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Notes from Rehearsal with Carolyn – 12/2/19

Published on February 13, 2019,

[A couple of messages from the Webmaster:
1. The original email contained some excepts from a musical score which do not format correctly here. 
2. The sound files for Donal My Own have been uploaded to the website, but at the time of writing, the sound files for the Northamptonshire May Song are not available yet.]

Dear Singers,

We had a 73% turnout at choir last night. 25 choir members couldn’t be with us. Bad backs, croaky throats and feeling rough were the main reasons plus a few people on nice winter breaks and jollies in London. Being in Winchester, I imagine there were a few members who stayed home, waiting for the Ocado delivery that never came. Here’s a resumé  for their and all our benefit.

Two new members joined us last night. We hope you enjoyed the session, Michael and Liz.

We reached a top G in the warm up – almost as impressive as Carolyn’s fitbit statistics for the day. And we had one of our diversions into social history/anthropology, prompted by a first attempt at the Northamptonshire May Song. Let’s get that out of the way first. The song is part of a rich English folk tradition and all the customs and practices that go with it. Hampshire has some particularly impressive and unusual examples of these country traditions, like bathing your face in the May morning dew at Oakhanger for instance and virgins’ crowns somewhere else that Carolyn and the rest of us struggled to remember. After extensive research (=Wikipedia) by Maggie Rees, we can reveal this to be Abbotts Ann near Andover. The church at Abbotts Ann has one of the largest collections of virgins’ crowns in existence, and it  is the only parish in England which perpetuates the custom of awarding them. The crowns may be requested by the relatives of a deceased person, who must have been born, baptised, confirmed and died, unmarried, in the parish, and must have been of unblemished reputation. The crown is decorated with five paper gloves to represent a challenge thrown down to anyone to asperse the character of the deceased. At the funeral procession, the crown is suspended from a small white wand and carried by two young girls dressed in white. Afterwards, the virgin’s crown is hung from a hook in the church gallery so that all entering church on the following Sunday may pass under it. If unchallenged after 3 weeks, the crown is hung from a hook near the ceiling of the church, with an escutcheon recording the name and date. The oldest crown dates from 1740, and the most recent from 1973. “With today’s increasingly mobile population very few people are likely to spend all their lives in one parish and this ancient custom may disappear” (The Virgins’ Crown, King, Pamela J). Or, as Carolyn put it more succinctly, “The Vicar told me they ran out of virgins.”

Last night we sang:

Donal my own

The refrain “Huru” is an example of a Scottish snap. Should be sung more softly than the other phrases. Some of the phrases are sung to dotted notes others are regular. One of the tunes asked the question that most of us were thinking but weren’t brave enough to put, viz “What’s a dotted note?” In Western musical notation, a dotted note is a note with a small dot written after it. In modern practice, the first dot increases the duration of the basic note by half of its original value. Or, as Carolyn put it more succinctly, “It’s a bit longer.” Most of the phrases start with a dotted rhythm like this:

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But five phrases start with regular notes of equal duration (in all parts),

like this in verse 3:                                           and in verse 4                                                    and in verse 5                                    and in verse 6                                                    and in verse 7

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And here’s where the different parts come in:

Verse 1                 Tunes only

Verse2                  Tunes and Tops

Verse 3                 ALL PARTS

Verse 4                 ALL PARTS

Verse 5                 Tunes Tops and Altos

Verse 6                 ALL PARTS

Verse 7                 ALL PARTS

 

Northamptonshire May Song

A cheery little number which we tackled for the first time. The sound files are now posted in the Members section of our website (password protected). I’ll email the sound files to people still doing their two taster sessions.

 

This Day is past

A parting song, not too slow and not maudlin. Watch out, there’s a tendency for the pitch to drop when all the parts sing together from line 4 of the verse.

 

Because it’s half term we won’t meet on 19th February and our next rehearsal is on 26thFebruary. Or, as Carolyn put it more succinctly:
Don’t come next week!

Best wishes,

Denis Gibson

Membership Secretary

Winchester Community Choir

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