In Tune - June 2020

The Newsletter of Basingstoke Choral Society

Edited by Karen West

Welcome to this, the second ‘Locked-In Tune’ newsletter. Can you believe that it’s now more than three months since we were living our ‘normal’ lives - whatever normal looks like anymore…


So many plans and dreams have needed to be cancelled and changed, including my long-awaited week of Wagner opera in Leipzig, the composer’s birthplace, so be thankful you are spared a write-up of this!

Instead, on the pages that follow you’ll be able to find out about the work of the Programming Committee - let’s hope that before too long we can be learning and performing some of their recommendations. In the meantime, if you’ve not tried one of the many on-line choirs or sung in our first on-line rehearsal on June 10th, you can read more about others’ experiences and see the results of other members’ other lock-down efforts. There are also two opportunities to exercise your little grey cells and, in one case, raise some money for a good cause at the same time.


Brigid Campbell, our prize-winning Soprano 1 writer, brings us another piece and, to help redress the balance of contributors across the sections of our choir, Jennie Butler shares happy memories of a visit to the birthplace of Rossini; Julian Hawkins writes of his pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela and we pay tribute to Nick Hussey who sadly died recently. Of course, this has been a difficult time for so many people and BCS has not been immune to the impact and effects of Covid19. However, those of us who logged onto our recent rehearsal heard about the benefits of sustaining and developing our lung capacity, so let’s keep on singing - somehow, somewhere.


A big ‘thank you’ to all those who have sent me articles and pictures. Keep those contributions coming, please. You can now email anything directly to me at intune@basingstoke-choral.org.uk The next newsletter will be upon us before we know it. And, on behalf of us all, a big ‘thank you’ too to Tony, our Chair. I’m sure that like me, you appreciate all his work to stay in touch with us over these past weeks through regular messaging, the establishment of our WhatsApp group and for seizing the initiative to set-up a new way of rehearsing.


Karen

So, what have BCS Members been getting up to during lock-down?

Marion (2nd Soprano) has, ‘at last’, she wrote, finished that knitting that she started x years ago…. It looks great Marion!

It would be great to see some further ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos in the next edition of InTune, so why not write in and send us a picture or two?

Many of us have been rehearsing and performing The Messiah with the Self-Isolation Choir in the company of thousands of fellow singers from literally all over the world. As one of them, it’s been so good to see greetings from BCS members from all sections whizzing across the chat box.

A real bonus was the chance to listen once again to the fabulous voice of Ashley Riches whose career seems to have gone from strength to strength since he performed as a soloist with us.

Great Tech-spectations’ - Welcoming Change


As so many of us get to grips with new technology, Natalie Bertand, 1st Soprano, writes about her experience of our first on-line rehearsal. A New Age wave of Singing, how to Master "IoT" a/k/a the (Internet of Things). A definition: Technology - a "science of craft" (like singing) from the Greek teXvn, techne, "art, skill, cunning of hand and -Aoyia - logia" (like Conducting, Orchestration & Singing)!


With every new endeavour comes a challenge; which button to push? Without a doubt I am one of those who without the assistance of my youngest, would not have been "in the room" if it were left to me. But needs must and conjures up change. So here is my quest; I require training to master and to navigate the "IoT". NB: Since shielding since January, it was wonderful to sing with familiar friends and I look forward to more, please!

lockdownmadness


Fiona Boyle’s husband says this is a piece of Offenbark… Or instead is it …

The Barkarolle? And further groans…

Marion McCann asks..

Q: What do you call a Singer without a song?

A. A sewing machine! 😁


(don’t blame me, I just put the newsletter together… Ed)

Introducing the Programming Sub-Committee

By Anne Hurst . 2nd Alto


One of the most important aspects of what we do as a committee is to plan the programme for future concerts. You may think doing a poster is a simple matter of finding a suitable picture and putting a bit of text on it, but it is not quite as easy as that. Equally, planning an appropriate programme is not as straightforward as it might appear either. There are so many different things to consider before coming up with a plan. First and foremost, we like to consider you, our members. Unfortunately, to quote Abraham Lincoln, ‘You cannot please all of the people, all of the time’and so we try to select works which will please the majority most of the time

Not only do we try to choose music which members will like and will enjoy learning, we also look for something which will challenge us musically and improve our skills, without being so demanding that we lose confidence and therefore feel nervous about selling tickets.


Talking of which, that is another consideration which has to be carefully thought about. We want to perform something which will be what we call ‘box office’ and appeal to a wider audience and yet we still have to remain loyal to what our society represents. We are a ‘Choral’ society which means we have to adhere to that premise and whilst we know full well that this is rather a niche market and by singing a different genre of music we might attract a different audience, but we still need to stick to our roots and what we are about. Add to the mix that, when planning our programme, we need to choose individual works which might be completely different, but we still have to find some common link making them all fit together as one cohesive unit


Money, as in everything, inevitably has to be a consideration as well. Paying for an orchestra and soloists of the high calibre we always use, takes a huge chunk out of our budget, but we never want to lower our standards by using the cheaper option if we can avoid it. However, we have to be sensible and choose works which each require the same number of soloists, as well as an orchestra of a similar size and type. There is no point in selecting one short item which might require an alto soloist with harp accompaniment if that is the only contribution those two musicians make for the remainder of the programme.


The final spoke which completes the ever spinning wheel is, of course, David without whose knowledge, expertise, experience and guidance we could not make a fully informed decision.


So, with all these considerations in mind, there is a lot to think about and we are left trying to find that ‘Goldilocks’ zone where everything is just right. Over the eighteen years I have been on the committee the decision as to what works we choose for future concerts has been made by David, along with all members of the main committee, but by only two in more recent years. I am therefore delighted to say that we have recently resurrected the idea of a programming group who together do all the research, thrash out ideas and then put the plan to David for his assessment and advice. Finally, the suggested programme is offered to the committee for agreement.


