There’s definitely a feeling of spring and a promise of summer in the air, as the above quote by Hal Borland says.
We are just about to enter our summer term and a series of concerts that would have seemed impossible just a few weeks ago. We are working hard learning the ins and outs of Fauré’s beautiful Requiem and some additional French repertoire, see upcoming events.
One of our new members wrote an article, about getting back to singing together, published in this week’s Southern Star. Many thanks to Phillipa for helping to keep up our profile and raising awareness about the choir locally.
After a delayed start to our spring term rehearsals it feels really great to be back singing. What a joy to be free to get together and begin work on our new programme of French music for a series of concerts planned for this summer. If you have been thinking of getting back to singing then now is a good time to come and join us on Monday evenings. (See how. )
Even though Fauré’s beautiful Requiem is written in latin we aim to sing some pieces in French. Singing French has its special challenges. The need for nasal vowel sounds for example;
“Without enough nasal quality in those very particular French vowels, you’ll sound like an awkward American, speaking Italian with a bad head cold”
To help begin to tune our ears to the French ‘sound’ I promised to share a song of the week. I’ve chosen ‘Le Secret’ by Fauré sung by Gé Souzay. It is the tenderest of love songs. (Warning: The video shows a slide show of paintings of women in various states of dress and undress.) Text and translation below.
Thinking further ahead to a winter 2022 programme I’d like to harp back to our November 2021 concerts. If you missed out on singing O Magnum Mysterium then there may yet be another opportunity. Oliver put together a slide show of excerpts of the music from All Saint’s and St Fachtna’s. The full works are in our members dropbox folder.
We welcomed a well loved visitor to our rehearsal on 1st November. Just like old times, and with a merry twinkle in her eye, Annabel came along to help us prepare the finale for our performances at the end of November (see upcoming events page). Choir members took the opportunity to show their appreciation for all the years Annabel has served as accompanist and friend and to shower her with gifts and praise. Annabel was just as keen to get down to the music making!
With thanks to Jacqueline Weij for the photographs.
Have you noticed how the robins are singing their autumn song along with many migrating birds? Perhaps we are not having to defend our territory like the birds but we are joining in the chorus to lift our spirits. We are so happy to be back to in person rehearsals and working towards a beautiful programme for this November.
The choir have been wonderfully adaptable and positive in negotiating the new norms. The result has been a shift in the way we used to operate, necessity being the mother of invention, as we try to adhere to pandemic guidelines and safety considerations. Rather than weekly whole choir rehearsals we have spent the first few weeks holding sectional rehearsals in our usual hall and in Abbeystrewry church. Once a month we have met in the huge church in Drimoleague thanks to the kindness of Father Liam.
The best laid plans sometimes go awry and our first attempt to meet as whole choir did just that. When we arrived at All Saints’, Drimoleague, we were met with a car park full of vans and cars belonging to a Channel 4 filming operation. We tentatively poked our heads round the church to find that it was full of silent worshippers – no room at the inn! Happily we found an alternative venue at very short notice.
Here is a comment on our first rehearsal of the term;
Belated thanks for a marvellous start to the Real Live rehearsals. Dramatic, but weren’t we lucky to have Debbie’s local knowledge? Who would have thought Drimoleague to be so packed with events: a film set, a vigil AND the WCCS! That first note when we all sang together was so moving and memorable: a confirmation of the joy of making music together and surely a sign that the Zooms were worthwhile. It was great to have others back with us again, a real encouragement and support in our new term. But most of all, THANK YOU for your work, your patience and your choice of music.
From the 22nd October it seems that the guidelines are being relaxed further. This means we will go ahead with our performances in November, although audiences may still be restricted in number. Our programme has been designed as a kind of gathering or opportunity to get together to reflect on all that has been happening for us; for our families, friends and communities, in the past 20 months. Much of the music is unaccompanied – the naked voice singing in sweet harmony seems a fitting choice for this event. Words will also be offered in the form of readings and in a candle lighting ceremony which will give a time for reflection.
We would like to thank All Saints’ Drimoleague and St Fachtna’s Rosscarbery for their generosity in hosting these performances.
I’ll finish this blog by sharing some words by the wonderful jazz pianist Keith Jarrett:
Fourteen members of the choir, who were part of the Zoom singing group, gathered with friends and family at An Sanctóir near Ballydehob on 28th June to sing a programme of acapella music. Everyone came with picnics, logs for lighting the outdoor fire pit, good cheer and plenty of news for catching up with old friends – all at a suitable social distance of course. With the weather smiling on us, the lovely surroundings and strains of music filling the air we felt really blessed.
Of course there were a few nerves beforehand. With current restrictions we’d had precious little time to rehearse together in person in the lead up. Having decided that this would be an informal sharing of songs, we took a deep breath and launched into the joy of singing together. Something we will never take for granted again!
Plans for September include preparing a programme of sacred music for performance (or two) at an evening to remember all those affected by the pandemic. After this we are hoping to start work on the French programme we had to abandon at the beginning of the first lockdown. Wishing you all a happy summer. Susan.
