Carolyn’s Notes for Virtual Rehearsal 5 – 5/5/20

Published on May 3, 2020,

Dear Choir members
Our fifth weekly virtual rehearsal is upon us already so here are more songs and rounds to keep you busy!

Yet again it is divided into sections, with anecdotes in italics! More insights into capers down in NZ and elsewhere without giving too much away!

But first this week is the beginning of May. So I thought I would send you some snippets from a book a wrote for schools with Doc Rowe when I was Education Officer for the EFDSS. Actually to be more accurate I just wrote the teaching materials, lesson plans, songs and dances. Doc Rowe is a great authority on traditions of the British Isles: ‘In many country districts May morning, or the eve of May Day, saw young people spending the night gathering flowering branches, bushes and greenery to decorate their houses….it was very popular to go out before sunrise on May Day to collect dew from bushes. The belief was that to wash the face with the dew would make the complexion more beautiful to remove blemishes and freckles. …we know that Henry VIII and his wife, Catherine of Aragon, went gathering May dew in 1515.’ Well, it didn’t do her much good!

Warm up

On to the warm up:
Shoulder rolls ending with a hunched gesture and dropping shoulders for perfect singing position i.e. weighted shoulders, straight back with head pulled up like puppet, tucked in tail and softened knees; good for that area where a lot of tension resides. Remember the most recent version of this exercise is: ‘forward, up, back and down’ rather than rolling the shoulders.

Again warm up with simple 4 notes ascending and descending scales to different vowel sounds. Important that as you go higher into head voice switch back to ‘oo’. Don’t forget working on your diaphragm. Inhale for 5 beats with your hand on your stomach, then blow out the breath in 4 short breaths and one long one. Or sing the first phrase of one of our songs but hold onto the last note for as long as your breath lasts. Then move onto the next phrase focusing on a good diaphragmatic breath before each phrase. Now a bit of brain gym!
Do you remember ‘Danger Men at Work!’? You sing this to the tune of ‘Knees up Mother Brown’. I have supplied a sound file to remind you!

Round: As I me walked on a May morning

As I me walked on a May morning, I heard a bird sing! Cuckoo!

We have done this exquisite Elizabethan round several times before, at this time of year, but perhaps some may have missed it. The lovely quirkiness of songs from this period lies in the syncopation. Again a sound file is available.
There are also Youtube clips if you go searching.

Anecdote: More snippets of information from South Island, New Zealand which I sent to my daughters:

Forgot to mention trip into Christchurch which was our last day in NZ. We drove into town to have a look around the area that was devastated in the 2011 earthquake. One wonderful art installation was simply 185 white empty chairs to represent each person that was killed. The very sad thing was seeing a little high chair. The iconic cathedral was badly damaged and the tower had to be destroyed because it was so unsafe. The council has ruled that it should be rebuilt as it was at huge cost. Another high rise car park was completely destroyed too. Just the pillars and iron rods sticking out the top of each pillar are left. The area filled in with water in the early years and an endangered black billed gull colonised it before they could start renovation work. As the gulls are protected the council has to leave the site as it is which in itself is a great memorial to those who died.
Coffee time! Waiting in departure lounge! Not looking forward to flight.

Song list

Hope you all enjoyed ‘Brand new Day’ which again we can pick up when we all meet again! So you can sing the other verses and see how they fit the metre.
I would always recommend that everyone is familiar with the tunes of all of our songs before learning your own part.
Also recap the other songs from this term like Bushes and Briars and Cuckoo in April, Wild Geese and Harbour all now on the website for you to sing along to thanks to your various website operators! Here is another new song this week to keep you on your toes:

New Song: Hal an Tow
This is one of the best known May Day songs from Helston in Cornwall! I found this snippet online:
“Hal an Tow” was once more widespread, and was sung in other towns in Cornwall besides Helston. Some version of the song goes back to the 1600s, since the chorus was written down at that time, but the full verses were not recorded until the 1840s.’
This particular arrangement is by eldest daughter, Anna Tabbush, and she sings a version with a bass colleague called Dom Stitchbury (one of the renowned Spooky Men) which Syd has uploaded into the WCC Facebook page. Check it out! If you don’t do facebook then the multi-track sound files plus files for all the individual parts are on the WCC website.

Anecdote: Now to the macaroons! I must say, a great weakness of mine! When I was a music student in London in the early ‘70s I used to hitchhike back north just for my granny’s plum tarts and macaroons! So I thought I would try to find her recipe which I found eventually in an old Be-ro cook book. Do you remember those? Well I made some which I must confess were fairly average. But then, having tasted Paul Montgomery’s macaroons, there really is nothing to compare! His recipe is a closely guarded secret however!


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