydn; three really beautiful pieces. We chose to sing all in the languages in which they were composed, and for the last two this means singing in German and Latin. It perhaps helped that we could not be heard while we grappled with some of the phrases!
We have planned further Zoom sessions in April and May, 6 weeks of madrigals and short pieces via Zoom, before Boris’ roadmap allows us some freedom, at which point I suspect most of us will want to spread our wings while the weather is warm.
The other activity which Zoom has facilitated are our Quiz evenings for choir members and their families. We had a further one before Easter which was great fun. Zoom has its advantages – being able to sit comfortably at home with a glass or two of booze and no worries about either getting dressed up for the occasion or driving!
Will we be allowed actual practice sessions come the Autumn? We really hope so, and in order to be ready we have planned the pieces we would hope to sing. With all the talk of a possible third wave of infections we have doubts about holding a November concert, but perhaps by next Spring we will be performing again in All Saints’ Church. Fingers crossed!
The start of another difficult year and the choir are still unable to meet and practise together, nor are we able to even plan concerts. Vaccination may allow us to meet physically in the Autumn, but that is not guaranteed – until then we have Zoom!
The choir are now enjoying another term of singing using Zoom, skilfully guided by our musical director, Sebastian Thomson. We are singing Haydn’s ‘Te Deum’ and Mendelssohn’s ‘Verleih uns Frieden’ – two beautiful pieces. Although we cannot hear each other sing there is nevertheless pleasure in singing together and learning new pieces which will extend our repertoire. We also have the fillip of a social chat for a few minutes before practice begins when we can share some light-hearted conversation.
We had three sessions of Carol Singing via Zoom in December which helped foster a festive mood prior to a very different Christmas from usual.
The other social interaction we have enjoyed as a choir has been our excellent Quiz evenings via Zoom. We had one in November and another, a Christmas Quiz, on 18th December. Our quizmaster, Neil Weston, was on fine form, and both evenings went well. We hope that future quizzes will be on the agenda.