by on May 1st, 2020 in blogs, Music, News and Blogs

‘We invite you to bathe your senses in this imperfect but heart-felt rendition across the centuries from one time of relative isolation to another’. Chetwynd chamber choir find new ways to rehearse in lockdown.

How does a choir rehearse when they can’t meet?

Chetwynd are a well established chamber choir who meet weekly at The Orangery and perform locally. They have long supported Friends of Ingestre Orangery, appearing at the Orangery launch event and performing at fundraising events. They have been recently thwarted by Storm Dennis which forced the cancellation of one performance and then lockdown restrictions cancelled a second, but they have found new ways to connect and kindly allowed us to take a look behind the scenes.

To create this performance of Drop Drop Slow Tears by Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625) each member of the choir recorded themselves individually using a template and then the Musical Director, Olly Lees, collated them to create a wonderful collective performance. It’s hard to believe that they were not in the same room.

It wasn’t all plain sailing

The choir members reveal how they got to grips with the technology and new ways of performing.

Dave Law, Bass

As for doing the recording, it took me about 10 takes.  Problems with keeping in time with the backing,  running out of breath in the long phrases, stumbling over the words, the noise of large air takes, and the horror of hearing how others must hear you!!  – all worth it in the end though.  Can’t wait the next having now built up this recording experience.

Alan Jeavons, Tenor

The discipline required is quite ferocious! Overshadowing the whole is the knowledge that from starting the first note to eventually closing my mouth is an indivisible unity – if the first note isn’t clean the track is ruined – there is no recovery in real time. So that creates stress, and the stress is reflected in a thinness of timbre. Mostly I reckon to read music OK, but without realising it I’m letting other members of Chetwynd help me find the intervals – especially falling intervals. And the rising fourth across the break in my voice – B flat to E flat. Nowhere to hide in a solo!

Having sorted all that out (and the breathing) I found myself saying – actually some bits of this sound OK, now let’s get that occasional richer tone throughout (your favourite advice about a resonance chamber at the back of the mouth – high soft palate). And finally – I was taken by surprise and seriously impressed – having got all that right, suddenly the phrasing emerged – all by itself – wow where did that come from, hey that’s actually quite good… at the eleventh time of asking!

Maybe some fairly rigorous practice will make quite a difference – I had the sense it was a proper singing lesson with your [Olly Lees] critical attention focussing on me – seriously valuable, thank you.

Dianne Corson, Alto

It was a good discipline to sing alone and then listen to yourself and sort out any obvious glitches but reassuring to know it would all be blended into something bigger. Still so impressed with the end result you brought out of all the individual bits. 

Val Martin, Soprano

As you might imagine, singing, headphones on, into the computer microphone was initially a little daunting.  It was odd how self conscious I felt in a room on my own; without that connectivity to my fellow songsters. Then I realised we were still together, striving to achieve the same oneness, just in individual spaces. It was enlightening. I was overwhelmed when I heard the results of our Musical Director’s wizardry at putting it all together. Yes, it’s not perfect, but it’s genuine and heartfelt and moving.

Liz Clarke, Alto

Initially the challenge  to record myself, listen to my voice and then send it on for someone else to hear seemed daunting, and indeed, I could not hide from the tonal imperfections in my voice, but, it was a great privilege to be able to express the music in as heartfelt a manner as I could – in all I found the experience humbling and a great blessing –  to be part of Chetwynd is very special indeed and this new experience further heightens that.

Neil Embrey, Bass

It was a great laugh.

Carol Burnett, Soprano

It was the most absorbing exercise which taught me something about myself! I am now proud of our performance and want to do it again in the midst of this strange craziness!! 

Neil Robinson, Tenor

The challenge for me as a singer was to Drop my voice into an existing very Slow track, without any Tears (or Tears)  – no mean Feet! The outcome is more beauteous than one might have imagined…We invite you to bathe your senses in this imperfect but heart-felt rendition across the centuries from one time of relative isolation to another.

More about Chetwynd

Chetwynd perform a classical repertoire which includes music from all eras including Byrd, Monteverdi, Bach, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Brahms and several 20th and 21st century composers such as James Macmillan, Cecilia McDowall and Paul Mealor. Further details can be found on their website

The Ingestre Orangery: Heritage Pod Development - This project is part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development