Choral Evensong at Canterbury Cathedral, 16th December
over half the Senior Choir took part in this event. Richard was determined that
the sound should be young and fresh, particularly as Cathedral Choristers are
typically aged between about 8 and 14. Therefore the youngest members of the Senior
Choir were invited, although some were not available as several schools had not
broken up by then. And the available space in the choir stalls meant that a maximum
of about 24 could be accommodated, including altos.
Our principal contact
at Canterbury is David Flood, the Organist and Master of the Choristers. He is
already a strong supporter of OYC, having taken a workshop for the Seniors followed
by Choral Evensong at Iffley Church in January 2004 and in March having attended
our House of Lords concert. In October last year he visited the Boy's Choir to
give them an idea of what a Chorister's life involves. We are grateful to David
that he finds the time in an extremely busy schedule to take such an active interest
in our organisation - indeed he played the organ for us on the day.
whole experience of a Cathedral and its workings was a new one to many of the
girls who took part, but they took it on board admirably and the service ran smoothly.
I was sitting in the congregation and I felt proud of them: they made a beautiful
sound and the impression was that they were well used to singing Choral Evensong.
I was mindful of the fact that we were the last visiting choir before Christmas
and comparisons could be drawn between us and the resident Cathedral Choir which
was singing the next day and is among the finest in the world. (I say this as
a completely unbiased parent of a Canterbury chorister!). The girls particularly
enjoyed singing in such a vast space - the cathedral is an awesome place with
a wonderful atmosphere.
Music for the well-attended service included the
introit Steal away by Tippett, the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in A by
Stanford, and the Littlemore Tractus by Arvo Pärt.
from Canterbury was very positive; one of the men who sang for us, Neil Wright,
is organist at Farnborough Abbey and was sufficiently impressed to invite us to
sing there in the near future. I am sure we will also be welcome to pay a return
visit to Canterbury. We are grateful to the Dean and Chapter for their hospitality,
the men who were drawn from Oxford and Canterbury environs, Camilla and Mike for
driving minibuses, Adrian for supplying them free of charge and everyone who played
a supporting role, not least the families who braved the M25 to attend.
Martin-Smith, Associate Director, February 2005
Birtill - song recital at Holywell Music Room
Katie Birtill, our Head Girl, gave a song recital to an enthusiastic audience
at the Holywell Music Room in Oxford (the world's oldest purpose-built music room)
on Friday 19th November at 7.30pm.
Katie has won many prizes at music
festivals and has been a member of OGC for nine years. She is a student at Aylesbury
High School, studies singing with Richard Vendome and has
AB grade 8 with distinction, and is now preparing for the DipABRSM diploma. She
assists with our junior choirs and enjoys a wide range of music, including opera
and jazz, and is an accomplished pianist. She will be singing the lead role is
our July 2005 production of Purcell's Dido and Æneas. Like several
of our previous head girls, Katie hopes to study medicine and become a doctor.
The programme included Mozart's "Alleluia", Puccini's "O
mio babbino caro" and favorites by Gershwin, as well as music by Purcell,
Bach, Vivaldi, Donizetti, Berlioz, Fauré, Chausson and Britten. Katie sang
two encores by Gershwin - "It ain't necessarily so" and "They can't
take that away from me"
White lecture - "Vivaldi - true or false"
Micky White, archivist
of the Pietà, the church in Venice where Vivaldi worked for most of his life,
gave a lecture to the Oxford Italian Association (TOIA) at St Anne's College,
Oxford, on Wednesday 1st December (read
Micky is a former sports photographer who now lives
in Venice and devotes her time to working with original documents held at the
Pietà. These give us a thorough and comprehensive picture of the day-to-day life
of this special institution during the 18th century, the heyday of its female
Her lecture presented new findings about Vivaldi, questioning
some of the commonly-held beliefs about the Pietà, and was accompanied by musical
examples taken from our recent visit to Venice. demonstrating his early and late
Pietà styles, "Laetatus sum" (1714) and "Beatus vir" (1739).
at La Pietà, 2004
the church of La Pietà in Venice on Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st October 2004
the Oxford Girls' Choir and Oxford Baroque Ensemble presented the music of Vivaldi
as it was heard there in the 1730s. The second concert also included music by
Porpora (1745) and Pampani (1756). Despite the floods of that weekend, the church
was full for both events.
A new museum of musical instruments used by
Vivaldi at La Pietà has recently opened, and a lot of research is going
on into the Venetian female musical tradition at the moment. The ubiquitous term
Figlie di coro has led people mistakenly to conclude that this music was
performed by "girls", but research by archivist Micky White reveals that the effective
age range of the singers was 11-76! We tried to recreate the sonority of the Vivaldi's
choir by adding mature voices to those of the girls, especially in the alto department.
and studied Italian "voice placing" with the help of Italian members of our choir.
Vivaldi and his Figlie di Choro
have a fuller understanding of this fascinating repertoire one must understand
what the Pietà was, and the context in which Vivaldi wrote his music for this
In the 18th century there were four Ospedali, each
with a different function: the Mendicanti housed the poor, specially the
nobles who had fallen on hard times, the homeless, beggars, war wounded, etc.,
the Ospedaletto, for orphans, the Incurabili for those with incurable
diseases, and the Pietà.
