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Eton Choral Courses 2014 | October update

From the Director of the Eton Choral Courses, Ralph Allwood MBE:

Thank you so, so much for a magnificent summer of Eton Choral Courses.

After leading a workshop for the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain this summer, John Rutter CBE visited Course Five in Durham to work with the choir. He was moved to write:

“The Eton Choral Course changes lives, opens doors, reveals new horizons. When I come in as a guest to work with the singers, I go away inspired and renewed. Over the years it has become a pillar of our cultural life in Britain, with the wonder of music setting an example for us all.”

We held six Eton Choral Courses this year during July and August, two in Eton, then one in each of Malvern, Cheltenham, Durham and Cambridge. In addition to Evensongs at King’s and St John’s Colleges, Cambridge; and Merton, Queen’s and New Colleges, Oxford, the courses broadcast two services this summer on BBC Radio.

Course students have the great privilege of visits from the best in the business, of course, many of whom have been on courses themselves when young. This year English baritone Roderick Williams and legendary British mezzo Sarah Walker led vocal masterclasses, as did “contemporary hero of British choral music”, Bob Chilcott (The Observer).

Course One was held at Eton College, and welcomed some organ students to join the singers. It was a strong group musically, and we managed to attempt some challenging pieces, including William Walton’s The Twelve. Andrew Nethsingha visited to give a thoughtful two hours of advice on choral singing and help on our pieces. Alexander l’Estrange ran an excellent workshop for the consorts, and we visited Merton College, Oxford to Sing Choral Evensong, directed by Ben Nicholas. It was particularly exciting for the choir to sing with the wonderful new organ in the Chapel.

The choir for Course Two was particularly strong vocally and quite adept at sight reading. Early on in the course we broadcast a live Sunday Worship on BBC Radio 4. Bob Chilcott visited to conduct a rehearsal, in which the choir sang some movements of the Fauré Requiem, as well as a sing-through of Bob’s own Nidaros Jazz Mass. David Lowe held a stimulating vocal masterclass, working with three students on their chosen song repertoire. We were lucky enough to visit King’s College, Cambridge to sing Choral Evensong in the beautiful chapel with Director of Music, Stephen Cleobury. During the day, we also rehearsed in the chapel of Clare College. Greg Beardsell (Deputy Artistic Director of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain) led a magnificent consort workshop, with some strong performances from all groups. On the final day, the choir performed a recital in Eton College Chapel, including performances of major choral works including Mendelssohn’s Hear my Prayer and Parry’s Hear my Words, before retiring to the Concert Hall to give the final Informal Concert.

On 2 August, Course Three gave an impressive choral recital of British secular music at Malvern College, conducted by Course Director Tim Johnson, for the ancient and revered Three Choirs Festival, held this year in Worcester. They sang Choral Evensong at New College, Oxford; conducted by Edward Higginbottom. This was, in fact, Edward’s last service as Director of Music in the Chapel before retiring from the post, and so a particular privilege for us. Roderick Williams visited the course to give a superb vocal masterclass and Ben Sawyer did an excellent job leading the close harmony workshop. The choir also enjoyed inspiring rehearsals with Graham Ross (Director of Music, Clare College Cambridge) and Ralph Allwood. A large range of music was covered, with a particular emphasis on secular music. The repertoire for the week included Rodney Bennett’s A Farewell to Arms for cello and choir, Vaughan Williams’ Three Shakespeare Songs and Elgar’s From the Bavarian Highlands.

Course Four was held in Cheltenham, and had as its central aim a recorded broadcast of Choral Evensong for BBC Radio Three from Cheltenham College Chapel. The Anthem was Nicholas Maw’s masterpiece, One Foot in Eden Still, I Stand. We sang the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis written for King’s College, Cambridge by Herbert Howells, as well as his very challenging Responses. The choir rose to this challenge admirably, with some extremely hard but rewarding work. We sang the six wonderful psalms set for the 27th evening, Psalms 126 to 131. Nigel Short gave a marvellous two-hour rehearsal to the choir, and the revered Sarah Walker gave a two-hour masterclass in which she excelled herself with humour and excellent advice. We also had the privilege of singing Choral Evensong at Queen’s College, Oxford under the expert direction of Dr Owen Rees.

