Greetings from The Man in the Front

How is everyone doing ‘out there’? I hope you’re keeping body and soul together and adjusting to the change of pace and (lack of) activities demanded of us at this awful time. I’m keeping busy, but it would be SO nice to leave the house and do something in addition to shopping, walking the dog and exercising! I have been cycling, and the kayak is out of storage ready to launch on the canal – I can’t really complain. I would look for teddy bears but there are none to be found in Cropredy, unlike Ascott and Stourton! To help Brian’s list of titles with ‘bear’ puns, I googled ‘best songs with bear in the title’. Out of 67, the most worthy was the recitative from the Messiah: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son” Really?! Still, a tenuous link for those of you learning Messiah for May, eh?

I am thinking of you all, particularly when Wednesday evenings hove into view and especially this week as it was to be our concert on Saturday 😔. I wonder how the Rossini would have gone? Brilliantly of course! We would have loved the quirkiness of the harmonium and marvelled at Anne Pages amazing playing. We would have given Stewart Taylor (piano) a hero’s welcome as he was The Man in the Front until 1997 and probably noticed, as he feared, that his DJ is now a bit on the tight side. We’d have been overwhelmed by the brilliant soloists – so good and so young! You would all have been wowed by your success and just how confident you felt compared with Belshazzar’ Feast, and definitely hungry for more. My prognostications lead me to suspect that post concert, apart from ‘congratulations’, I would be saying: The Kyrie opening really set the standard, with amazing dynamics, the cum sancto was great but not as taut as in the music festival and the Et vitam on page 150 just ripped along with a crazy ‘Amens’ at the end. The Agnus dei was to die for, so expressive, and pages 209/10 were definitely the gratification so long deferred from the beginning, well done.
Let’s keep this script for October, or whenever the concert happens. It will feel all the more exciting as our lives will have seemed so impoverished, and occupying a beautiful church with hundreds other people, some closer than 2m (keep selling those tix eh?!) will feel surreal.

I am delighted to hear that quite a few members are participating in some of the online singing opportunities, that’s great. I know a few are involved in The Messiah. Although it must feel odd to be singing on your own and not to hear the rest of the choir (some might think this a good thing!), it can be quite moving to know that you are connecting in a shared endeavour with others and part of something bigger. Keeping that spirit alive is so important; good luck to everyone involved. I have been dipping into Gareth Malone’s sessions – interesting. They may not challenge you in ways you are used to but The Quarantine Choir and the Sofa Singers might. One significant advantage of this online collective singing of course is that you develop a very different relationship with the The Man in the Front. Someone pointed out that they find one of the new conductors to be wonderful because “he never tells us off for not looking….and he never tells the basses off for getting behind” . Touché – let’s call that 15 all!

I’d like to leave you with this delightful Irish Blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

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Greetings from The Man At The Front

Hello everyone. I’m delighted to do my first blog post on the new CNCS website and I hope many will follow in the months ahead. What strange times we are in. I miss you all and feel empty without our Wednesday work outs. I can’t believe we have only missed two rehearsals since our ‘lock down’, but it is comforting to know that the rehearsal on March 11 was one of the most productive and energetic for a long time, so a fond memory to comfort us through the grizzly times until we meet again. There will be more and there WILL be a performance of the Rossini, whenever it comes.

At our last rehearsal we were buoyed by the ‘distinction’ awarded at the Music Festival on the previous Saturday – bravissimo! A great performance and everyone who sang it should be proud of a fine achievement – thank you. Phrases such as ‘a good blend’, ‘such relaxed enthusiasm matched with precision’, ‘rhythmically alert’ and ‘generous warm-hearted singing’ peppered the adjudicator’s comments.

Particularly noteworthy was You do watch’. I found this a pleasant surprise as it’s not something with which I am familiar. But it’s true, apparently, officially documented by an adjudicator. I accept that I am wrong to berate you for failing to look at me sufficiently in rehearsals and occasionally in concert and I’m truly sorry. I now doubt myself. Perhaps it’s just coincidence every Wednesday that we simply miss each other – you watch when I’m looking at my score, or maybe I blink and miss it? Anyway, no matter, you do watch and that’s official. Well done. Thank you.