The Ospedale della Pietà was for
abandoned and unwanted babies, and not as is often wrongly described a school
for girls or a convent. The babies were brought in for various reasons, some found
by the roadside or floating in the canals, some from families too poor to bring
them up, or whose mothers had no milk, but most were children born through prostitution.
were placed in foster homes for the first six years, and then returned to the
Pietà. The girls (right) had three options: they married, or became nuns, or stayed
at the Pietà for the rest of their lives. There were two groups, the Figlie
di Comun and the Figlie di Coro (or Choro), non-musicians and
musicians. The boys (left) were given training in stone cutting, weaving, and
shoe making, and left equipped with a skill at the age of 16.
started his career at the Pietà as Maestro di Violin in September 1703,
aged 25, six months after being ordained a priest. In 1714 he was invited to succeed
Francesco Gasparini as Maestro di Choro, but refused, not wishing to be
confined. A short time later he settled for the title of Maestro dei Concerti,
a post created specially for him. It was during this period as "acting" Maestro
di Choro that he wrote his first sacred works, which were performed in the
high choir lofts behind the grills, heard and not seen. The female basses were
reinforced by the orchestral cellos. We even know which singers sang the solos:
their names are written on the music.
© Micky White 2004
of officers and committee 2004-5
At the Annual General Meeting held on 19 June 2004 the
following were elected:
Chairman - Tim Gardam
Secretary - Juli
Treasurer - Catherine Dilnot
Committee - Philip Wilkinson, Anna
Orlowska, Louise Gullifer
co-opted - Johanna Stephenson
Aesop's Fables, by John Whittaker
performed by Oxford Boys' Choir and Oxford Girls' Junior Choir, with the Aesop
Ensemble, at Mansfield College, Oxford, 2nd May 2004.
little we know about the life of Aesop is shrouded in obscurity. Historical opinion
suggests the following facts. He was probably born in about the year 620 B.C.
He was a slave by birth and served two masters - Xanthus and Jeadmon - inhabitants
of Samos in Greece. It was the latter who gave him his freedom as a reward for
his learning and wit. Once a free man, Aesop elevated himself into a high position
in society, and mixed with the greatest philosophers and thinkers of the day.
He became known for his stories which he used as a vehicle for his knowledge and
insights into solving the many problems and dilemmas of everyday life.
travels took him to Sardis where in recognition of his diplomatic skills, he was
employed as an ambassador for the king. Unfortunately it was on one of his many
diplomatic visits to the other nearby Greek city-states which brought about the
occasion of his death. He was sent to Delphi with a large sum of gold to be given
to the citizens. However when he arrived, he was so upset at their greediness
and miserliness, that he decided to send the money back to his master. The citizens
of Delphi were so enraged when they found out what he had done, that they executed
Aesop as a common criminal. However the memory of Aesop lives on in the many stories
that are attributed to him - and perhaps as human nature has not changed very
much in all the centuries, we can still learn a lesson or two from them today....
This choral work for childrens' voices incorporates some of the most
famous of Aesop's Fables. Six fables are featured. They are: The Lion and the
Mouse The Fox and the Crow The Greedy Dog The Vain Jackdaw The Town Mouse and
the Country Mouse The Tortoise and the Hare To begin the work we also meet Aesop
(baritone) who introduces himself and his stories. The childrens'choir is accompanied
by a small chamber group of 8 musicians (flute, 2 clarinets, horn, bassoon, oboe,
double-bass and percussion). The lyrics are by Alf Williams (1945-2001) a Liverpool-based
author, with whom the composer collaborated on several musical projects, including
a short operetta for young children 'The Selfish Giant" performed at the Liverpool
Garden Festival. The first performance is dedicated to Helen Williams.
at the House of Lords, 2004
patrons Lord and Lady Berkeley held a reception in the Cholmondeley Room at the
House of Lords on Friday 26 March, in support of the choir's forthcoming visit
As well as numbers by our regular jazz soloists, the programme
included such favourites as Somebody loves me, Girl from Ipanema, My baby just
cares for me, Ain't misbehavin', What can I do to make you love me, Can't help
lovin' dat man, Big yellow taxi and Good Vibrations. We also heard
the first performance of Sutra by Kenneth Leaper, accompanied on the flute
by Daisy Venables, and were treated to Colin Good's dazzling interpretation of
Bix Beiderbecke's In a mist. [full
Hildegard, vol. 3 - released March 2004
complete HILDEGARD OF BINGEN:
3) "O nobilissima viriditas", SINFONYE and Oxford Girls'
Choir dir. Stevie Wishart, CD Celestial Harmonies 13129-2 [see
also newletter 2002]
"Ascention" by Edward Dudley Hughes
(John Donne, La Corona, 1618), part of our
20th anniversary recording project, is conducted by Penelope Martin Smith, with
Richard Vendome (organ). It was written in memory of the Rev Dr David Nicholls,
the composer's uncle, and first performed by OGC at his Thanksgiving
Service in St George's, Bloomsbury,
London, on 21st September 1996.
the last, and everlasting day,
Joy at the uprising of this Sunne, and
Yee whose just teares, or tribulation
Have purely washt, or burnt
your drossie clay;
Behold the Highest, parting hence away,
darke clouds, which hee treads upon,
Nor doth hee by ascending, show alone,
But first hee, and hee first enters the way.
O strong Ramme, which hast
batter'd heaven for mee,
Mild Lambe, which with thy blood, hast mark'd
Bright Torch, which shin'st that I the way may see
thy owne blood quench thy owne just wrath,
And if thy holy Spirit, my Muse
Deigne at my hands this crown of prayer and praise.