Ben Parry has now for 17 years been directing one Eton course each year. He recently took over as director of National Youth Choirs of Great Britain. Thus the first ever collaboration between NYCGB and the Eton Choral Courses, performing at Hild Bede, Durham on 22 August, with John Rutter CBE.

Course Five in Durham, directed by Jamie Burton, was attended by over sixty singers this year. After a promising first warm up and rehearsal, the staff quickly became aware that there was a need for building the group’s confidence in sight reading. An emphasis was therefore placed on keeping to tempo in full choir, singers making confident mistakes and tackling the repertoire without recourse to note bashing. The results were generally good, and many of the singers reported that they felt their sight reading had improved throughout the week. The detailed work overseen by the consort leaders led to many tangible successes for singers in the smaller groups. The sung graces at mealtimes were well performed, and the lighter repertoire was given a brilliant masterclass by Ben Parry later in the week. This was then performed again at the informal concert with great success and the enjoyment of the singers. The course members were treated to a brilliant masterclass later on in the course by Robert Rice.

The choir’s performances included a short recital in the Castle Hall in Durham. The resonant acoustic and historic ambience was enjoyed by all. Repertoire highlights were Naylor’s Vox Dicentis and Bob Chilcott’s My Prayer, sung alongside Purcell’s Hear my prayer on which his new piece is based. The undoubted highlight of the week was singing a late night compline in a dimly lit Durham Cathedral. The choir enjoyed the challenge of singing plainsong psalms and concentrating on this unfamiliar and mostly sung liturgy. Just before the compline service, the Very Revd Michael Sadgrove (Dean of Durham) hosted a reception in the Deanery, extending a very warm welcome to all staff and students from the Course. The choir also gave a memorable evensong in Hexham Abbey (Blessed City, Heavenly Salem by Bairstow and Noble’s Magnificat and Nunc dimittis in B minor). Towards the end of the week the singers were introduced to new repertoire by John Rutter, and they then performed some of this together with the National Youth Choir which had just begun its residential course up the road. John conducted his own music and masterminded a terrific choral day, with guest artist Melanie Marshall’s beautiful solo singing to accompany. The NYC and ECC singers also performed to each other.

Course Six took place for the first time in St John’s College, Cambridge, with its magnificent chapel. It was meticulously organised by our (sadly) recently-retired Musical Administrator, Francis Williams. We were given a gracious welcome, not least to a reception and formal dinner, presided over by Professor Christopher Dobson (Master of the College) and his wife, Dr Mary Dobson. The legendary Christopher Robinson prepared and conducted Choral Evensong in St John’s, and we gave a recital in Trinity College Chapel. Julie Cooper visited to take an excellent Solo Singing Masterclass. Dr David Skinner, Director of Music at Sidney Sussex College, gave us a wonderfully informative two hours’ work on works by Gibbons and Weelkes. Tom Winpenny did an excellent job of leading the organists’ strand of this Course, having organised opportunities for the organ students to play on a number of Chapel organs in Cambridge.

In addition, there were three Junior Choral Courses this year, for 8 to 15 year olds, separately run. Rodolfus Choir, whose members are drawn from the last few years’ courses, gave recitals at Exeter
Cathedral on July 16th and for this year’s Three Choirs Festival at Worcester on July 30th and a recital entitled ‘Time and its Passing’ at St Dunstan in the West, Fleet Street. At the beginning of the summer, in late June, they formed the basis and majority of a huge chorus which sang Mahler’s Eighth Symphony in the Royal Festival Hall under Esa-Pekka Salonen.

But it is the resident staff on the courses, superb singing teachers and highly musical, motivated and energetic younger staff leading consorts together with the organisers of each course who are the heroes who should be sung. The closely planned structure of each course seems to lead to staff being able to give of their very best, and students being able to learn just what they need for massive improvement, and at the same time make dozens of new friends.

Members of all courses this summer performed a combined concert in Eton School Hall in aid of the Choral Course Foundation on 31 August, including a complete performance of the Fauré Requiem as this summer’s courses drew to a close.