Thinking ahead, to the good times when we are reunited, I wonder if we could come to an arrangement, and do it again? Maybe we could put in place a phased programme, starting with a reunion to relive past glory, on March 7th 2021 – ‘a Watch day’ perhaps? Once we are familiar with the process and our neck muscles are fully active, the training could increase so we achieve this once a month, preferably on a Wednesday evening, although I wouldn’t be that prescriptive. Ambitious though it sounds, the next stage would then be a weekly watch. If successful, and sufficiently coordinated with the rehearsal, we could somehow synchronise the watching quite frequently with some instruction from The Man At The Front  – loud bellowing perhaps? I’m aware of the limitations this will have in concert. Whatever the journey, I am supremely confident that with dedication over time we can make this work, resulting in fine performances.

I would normally be leaving home for a rehearsal about now – sad to be staying in and a strange feeling not to have any clue as to when we will next sing together. I’ve just spent 30 minutes watching Gareth Malone lead his third Great British Home Chorus session on youtube. Nick forwarded the link It’s fun and GM does quite a good job. You might like to try something completely different and challenging which will keep you singing and give your body/brain a work out, look at The material comes from a book called Singing games and rhymes for ages 9 to 99. I challenge you to get one of the songs and actions completely perfect!!

Technology is marvellous and it’s brilliant that we can all stay connected in some way and I hope you are finding satisfying connections, whether musical or not. There is nothing to beat being together in the same room, sharing a song and synchronising our hearts – technology will never replace that.

Sorry to over-work the ‘watching’ gag by the way, but as it is our watchword of the day I will end by saying watch out for each other and stay well.

Best wishes from The Man At The Front 

Continue Reading Greetings

What We Will Do On 04.03.20

What we will do on 04.03.20

Apologies for delay in this posting.

Important notices:

*** Rehearsal on THURSDAY MARCH 26 7.30 in the Town Hall instead of Wednesday 25th

*** Music Festival choral class on Saturday March 7 at 1.45

Wednesday’s rehearsal will look like this:

Ben Nicholls will introduce us to the new website! Before the break we will rehearse pages 143-149 and the sanctus (p180)

After the break the MUSIC FESTIVAL SINGERS will sort out performing positions then sing through the Holly and Ivy and Cum sancto

What we will do on 11.03.20

Et resurrexit pages 150-173 and Agnus dei (page 196)

Continue Reading What We Will Do On 04.03.20

What We Will Do 05.02.20

Great rehearsal again everyone – thank you. We looked at the Credo, Agnus dei and sang through the Cum sancto after working on pages 90-93.

What we will do on 12.02.20

We will begin the rehearsal by revising The Holly and the Ivy for the music festival. No music required, words will be provided.

Gloria (p19); Et resurrexit pages 150-173 and sing through the Cum sancto

GENERAL NOTICES: There is NO rehearsal on the 19th (half term).

The Music festival class is on Saturday 7 March in the afternoon – details to follow.

The FRIENDS’ASSOCIATION is holding an informal afternoon on Sunday 29 March at which Peter and fellow conductor Roger Pinsent will do a live ‘chat’ about the conductor’s ‘art’ and how to shepherd 90 singers through choral masterpieces. This will be interactive, great fun and will introduce the audience to the Rossini in preparation for the concert on April 4.

There will be a dress rehearsal in Deddington on Friday April 3 

 What we will do on26.02.20 

Kyrie, Et resurrexit (pages 129-149) and Cum sancto

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What We Did On 29.01.20

Great rehearsal, thanks everyone. We covered the work listed for last week. There is a very good choral sound developing with matching vowel sounds. The warm ups are helping to create this, so use them when practising (if you can remember them!).

We briefly discussed the importance of pencil use and shared different ways people notate reminders to themselves. It’s essential that requests from the conductor (such as breath marks) are noted, but don’t overdo them and keep the marks light (2B is ideal) as it makes erasing before returning the scores a lot easier!

What we will do on 05.02.20

Cum sancto – starting with pages 90-93 then the whole movement.

Credo p106 (recap)

Agnus dei p196 (NEW)

Kyrie focusing on the Christe (p9/10)

Continue Reading What We Did On 29.01.20

What We Did On 22.01.20

Great rehearsal everyone, thank you. We covered Cume Sancto pages 94-105. BASSES please shorten the ‘-men’ in bars 2 & 4 on page 103 (to match bar 6). SOPRANOS be careful bottom page 94 – you sing below the altos! We also pretty much learnt the Sanctus (p 180) – a lovely rich melody, bringing to mind a romantic Gondolier! 

The Nail Parlour was opened to explore Time Signatures and introduced the American system for naming note lengths – very sensibly Whole (Semibreve), Half (Minim), Quarter (Crotchet), Eighth (Quaver) and Sixteenth (Semiquaver). 

