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Eton Choral Courses Report

ETON CHORAL COURSES REPORT 2011

We held seven courses once again this year, attended by 423 students. All courses are characterized by highly focused (and regularly exuberant) students, eager to learn, who can't believe that they are surrounded by so many like-minded people. Whatever level of expertise they arrive with, they surprise themselves with immense improvement. Many have never heard of  choral techniques that we take for granted. One girl arrived on her own from Kenya, having read an advert for the courses but never having sung in a choir before. She ended as one of the most enthusiastic, vowing to bring most of her Kenyan friends back with her next year.

Course One, directed by Ben Parry, was a relatively small choir compared to the other courses. They sang Choral Evensong in St Alban's Abbey as part of the International Organ Festival. Course Two, held at Eton and attended by seventy students, gave a live broadcast of Choral Evensong on Radio Three. Course Three was also at Eton. We sang Evensong  with Stephen Cleobury in glorious King’s College Chapel. Course Four was held at Trinity and St John's Colleges, Cambridge. Paul Mealor (composer of an anthem for the Royal Wedding) wrote us a wonderful setting of O vos omnes and Psalm 133 for choir and tubular bells. The Course Five choir, directed by Tim Johnson, gave a recital in Tewkesbury Abbey as part of the Worcester Three Choirs Festival. Course Six was held in St John's and Chad's Colleges, Durham. We visited Durham Cathedral (next door) to sing Evensong. We sang a live broadcast of Sunday Worship for 1.7 million listeners to Radio Four at 8.10 in the morning and sang a recital in the glorious acoustic of the Durham Cathedral Chapter House. For Course Seven we returned to Merton College, Oxford and  sang Evensong at Queen's College and Merton College Chapel.

Musical highlights of the courses included Parry:  At the round Earth’s imagined corners, Bach: Komm, Jesu, Komm, Tavener: Song for Athene, Purcell: Jehova quam multi sunt hostes mei, Walton: The Twelve, Britten: Hymn to St Cecilia, Whitacre: Lux aurumque, Nicholas Maw (Edwin Muir): One foot in Eden still, I stand, Tallis:  Sancte Deus, Arvo Part: . . . . .  which was the son of . . . . .  , Clytus Gottwald's arrangement of Mahler's song "Die zwei blauen Augen", Tallis: Loquebantur variis linguis and Naylor: Vox dicentis clama.
 
The courses are made effective  by outstanding, dedicated  staff, released from their normal musical and teaching  commitments by the summer holidays. Next year I plan to start a fund for those who would like to come on courses but can't afford it and, with this, encourage singers from an even greater variety of schools and backgrounds to come. Only two courses will be held at Eton next year, because of the Olympic Games, so we hope to increase the number of courses held at Oxford and Cambridge.

Ralph Allwood

Date Posted: 15 September 2011
2011

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