I would like to thank Philip Highy and Martina Prokesova for their highly efficient management of the courses. I am extremely grateful to the Provost and Fellows of Eton, not only for their giving generously of Eton’s resources, but for their enthusiasm.

Ralph Allwood

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Announcements

Course Places | May Update

We have a record number of applicants for the courses this year and two of the weeks (Course 2 and Course 6) are fully subscribed. Places are still available during the rest of the summer, especially for lower voices, and we encourage all singers to apply as soon as possible to secure a place! There are also a small number of bursaries available.

Are you a teacher?
Please do pass this around your departments and to all of your students and encourage them to apply for a week they will never forget, where they will make huge progress, vocally and musically.

Are you a young singer?
If you are unsure whether the courses are right for you, have a look at what previous students have said about them, read about the courses, or have a look at the individual course pages, to see what each week has to offer.

APPLY FOR COURSES 1, 3, 4 AND 5

“I have made some life-long friends and can’t wait to come on a course in the future! It is an experience I will never forget and would recommend to any young, keen singers!”
2013 Student

“I never knew such a high standard of choral singing existed at our age. I now have a love for English choral music that I don’t think I could have gained otherwise.”
2012 student

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Announcements

Course Music Announced

We are thrilled to announce the music for the 2014 Courses. More than ever, we have selected a wide-range of music in varying styles and from various periods, from the early Renaissance to the present day.

The music on each course has its own distinct character and approach. Course 1 and Course 6 feature a large amount of accompanied repertoire for Evensongs at Merton College, Oxford and St John’s College, Cambridge. On Course 3, on top of the music chosen for Evensong at New College, Oxford, we have selected a largely secular programme for our recital in the Three Choirs Festival, featuring settings of Shakespeare by Vaughan Williams and bringing Elgar’s ‘From Bavarian Highlands’ back to his native Worcestershire. Ambitious programmes for BBC broadcasts on Course 2 and Course 4 will provide ample challenge and for Course 5 we have taken the opportunity to include music by local composers Noble, Bairstow and Ebdon at our Evensong in Hexham Abbey.

See our individual course pages to find out more about what you will be singing on your course this summer.

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Announcements, Events

Close-Harmony for Bursaries | The Incognitos: Live in Concert

Many may be familiar with the social and musical benefits of close-harmony singing! For one group, however, there is the hope of further benefit, namely to widen the reach of good singing and choral music to all young people, and allow for as many as are enthusiastic to take part.

On 21 April, The Incognitos will sing a concert at St Gabriel’s, Warwick Square to raise money for the Choral Course Foundation. The Foundation was set up to help all young singers take part in the Eton Choral Courses and their younger counterpart, the Junior Choral Course.

Monday 21 April, 19:30
St Gabriel’s Church, Pimlico, SW1V 2AD
Tickets: £10 (on the door)
You can also donate online.

“I started the Choral Course Foundation 18 months ago, with the aim of helping those join in who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it. Last summer, lots came and were transformed by the courses and I’ve had lots of moving letters.” Ralph Allwood, Founder and Director

Close-harmony singing forms a major part of the Choral Courses, with each course splitting up into small Consorts of 10-12 singers.

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Announcements

Course Places | March Update

A full quota of applications for Course 2 and Course 6 has now been received, with places available on the waiting list. However, places still remain on our other four courses this summer and applicants are encouraged to apply as soon as possible to secure a place:

Course 1 – get a taste of Oxford and Cambridge, working with top Cambridge Director, Andrew Nethsingha, and visiting the beautiful Merton College, Oxford. Course 3 – sing in the prestigious Three Choirs Festival. Course 4 – sing on a BBC Radio 3 broadcast of Choral Evensong. Course 5 – work with world-renowned composer, John Rutter and perform in Durham Castle.

For all enquiries and the most up-to-date information on places, contact the Choral Courses Administrator, on +44 (0)1753 671124.

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Opportunities

National Youth Chamber Choir Fellowship Programme

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Opportunities

Choral Awards | King’s Ely

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King’s Ely Sixth Form Choral Scholarships in partnership with Ely Cathedral

For the first time from September 2014, King’s Ely is offering a unique Male Sixth Form Choral Scholarship opportunity giving students with a passion for choral music the chance to sing in one of the world’s finest cathedrals. They will receive intensive, specialist musical and academic training and the opportunity to interact and perform with professional singers, organists and conductors on a daily basis. They will gain the experience and expertise needed to progress on to university choral scholarships and professional musical careers.

