Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My week in Nelson

Just before the first rehearsal of the year, I returned from a week in Nelson, at a choir festival.

The festival is run by the NZ Combined Choir and Orchestra, www.nzcco.co.nz. This was the tenth of their events. The event is held at a camp called Teapot, which is some distance outside Nelson, just past Brightwater, not too far from Rabbit Island Beach.

Musical Director for this year was Jonathan Willcocks, son of Sir David Willcocks. Jonathan is the Musical Director of the Portsmouth Choral Union and the Chichester Singers, in the UK. Sir David has conducted at previous nzcco events.

It was almost full time choral singing. We had sometimes three or four sessions a day, learning the Haydn Nelson Mass, and a work written by Jonathan to commemorate the 200 anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. Johathan's work, A Great and Glorious Victory, written in 2005, uses the same orchestration as the Haydn Nelson Mass, plus a percussion player. There is a tenor solo, who sings words based on the diaries of Admiral Nelson, including the prayer written the night before he died. During the time Jonathan was looking to write this work, he found that at the time of the Battle, there was a huge storm, and he was impressed that after the fighting, people from all the warring navies turned to helping each other survive the storm. His work finishes with the audience joining the choir to sing "The Day thou gavest". This 33 minute work is very effectively written for choir, and has already been peformed several times in the UK.

We had 50 people in the choir, ranging from age 13 to 89. There were people from America, one person from Ireland (he has travelled out most years) and a couple from Australia.

We had individual singing lessons. Only 20 minutes, but very worthwhile help for choral singers, dealing with posture, breathing, singing with more energy.

There was plenty of time off - during the day, there was time to visit the beach of local country, including wineries. During the evening, some people got very good at Scrabble, and Mexican Trains, and Peal, which is a fast version of Scrabble.

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