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.
Over the last year we found ourselves grappling with Zoom – trying to keep ourselves in voice, and the spirit of the choir alive, by singing together. Those of us who joined the group certainly enjoyed the experience, but we missed those who opted out. Zoom choir practices can never hope to replace the joy of making music and singing together in the same physical space and we are looking forward to being able to do that again soon.
During our Summer Term, a short six weeks in April and May, we sang a number of delightful pieces led by Sebastian Thomson, our Music Director:
‘The Long Day Closes’ by Sullivan
‘Crossing the Bar’ by Parry
‘Now is the Month of Maying’ by Morley
‘Pastyme with Good Company’ by Henry VIII
‘Oh Lord, in Thee is All my Trust’ by Tallis.
Different from our usual choral pieces, these were shorter and easier to learn, giving us a heady sense of achievement and pleasure in those few weeks.
It is now summer and, unfortunately, Covid is still having a big impact on the way we are leading our lives, even though we are out of lockdown. The Committee is drawing up plans to start rehearsals again in September, but are mindful of the continuing need to keep each other safe. We hope that we do not have to return to Zoom sessions.
Unfortunately, we can’t yet decide about a concert in 2021 due to the continuing prevalence of Covid infections, but remain hopeful that we will be back to normal soon.
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.
We are having three Christmas Zoom singing sessions for the three weeks from 27th November at the cost of £10. These are open to anyone who would like to join us. They run from 7:15 to 8:30 pm on a Friday evening. We will be concentrating on Christmas carols from Carols for Choirs Vols. 1 and 2, so the songs will be familiar. Have no fear that anyone will criticise your voice – you will be muted and will be singing to yourself at home, but in the jovial company of others on Zoom. Please join us.
Unfortunately, the All Saints’ Singers have not been able to meet in person during the Covid crisis, but, not to be outdone, a stalwart group have been singing with our music director, Sebastian Thomson, using Zoom.
We have enjoyed getting to grips with Brahms’ ‘How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place’, Vivaldi’s Credo RV 591 and Mendelssohn’s Te Deum and look forward to tackling more beautiful choral works next term.
In addition, we are having three sessions singing Christmas carols and anthems in the run-up to Christmas.
Singing on Zoom has a few drawbacks, the main one being the inability to hear the sound of our voices together as a choir. Because of differences in timing between different internet systems using Zoom it is impossible to sing together. We therefore sit in the comfort of our own home and sing to ourselves. We hear the piano and are ably guided by Sebastian, and we accompany recordings of the pieces, but our voices are muted. Advantages include the fact that mistakes go unnoticed and, of course, refreshments can include wine or a sneaky gin and tonic, which helps enormously. More than that, we have the pleasure of a few minutes’ social interaction prior to the singing and that is helping raise our spirits and ensuring a sense of community.
Nothing will replace the joy of singing together as a choir, but it will be many months before we will be able to do that safely, and for some of us our Zoom sessions are the next best thing.
As soon as we are able to meet we will be working towards concerts. We will keep you posted.
The impact of Covid on choirs has been significant because singing is deemed to carry a substantial risk of droplet and aerosol dispersal, and thus the spread of Covid19. Even in Glyndebourne the singers have to be nine foot apart! Therefore, unfortunately, we are unable to plan any concerts for the immediate future. But please be assured that although we are unable to meet physically we are trying to keep ourselves in voice by holding virtual choir meetings in the form of Zoom sessions with our choirmaster, Sebastian Thomson. So far we have had two sessions and plan ten more over the autumn term. We have chosen two delightful pieces, Brahms’ ‘How lovely is thy dwelling place’ and Vivaldi’s Credo R.V. 591, to add to our repertoire.
As soon as the Covid pandemic allows us we will start planning our next concert. We will keep all those subscribing to our newsletter up to date with future plans.