A capella central

Hello everyone, I’m catching up on my blog posts this week as I missed one due to feeling poorly last weekend.  So it’s a two-in-one as it were.  Firstly a great big thank you to all of you for singing so well at the Easter Sunday service – you’d had a lot of material to learn in the weeks leading up to it and in addition we had the challenge of a new accompanist who wasn’t really used to accompanying (!) so, all in all, despite a few hiccups (piano) on entries, you all stepped up to the plate superbly.  I was very proud of you all and, with the shiny, new sound system installed recently, I can honestly say the sound was augmented beautifully around the whole church.

This Sunday’s practice was fun if slightly unusual because we sung a capella as Alex had a family commitment and couldn’t join us (Alex we miss you!)  The beauty of that for me is that I can hear you all, oh so clearly and every now and again, it’s a useful exercise from the point of view of the conductor.  We had fun with a few rounds and choosing what you’d like to sing for next time at mass.  There were some great suggestions put forward by you all including a number of new hymns which we’ll enjoy learning (don’t worry not all of them at once!)  We refreshed some of our Taize and a capella pieces (Over My Head, Cantate Domino Canticum Novum) as it’s useful to always have them up our sleeve, performance-ready for those extra collections which are often sprung on us at the last minute.

We chatted about the Summer Fair which we’ve been asked to perform at once again (Saturday 28th June this year) and there were some superb suggestions for numbers we could sing around the “Rio” them for the World Cup – yes, some of us who remembered Duran Duran got very excited at the prospect of singing “Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand…..” (I’m looking up an arrangement as I write.)  We’ve also been approached to sing at a care centre in Ewell – have a think about that one and let me know in your own time whether we say “yes” or “no” (don’t forget we are not under any obligation to sing just because we’re asked to.)

Roll on Thursday evening when we resume our week-night choir practice after the Easter break.  See you all then.  Helen X


Alleluia, Easter is here!

We’ve been working so hard for the last month almost on the Easter Sunday repertoire that it feels like Easter is already here, even though it’s almost two weeks away still.  The last few rehearsals have felt a bit of an uphill slog for the singers who’ve had an enormous amount of music, harmonies, tunes, rhythms to learn. You’ve coped admirably and I’m really pleased and proud of your efforts.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed you won’t have forgotten it all by the time Easter Sunday comes round.  You’ve also had to cope with a reserve-to-the-reserve pianist (Aaron) who’s kindly agreed to accompany our choir as Alex is on a family break in France as is his usual replacement, Patrick.(who’s in Spain, not France!) Thursday evening rehearsals are now back in full swing for our non-liturgical repertoire and we’re looking forward particularly to our first “gig” in mid October (when we can choose to sing what we like.)  Arrangements of some pop classics are already going down a storm at choir practice and we’re open to ideas, suggestions as to what you’d all like to sing.  Do please come forward if you’d like to perform a solo or duet or ensemble piece at the October concert.  It’ll be a great opportunity to shine and have fun, as always!

Racing harmoniously ahead.

We’re back to our twice-weekly rehearsals after a break in mid-January which everyone really needed as it had been an exceedingly busy Christmas and New Year.  It was lovely to share some drinks, nibbles, chit-chat and of course singing at the Lady Chapel on Thursday evening as we look forward to new performances throughout the rest of the year (Friday 17th October being quite a big one as we have a set to perform at the Epsom Civic Society Anniversary Dinner.)  Sunday we were back in the Westlake Room in our usual slot after 9.30 mass where we rehearsed and fine-tuned some of the harmonies in hymns that we’ll be singing at next week’s Family Mass.  You’ve been putting a lot of work into those harmony lines and the practice really paid off as the singing sounded great.  This is what we’ll be singing (in this order) at 9.30 mass on 16th March.

1. Immortal Invisible

2. Psalm 32 “Lord, let your Mercy Be Upon Us” Phil will be cantor and we’ll practise the refrain on Thursday evening and also on Sunday morning during warm-up.

3. Here I am Lord (offertory)

4. Make me a Channel of Your Peace (communion)

5. Dona Nobis Pacem (communion and 2nd collection if any.)

6. Shine, Jesus Shine (recessional)

I look forward to seeing you on Thursday evening and hope you’ve enjoyed the sunshine this weekend!


Harmonising together

Hello again and I’m looking forward to seeing – and hearing – you all again on Sunday. I know you’ve been practising really hard and have been singing some great harmonies! I can’t wait to hear such great singers making such a great sound once again. I missed you all of course as I was away at my course last weekend. Here’s the order of what we’ll be singing on Sunday as per the outcome of last weekend’s rehearsal.
Shine, Jesus Shine (with claps after ‘shine on me’ in the bridge.)
Praise Him, Praise Him (verse 4 sung softly)
Make Me a Channel of Your Peace (4 verses, ladies sing chorus in unison)
Be Still for the Presence of the Lord (verse 1 in unison, verses 2&3 sopranos sing the melody and altos, tenors and basses sing harmonies.)
Sing it in the Valleys (verses sung calmly then chorus is lively.)

