Check out this informal interview with 3 students that are involved in the Genesis 16 program. You will hear from Alex (left), Laurel (center), and Dave (right). They discuss their thoughts about choral music and singing.
The AESTHETIC of Choral sound
The course so far with the Genesis 16 has been (to use a UK term) absolutely brilliant! I feel as if the leaders of the program, Harry Christophers and Eamonn Dougan, are speaking my language of what the choral sound should be at all times. The two work in tandem seamlessly. Where Harry is superb at inflection of musical line and creating nuance, Eamonn truly understands the vocal technique and how to train the choral singers to achieve that desired aesthetic. I have learned so much in just two days, I can not imagine how much I will learn by the end of the course. My head may explode. Needless to say, I am excited to dig in with all of you wonderful students at WHS!
The students in the program are young (ages 18 - 23... ok, young to me), talented and eager to grow and learn. These students have auditioned for the program (many have auditioned several times and just finally got it - never give up!) and have enrolled in an intensive study of choral music over a course of a year. The time at Magdalen College, Oxford is the kick off week long intensive course. Throughout the year they will meet on weekends occasional to continue to work with one another. Most of these students are in Uni (college/university) so they have to balance their busy lives at college with the Genesis 16 program. Keep in mind, that these students are not the best of the best singers from across the UK. These students are a step down. Why? The top young singers in the UK are getting superb musical training as singers and choristers, its the students like the ones involved the Genesis 16 program that need this unique experience because these students are the future of choral singing in the UK and in Europe. These are the students that will be educating the future musicians as well. They need the investment! The Genesis 16 program is completely free to those students accepted, the catch, you must be from the UK (sorry, Americans!).
An insider's tour of new college!
If the first three photos look oddly familiar, it is because the Cloisters at New College of the University of Oxford were used in the Harry Potter series. (see picture) As Harry, Eamonn, and I were walking and chatting we passed by New College, where Eamonn did his studies at "Uni." Naturally, he said, "Hey, shall we have a look? I think my Scout is still here." (At Oxford, each college has Scouts. These are typically men who come from a family of Scouts. Scouts are, in many ways, are father figures to students. In the UK, students usually go away from home for the first time when they go to Uni. Naturally, during their time they develop these excellent relationships with the Scouts. The Scouts are usually found at the gate of each college and will do general house cleaning, like making beds, emptying trash, etc... but often take a more "pastoral" role and begin looking out for the students. Harry told me of a time where one of his scouts at Magdalen College (at Oxford) (oh, and Magdalen is pronounced Maudlin, BTWs) once brought him food for several days to his own room because Harry was so ill. Any way, back tracking, Eamonn knew the scout on duty at New College and got us in! He took us on a private tour of parts of New College. We got to see the choristers room where the young boys who sing in the choir (ages 9 - 14) practice, we got to see the chapel, the alter, and an El Greco original painting. How cool!?
CLICK on the first picture for a slideshow that includes descriptions of a majority of the photos. Navigate using the arrows that appear on the left and right margins of each photograph. Enjoy! These pictures are not as good as the ones below since they are from my iPhone.
Some of you have asked me what the repertoire will be while I am at Oxford. Please read below! Some of this music will be familiar to you!
Handel - For unto us a child is born from MESSIAH
Palestrina - Magnificat Quarti toni
Palestrina - Gloria from Missa Papae Marcelli
Josquin - Gaude Virgo
Faure - Requiem
Martin - Agnus Dei from Requiem
Poulenc - Tristis est anima
Poulenc - Quem vidistis pastores (from Christmas motets)
Melgas - Salve Regina
Byrd - Ave verum corpus
Britten - Flower Songs: No.1 & 2 (To Daffodils & The Succession of Four Sweet Months) <CLICK HERE> for a gorgeous recording link.