After a challenging year we have finally begun to sing together in person – duly be-visored or be-masked and at a suitable distance. Although it has been joyful to get back together to sing, this has also brought its own problems. Hearing each other across a wide space without the luxury of a resonant building means we are much more reliant on eye contact with the conductor to keep together. We have found the need to know the music and lyrics much more thoroughly as we can’t afford to be buried in the score.
Meetings for SATB and sectional rehearsals have been taking place in Ballydehob
and in Skibbereen, many thanks to Abbeystrewry church for allowing us to use their sheltered outdoor space.
We will be sharing a lovely programme of summer music at An Sanctóir on Monday evening 28th June for family, friends and other members of the choir who are waiting for in person rehearsals to resume. We’re also hoping to see Annabel, our lovely retired accompanist! Sadly, due to current restrictions, this is not being advertised to the general public.
In December we took advantage of a brief window of opportunity to sing some carols at the Saturday market in Skibbereen as a way of saying thank you for the grant they awarded us towards our new piano fund. We received such lovely feedback and it felt so wonderful to sing in harmony again.
The choir continues to meet for on line rehearsals due to the continuing limitations on movement and person to person contact. It has been heartening to see more members joining us on Monday evenings, although I do understand that others prefer to wait until we can meet for in person rehearsals once more. That day still seems a bit far away but we continue to use this time to expand our repertoire, improve musical skills and maintain healthy voices. Most of us are using our voices less these days, there are few opportunities to raise our voices across a crowded room … For so many reasons it is important to keep up with your vocal ‘keep fit’ and singing is an ideal way to do this. It helps with the effects of ageing, lifts our mood, improves health, exercises the brain and more.
NEW MEMBERS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME and this may an ideal time to come and try us out. Details of how to join us can be found on the About the Choir page.
It is with great sadness that we announce the retirement of our amazing accompanist Annabel Adams. We had only just started working together before the choral singing world ground to a halt due to the pandemic. I know that the whole choir is going to miss Annabel for her amazing skills as a pianist but also for her warmth as a person and her lively sense of humour. We’re happy to say that she will keep in contact with us and we hope to celebrate her retirement as soon as the situation allows. Susan Nares
Began with the choir in 2003 and Retired in December 2020
Susan is a graduate of Trinity College of Music, London. Her career moved from performance and teaching to music therapy in 2005 when she graduated as a music therapist from Bristol University. This achievement followed a long held conviction about the healing properties of music making and listening.
Her choral experience is broad-ranging and her musical interests eclectic. Growing up she gained musical training, in part, through singing with church choirs. As a student she sang with the London Choral Society and the BBC Choral Society. Susan also regularly performed professionally with smaller chamber ensembles. Her vocal journey led her into singing with an overtone choir, performing music for film and leading the chamber choir, Careless Vespers.
Susan has worked with choirs in school and community settings and was actively involved in the ‘singing for the brain’ movement in collaboration with the Dorset NHS Speech and Language Therapy team. After arriving in West Cork Susan began leading a local church choir. She also founded the Project Choir and directed the world premier of a new oratorio by local composer Justin Grounds. She is hoping to continue Diana’s excellent work by promoting the West Cork Choral Singers in bringing great choral repertoire to West Cork.
PS. Susan says that playing the harp is very much a hobby and that flute and piano accompaniment were her main studies.
There have been times over the past few months when we would be forgiven for thinking that the world of choral singing was over. Following my appointment as the new Choral director in January this year we started working on a programme entitled ‘A Breath of French Air’ to include Fauré’s gorgeous requiem and some other French delicacies. This was not to be as the choir, along with so many others, went into lockdown so that rehearsals and the programme went into a state akin to suspended animation.
As the summer advanced we felt the need to connect and to sing in spite of continued uncertainties and measures to control the spread of Covid. Zoom came to the rescue. Although it’s not designed for singing together it has allowed us to meet up and to work on some new repertoire with the intention of introducing a programme of a capella music to perform outdoors in 2021.
National Singing Week
We had the first taste of how this might be when Sing Ireland invited choirs across Ireland to contribute videos of themselves singing as part of National Sing Week. We only had a few days to produce something so I came up with the idea of creating a mini documentary. This involved creating backing tracks, collecting recordings and holding recording sessions in various locations across West Cork individually and in small groups. The tracks were mixed together and photographs taken. The result was a video slide show documentary and performance of a piece by William Byrd, Non Nobis Domine.
The West Cork Singers just love to sing,
Good four-part harmony is their thing,
But now we must all stay at home on our own
And practice online or over the phone.
It isn't the same as the all-around sound
Which lifts our spirits and makes our hearts pound.
But we'll stick to the rules, keep washing our hands
And wonder what's happening to all the live bands.
One day the world will find out how to cope
With this virus, till then we live in hope
Of the day we can all cheer and say Hooray!
And joyfully get back to singing Fauré.