Thank you once again for all your hard work and commitment – a very special thank you to Alex for holding the fort while I was away.

See you on Sunday for the warm-up and run-through at 8.45!

Charity concert, singing at mass and…..breathe!

Well what a week it’s been, kick-starting the choir’s 2014 programme. Straight into a run of rehearsals on Thursday evenings and Sundays in preparation for the charity concert in aid of “Faith in Action” on Friday 17th January. The choir was taking part in a programme bursting with musical talent including some top-notch, international, classical musicians. The hard work certainly paid off as we took to the stage and opened our set with a powerful a cappella rendition of “Over My Head” followed by a rocking, “Paddy on the Railway” which I’m told had the audience tapping their feet and singing along. In the second half we performed “My Life is in Your Hands” (which, despite the odd, stray clap during the chorus sounded wonderful) and we rounded off with the “Hallelujah” with a debut performance from our soloist Amanda. It was a real pleasure to have Claire Steele and some members of her choir singing with us too.

We sounded really, really good – the harmonies blended well together – and thanks to our resident sound engineer Peter Rose (hip, hip, hooray!) the sound was heard loud and clear in every corner of the church. You all looked like a smart choir and sounded like one too. Your efforts were hugely appreciated by the audience who clapped loudly and cheered at the end of every piece. Well done and a big thank you from me for all your hard work and continued effort. (Trish’s husband Ron managed to get an audio recording of your performance last Friday which I’ll be uploading to the website under “gallery.”)

We continue to grow in size and strength as a choir and that is incredibly satisfying and uplifting all round. I’ve had numerous messages, emails, phone calls from people who attended the concert on Friday, saying in essence “congratulations, you were superb.” I’ll second that! Onwards and upwards as I like to keep saying. There was one day of respite before we were up bright and early to sing at 9.30 mass as it was the third Sunday of the month and therefore “our turn.” Another musical triumph with the congregation and Father Simon clearly enjoying your singing: after mass Father Simon told me, once again, that it was so uplifting and joyous to hear the choir singing at mass so beautifully. Amen to that. I’m very encouraged by your enthusiasm, your dedication and the sheer hard work you put in – it’s fantastic. We’ll take a break from the Thursday evening rehearsals for a couple of months during the cold, winter nights but will continue to meet on Sundays after 9.30 mass in the Westlake Room to run through our liturgical repertoire and prepare for new hymns and choral arrangements to be sung at mass. I’ve had some great suggestions for additional material to add to our repertoire which I am always grateful for – keep those ideas coming and above all, keep up the wonderful singing. Thank you again, I feel truly blessed to be leading such a fabulous group!

Sing, sing, sing

Hello, we’ve got a busy week of singing and then more singing to banish those winter blues. We’ll be performing at Friday’s charity concert in aid of “Faith in Action.” It promises to be a wonderful evening with some superb musicians and singers taking part. We are on in the first half singing “Over my Head” followed by “Paddy on the Railway” and then in the second half we’ll perform “My Life is in Your Hands” and “Hallelujah” as our finale. We’ll be going through everything thoroughly at choir practice on Thursday evening at 20.15 – our last practice before Friday’s concert. I hope to see as many of you as possible there. On Friday we’ll meet at 18.45 at the church for a warm-up and short run-through before the start of the concert at 19.30. Ladies please wear black top and trousers/skirt with optional red accessories. Gentlemen black suit, white shirt and black tie or bow tie please?
To round off the busy weekend we’re singing at 9.30 mass on Sunday 19th (3rd Sunday of 2014 already!) We’ll be singing the same set of hymns/pieces as we did last month with the clapping Gloria and the Halle Halle added on.

Give me joy in my heart (190)
Gloria, gloria in excelsis deo (408 clapping)
Halle halle halle (932 gospel acclamation)
Praise the Lord, oh my soul (offertory)
My Life is in your Hands (communion hymn)
Over my head (second collection/ extra communion hymn)
Walk in the Light (914 recessional)

Looking forward to hearing you all singing again – you’re sounding great!

New Year’s welcome!

Hello and a Happy New Year to you all. I hope you’ve enjoyed your Christmas break. We restart choir rehearsals on Thursday 9th January in the Lady Chapel at 8.15 as we look ahead to our next performance at the Faith in Action concert on 17th January. All material that we know already – here’s what we’ll be performing so you can dust those scores down and refresh your vocal chords with those tunes!

Rule The World
Paddy on the Railway (tiggery-oo-ry-oo-ry-ay!)
Praise the Lord, oh my soul
Over my Head (a cappella)

I’m really looking forward to seeing you all again. Some of Claire Steele’s singers, whom I invited to join us for this concert, will be coming along on Thursday to rehearse with us. It will be a great bunch of voices from our vibrant, little community making beautiful music once again.

Very best wishes.