Anerio - Magnificat a8 -
Howells - Salve Regina
Finzi - Seven Poems of Robert Bridges: No.1 & 3 (I Praise the Tender Flower & My Spirit Sang All Day)
Rose - Responses
The 1st YouTube Video below is about Allegri's Miserere. Harry Christophers (the amazing conductor of The Sixteen) discusses its historical significance and evolution. The 2nd YouTube Video is of the entire piece with the music scrolling so you can follow along. This is The Sixteen performing the piece. The piece's full name "Miserere mei, Deus" (Latin: "Have mercy on me, O God") is by Italian composer Gregorio Allegri. This is a setting of Psalm 51 (50) composed during the reign of Pope Urban VIII, probably during the 1630s, for use in the Sistine Chapel during matins, as part of the exclusive Tenebrae service on Wednesday and Friday of Holy Week. The service would start usually around 3AM, and during the ritual, candles would be extinguished, one by one, until one remained alight and hidden. Allegri composed his setting of the Miserere for the final act within the first lesson of the Tenebrae service. Some of you may recognize this piece from the King's College Choir April Fools Prank video I showed you last year. Just in case you forgot about the video, I posted it too as the 3rd YouTube Video of this blog post.
I am excited to head to Oxford in under a week's time! I leave Saturday night at 10:30 pm and will arrive in London at 10:30 am on Sunday. Jet lag here I come! The program I am working with is called the Genesis Sixteen Program. <CLICK HERE> to learn more about the program. The Sixteen is a world renowned professional choir and period instrument orchestra founded by Harry Christophers in the 1970s. To learn more about the Sixteen <CLICK HERE>
The repertoire for the course includes 18 songs for the full chorus (both the Sixteen and the young artists selected to participate, ages 19 - 22). Some of the pieces include Handel's "For Unto Us A Child is Born," Palestrina, Faure's Requiem, "Ave verum corpus" by William Byrd, Gerald Finzi's "My Spirit Sang All Day," and selections from Benjamin Britten's "Flower Songs."
The course is taking place at the Magdalen College at Oxford University (pictured). Magdalen College is known for its choir. Magdalen is one of the four choral foundations in Oxford, meaning that the formation of the choir was part of the statutes of the college, the other three choral foundations being New College, Christ Church, and, since 2007, Merton College. The choir consists of 12 Academical Clerks, or choral scholars, who are students at the College, and 16 boys aged seven to fourteen, all of whom have scholarships at Magdalen College School. The school was originally founded for this express purpose but has long since become an independent public school. The choristers' day begins at 7:30, with an early morning practice before school. There is further practice immediately after school, followed by Choral Evensong six nights a week, in term; the Tuesday service is sung by the boys only, and the Friday service only by the Academical Clerks. On Sundays there is a practice at 09:30 followed by Eucharist, then a further afternoon practice followed by Evensong which ends at 7pm. As of September 2010, the choristers no longer sing on most Saturday evenings following the formation of the 'Consort of Voices', a mixed voice choir which sings on most Saturdays in full term.
The Choir has numerous College duties as well as a recording and touring schedule. Traditionally the Choir sings at College Gaudies and at other special events throughout the year, as well as performing on social occasions such as Carols by Candlelight before Christmas and the famous May Morning. On this occasion the Choir sings madrigals at 6am from the top of the college bell-tower to the assembled mass of students and townsfolk celebrating in the streets below.
The Choir records regularly. In 2005, it was nominated for a prestigious Grammy Award for its CD, With a Merrie Noyse, of music by Orlando Gibbons. Other recent works include the BBC's The Blue Planet and Paul McCartney's classical piece Ecce Cor Meum.
Well this is all I will post about my up and coming adventure. Stay tuned for more!
Here is a great video if you want to know more about the Genesis Sixteen program!
I have been invited to Oxford University, Magdalen College to study the art of choral music with Harry Christophers, Eamonn Dougan, and the Genesis Sixteen Program. I will be in the United Kingdom from August 23 until September 1. Don't worry students, I'll be in school on Tuesday, September 2nd ready to go!