For these prized and prestigious male scholarships, we are looking for musically-gifted countertenors, tenors and basses.

Choral Scholars receive a remission of 50% of boarding fees applicable at the time. Further assistance may be available, according to the means of parents. Click here for more information.

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Opportunities

Organ Scholarship

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St Sepulchre-Without-Newgate, the National Musiciansʼ Church in the heart of the City of London, is looking to appoint an Organ Scholar for 2014-15. The Organ Scholar will be required to accompany the churchʼs professional choir at Evensong and Holy Communion services on Tuesday Evenings during term time, in addition to other special services. For more details and for an application form, email music@stsepulchres.org.

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Opportunities

Gareth Malone’s Voices

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Gareth is auditioning for deputies for his choir, Voices, on Friday 21 November at the Royal Academy of Music, Marylebone Road, London NW1. Please send CV/biog/photo to futurechoir@garethmalone.com

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Opportunities

Organ Scholarship | Isle of Man Cathedral

St German

St German’s Cathedral, Peel, Isle of Man invites applications for the Organ Scholarship / Acting Assistant (AA) at the Cathedral tenable for one year from September 2015. The scholarship is currently under review but will be in the region of £4,000 per annum, an additional £1,000 has also been reserved as a travel subsidy. The position includes rent free accommodation. Applications to: The Music desk, The Cathedral office, Albany Road, Peel, IM5 1JS, Isle of Man, together with the names, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses of two referees, one of whom should be able to attest to your suitability for the award. All applications will be acknowledged and short-listed candidates invited for an interview. Any offer of the scholarship is conditional on satisfactory DBS and security clearances. Please feel free to contact Dr Peter Litman on music@cathedral.im or 07624 226356 for an informal discussion about the position.

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Articles

Cambridge Choral Course

Masterclass at St John's

Last week, Course 6 was held at St John’s College, Cambridge. This was the eighth choral course to be held in Cambridge but the first at St John’s, with courses previously held at neighbouring Trinity College.

Cambridge News reported on the course.

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Opportunities

Choral Scholarships | Old Royal Naval College Chapel

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A bass and a tenor Choral Scholar are needed for the excellent choir at the Old Royal Naval College Chapel in Greenwich, conducted by Ralph Allwood. These singers would join Choral Scholars from Trinity Laban conservatoire. The commitment is Sunday mornings and Monday evenings during term time plus occasional extra services. The Scholarship value is £1,200 for the year, and there are various extra concerts and services in addition to this. Enquiries are welcome, even from those who won’t know about availability until the end of August. For more information or an informal discussion, email Ralph Allwood: ralph@ralphallwood.com

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Broadcasts

BBC Radio 4 Broadcast

BBC Radio 4

On Sunday 13 July, course two, directed by Ben Parry, took part in a live broadcast of ‘Sunday Worship’ on BBC Radio 4, from Eton College Chapel. You can listen to the service on BBC iPlayer until Sunday 20 July.

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Training

University of Cambridge Vocal Assessment Days

Bridge of Sighs Matt Thomas

The University of Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Choral Awards Scheme Vocal Assessment Days are held in September/October in order to provide informal advice on the suitability of your voice and experience for the varying demands of the choirs at Colleges that offer choral awards as part of the Inter-Collegiate Choral Awards Competition. The deadline to apply is Sept 15. More information is available here.

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Events

Reunion and Concert at Eton College

Choral Course Foundation

We will be inviting back past members of all courses in 2014 for a reunion event on 31 August  - a perfect opportunity to sum up a brilliant summer of music-making and a chance to see friends made during the courses. Course 6 will travel back to Choral Courses HQ for this special concert in Eton College’s magnificent School Hall.

The workshop and concert will be raising money for the Choral Course Foundation to enable more and more young singers to attend the Choral Courses regardless of financial situation.

For further details, please click here.

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Get some ideas for gap year opportunities here.

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