Carols and festive cheer

The festive season is well and truly upon us and it’s been a very busy week with performances and last-minute rehearsals. Thursday was the big night of the parish carol service where the choir looked and sounded amazing. Men in black tie and ladies in elegant black with touches of red – we enjoyed singing our three chosen pieces and, thanks to Peter Rose and his skills at the sound desk, the choir sounded powerful and beautiful in the specially-decorated church. It was a great evening, with mulled wine and mince pies afterwards. Our last major effort before the Christmas break was on Sunday at mass (yes, I know I’ve worked you really hard this week, you’ve certainly earned a rest!) We sung “a cappella” for the first time ever and it was a resounding success, with a rendition of “Over my Head” a very powerful, spiritual song.
The congregation once again enjoyed hearing you sing enormously and I could see that you were all having a good time as well, which is what it’s all about. Straight after mass I was enormously touched by the Christmas gifts and cards you presented to me and also to Alex. It was incredibly thoughtful and generous of you all and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your singing brings us all such joy and is so uplifting. Pat yourselves on the back for a job well done. There will be more in the New Year with our next “outing” at the charity concert on 17th January. We will have the chance to rehearse two or three times after we come back from the Christmas and New Year break. Wishing you and your families a very happy, peaceful and blessed Christmas with all the very best for 2014. Helen X

Carols in the market square

A great time was had by all on Saturday at the Lord Mayor’s fund-raising carols event in Epsom town centre.  You all rose to the occasion magnificently and – dare I say it – you wowed passers-by and stall holders in the square. ChoirSingingMarketPlace4resized

A couple of minor hiccups were swiftly overcome and you gave a rousing performance, particularly the lively and upbeat closing number which had everyone swaying in the market place!  Thank you for braving a cold, Saturday morning and for sparing a chunk of your weekend to come along representing the St Joseph’s Family Choir at this event.  You did yourselves and the parish really proud and helped raise a significant amount of money for three very worthwhile, local charities.

We’re fully into “the season to be jolly” so there will be more singing at the annual St Joseph’s Church carol service on Thursday evening.  I was at the walk-through rehearsal on Sunday afternoon and have two main headlines to report: the organisers have tweaked the final programme and now we shall be singing “The First Noel” first, followed by the “Hallelulah” and finally “Hark the Herald.”  Please could you ensure your music is in that order as it’s now final.  The second bit of news is that for the final carol, “Hark the Herald” the congregation will be singing along from the very start (so not coming in on 2nd verse as per all the others.)  This means therefore that there will be no opportunity for a solo at the beginning.  Hey ho!  Sorry to let our young voices down after all the practising, it is NOT my decision as I’m sure you’ll appreciate.   Could we please arrange to meet a bit earlier at about 6.45 – 7pm (no later than 7 I was told!)  Another reminder for those who weren’t there on Sunday.  Ladies: wear black (top and bottom) and if you want to add a red scarf, pashmina, cardigan, jacket please do for that festive look.  Gentlemen: Black trousers, white shirt, black jacket and tie or dickie bow if you fancy it.  I’m really looking forward to Thursday – you should be too.  You’ve worked INCREDIBLY hard for this and I for one, am so excited to hear you all again.  You’re sounding wonderful.  All the best, Helen

O Night Divine!

It was indeed a divine night, hosted by May and Dave at their beautiful home. Great to see so many of you there. After our warm up we dived straight into learning the new harmonies in the simplified arrangement of O Holy Night. With the individual parts that I’d recorded for you as rehearsal aids on my trusty iPad we split off into section rehearsals – thanks to Alex for taking the tenors through their lines and also helping the altos with theirs. The sopranos were spirited away by me into May’s kitchen where we we note-bashed their part successfully. The altos converged in the convservatory and the men stayed with Alex in the piano room. The progress we all made was amazing as when we met up to sing together everyone had learnt their lines beautifully and when we sang through O Holy Night it sounded divine. It’s going to be even more so when we put our bass line in (sadly our basses couldn’t make it last night but we’ll see them on Sunday at choir practice hopefully.) I’ve emailed you each your individual parts and also put them up on the website under “rehearsal aids.” Whenever you have the time, please go through them time and again as practice makes perfect! We rounded off the evening with the Hallelujah and managed to sort out the end section coming out of the chorus in harmonies and singing the last few Hallelujahs in unison. We were being stumped by a dotted crotchet and thanks to Alex’s beady eye we realised where we were going wrong – we struck off the last “jah” and it flowed quickly and effortlessly into the unison line (thank you maestro!) We’ll be going through “The First Nowell” and “Starry Night” (for the 7th December carol singing in the market place) next. We sang these last year at the Crib Service and it will be good to refresh our memories and also for those who weren’t singing with us then, we can learn them afresh. Again all the individual parts are up on the website under rehearsal aids and I photocopied the score for you a couple of weeks ago. Anyone who needs copies just let me know please. Thank you all for a really superb effort at rehearsals. Your hard work pays off aplenty. Onwards and upwards! See you on Sunday. Helen