We now have eight members - Brigid Campbell, Tristram Cary, Julian Hawkins, Rachel Holland, Anne Hurst, Karen West and Fiona Wright, all very ably led by Margaret Lucas. This is an excellent group with a wide breadth of knowledge and skills with each member contributing a different aspect in making such an all-important decision. Margaret, herself has the experience of having chaired a similar group some years ago and her organisational expertise and understanding of the subject makes her extremely valuable in leading this sub-committee.

We have already had several worthwhile meetings and it is very sad that just when we felt we were beginning to put a plan together of old favourites and exciting new ideas to inspire all our members, the virus reared it’s more than ugly head and stopped us in our tracks. None of us know when we will be back to normal or even when we can adapt to the ‘new’ normal, but we can only hope that the day will come when we can return to our Wednesday night rehearsals, sit together, sing together and hug each other. That is my greatest hope and I can reassure everyone that our future plans and programme will, hopefully, inspire you all. Meanwhile, I hope that during this period of lockdown you have all been learning your days of the week so that when we return we will all know them backwards and can miss a few days out as required by David in his ‘warm-ups’!


A Santiago Pilgramage

By Julian Hawkins, 1st Bass



In May 2019, starting from Samos in northern Spain, I walked a 135 kilometre section of the Via Frances, the most popular of the many pilgrim routes that lead to Santiago de Compostela, and the shrine of St. James. This was a delightful walk of six easy days, mostly through green countryside, quite different to the arid Costas in the south, and one that I would happily repeat.


The towns with their hotels and hostels were well-spaced for a day's hiking, and along the route were tiny villages, cafes, and ancient churches sleeping in the sun.


Medieval pilgrims on this route were protected from the Moors by the Knights Templar until 1492 and following in their footsteps gave a sense of continuity and alliance with them, the many people who had passed this way since and with those that will come after.


Onward, ever onward down dusty lanes with sweeps of wild-flowers, the welcome shade of woods and the occasional lizard basking on a stone wall. Short sections beside busy main roads, then back to the peace of the fields and the friendly '¡Hola' of passersby.


At last, the weary trudge through the modern, uninspiring outskirts of Santiago and up into the narrow and hilly streets of the old town, finally emerging into the great square in front of the cathedral, thronged with pilgrims and tourists. Made it! A moment of great satisfaction, as is the end of any long trek.


The Cathedral is magnificent, and its glorious Continental decorations are contrasted by the simple stone steps down into the crypt where St. James' casket lies behind a metal grille. The atmosphere is heavy with the presence of a thousand years of pilgrimage. People are praying, a man weeps quietly in a corner.

Hiawatha's Concert (2008) by Brigid Campbell, 1st Soprano

Far away in northern Hampshire,

In the valley of the Loddon,

Stood the camp of the Basingas,

(Also known as Doughnut City),

With a strong stockade surrounded,

There they built a mighty highway,

Called it for their greatest leader:

He to foemen raised two fingers,

Blood and sweat and tears he promised,

Brought his people safe from conflict.


There beside the mighty highway

Rose the concert hall, The Anvil,

Pride and glory of Basingas,

Built to entertain the people,

Nice and handy for the station,

For the shops and for the buses.

Very splendid was The Anvil,

Framed in steel and walled in concrete;

Very comfy was its seating,

Quite unmatched its fine acoustics,

Much demanded by musicians.


On a day in early springtime,

When the flowers bloom in springtime,

On a platform at The Anvil

Stood the famous David Gibson,

Stood the best of all conductors,

In his hand a wand of willow:

Scores upon the stand before him,

Hundreds in the seats behind him.

High before him rose the chorus,

Row on row, the mighty singers,

All attentive to his gestures.

Black the ladies wore, like ravens,

Like the dark birds of the mountains,

And the men looked just like penguins,

Flightless birds from southern oceans,

From the lands of snow and blizzards.


To the people quickly turning

Spoke the famous David Gibson:

“You shall hear the best of music

From the Western lands of sunset:

First of all by Aaron Copland

Fanfare for the Common People;


Then his dances from the mountains,

From the Appalachian mountains,

Meant to be performed in springtime.

Then the Argentine Ramirez:

Hear his Mass in Spanish written,

In the style of Latin music,

Rich in timbre and in rhythm,

Very catchy, very different.


Then, by way of total contrast,

Lauridsen from California

Sets in Latin mystic hymnals,

Mystic poems of the ancients,

Very tranquil, polyphonic,

Resolutely in D major,

Some way after Palestrina,

And he called it Lux Aeterna.

Last of all, an English songster,

Samuel Coleridge-hyphen-Taylor,

Setting words we all have heard of

From the Song of Hiawatha,

From the song from far Columbia.

First and best of black musicians

In the classical tradition,

And the protégée of Elgar.

Oft the Albert Hall was crowded

For his Hiawatha’s Wedding,

Much loved then and much loved later,

Rather sadly now neglected.

So we bid you sit and listen,

That the time may pass most gaily,

That you all may be contented!


Thus the choir and all musicians

Sang and played as he had promised,

Sang and played to great approval,

To applause and loud approval,

Went home tired, went home happy,

Home to pizza and chianti.


Brigid wrote about her poem “Knocking off Longfellow is just too easy! The Anvil is on Churchill Way, Basingstoke, and the concert was by Basingstoke Choral Society. I’ve been a member for over 20 years, but this is the only time I’ve ever been stimulated to write a poem about music”.


A visit to the Casa Rossini

by Jennie Butler, 1st Alto

Having been threatened with a newsletter dedicated to Wagner, I thought I would recall a visit last summer to Pesaro, on the Adriatic coast, the birthplace of Rossini.