Next week’s Parlour session: Pencils – What’s the point? – considering effective ways of marking your scores. Um….please bring one!

What we will do on 29.01.20

Kyrie; Credo (p106); Sanctus recap (p180)

Continue Reading What We Did On 22.01.20

What We Will Do On 22.01.20

Cum sancto pages 94-105

Sanctus pages 180-184 (What does ‘tutti’ mean?)

Possible recap of Kyrie and opening of Cum sancto

Re: Peter’s ‘nail’ parlour There is a small correction to make from last week about ‘-issimo’. Well done if you spotted my mistake!

This week: A brief History of Time (signatures)

Continue Reading What We Will Do On 22.01.20

Happy New Year!

Welcome back and thank you all for a splendid Christmas concert, crowning a very ambitious and exciting year for the choir.

A warm welcome to new members who joined this week, I hope you enjoy singing with us. Please talk to me if you have any challenges or concerns, we’d like to you to be happy and confident!

Rehearsals for making the music happen and preparing a performance. The more everyone can do independently to learn their notes the better, so please do what you can. The following are helpful:

* Listen to a recording and follow with your score. This will help the ‘bigger picture’ when you rehearse.

Choraline is the clearest – each voice is represented by a different instrument and the rehearsal figures and entries are indicated by voice:

Cyberbass is also good, with the advantage of being able to alter the speed of the music – handy for the fast movements! It is also FREE. However, the sound is all electronic and the individual parts are not quite so clear – your call!

*** If you are able to play or sing your own part – do it, lots!

 Kyrie and Christe pages 2 – 18

Good practice and self help: Bring a pencil to rehearsals – we will examine signs/symbols that are useful for reminding you about musical expectations as you are singing – many are not ever printed in the score. We will also cover some basic music theory on our travels…..

Kyrie pages 2-18

Cum sancto pages 77-90

Cum sancto pages 77-90

Continue Reading Happy New Year!

Thus Spoke the Choir!

Congratulations everyone for a brilliant performance of Belshazzar’s Feast in Cheltenham last Sunday and thank you ALL for believing in this project and working SO hard to make it happen. You can be very proud of this achievement – one of the toughest pieces in the choral repertoire, rarely attempted by amateur community choirs. You have my full admiration.

We can now relax a little as we prepare for the Christmas programme on December 21st. Thank you Chris for taking this week’s rehearsal and on your debut as accompanist and assistant conductor! Welcome aboard, now with your own cabin,


From the booklet: Ring the bells, Holly and the Ivy (folk version), Bleak midwinter & Joy to the world

On Christmas Night – Chilcott score – various movements

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Welcome Back to the Feast!

It’s September already and we resume our hard work on Belshazzar’s Feast next Wednesday 4th. A warm welcome back to everyone and anyone joining us new this term. We have NINE rehearsals before the concert in November plus the exciting Singing Workshop with Robert Dean on October 5.

Each week we will tackle a new section, consolidate recent work, and as time allows, sing through something from last term to stir the memory!

Score page numbers – Please remember that we are using two OUP editions – the new edition (2007) is the larger of the two. All PAGE REFERENCES are indicated with the large score nos first, with the small score numbers in brackets.

HERE ARE THE SECTIONS REHEARSED THOROUGHLY IN MAY & JUNE:  Pages 11-18 (12-19), Pages 19-31 (20-31), Pages 42-55 (40-53), Pages 76-83 (70-79), Pages 103-107 (98-102)  48 pages (out of a total 121!!)


Recap In Babylon Pages 25-31 (small score pages 26-31), then look at Babylon city Pages 58-65 (small score pages 55-61). Note that the music is almost exactly the same, differing only towards the end.

Sing aloud, starting page 76 (small score page 70) and focusing on new material from page 79 (74) to page 83 (79). Finally, the short section pages 87/88 (83/85). We will attempt to join all of this up, including the 2-choir section pages 83 to 86 (79-82)!


By the waters of Babylon Pages 3 to 6 (both scores) then pages 7 to 10 (6-11).

Sing aloud Pages 120 to end (111 to end)

Recap Daughters of Babylon Pages 19-24 (20-25)


We will start with SECTIONALS: Tenors & Basses will tackle the opening Pages 1/2 which, although short, must be very dramatic! In the concert these pages must be sung from memory please, which will add to the drama and impact. Sopranos & Altos will look at While the kings Pages 89 to 97 (85-92)

Together we will then look at a 2-choir section on pages 32 to 38 (31-38)

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