Musical Advent Calendar 2018

December 15th
It’s the first of the Five Christmas Fanfares and is being performed tonight in Manchester by Kantos in their Christmas Concert. Also tonight: Southern Voices in Winchester performing Hodie Christus Natus est. Also tonight The Bridge Singers performing Hodie Christus Natus Est, The Lamb and Chantry Chapel Carol. Also today Cantus of Minneapolis performing Alleluia! Into The Light! In Apple Valley, Minnesota. Wheeeeh!

December 14th
Another traditional carol today, but this time given a barbershop tweak and performed here by some members of Lionheart Harmony.

December 13th
One of my favourite traditional carols, I like to do it wherever I work. I made this arrangement for the Duchess’ Community High School Band and Choir. I like the jolliness and cheery speed. Yesterday I walked to Tim’s to deliver the prototype of Saturday’s programme for printing and on my way back I met Mary and had a chat, waved at Alison as she drove past in the car, called cheery greetings to Julia as she strode by, then Julie came along to puppy-sit for Rebekah, so I went with Julie and chatted for well over an hour while Connie the puppy had a nap in Julie’s arms – friendly choir, friendly village, cute puppy, excellent chat, top afternoon.

December 12th
It’s another wintry song I composed at the very beginning of this year for The Bridge Singers’ Burns Night Celebration in January. It was performed on that occasion in a world premiere by Gary Steward with his guitar. This video is my attempt at providing something to help Gary learn the song in what was quite a short space of time. As you hear I got a bit carried away with the arrangement, but still, we all coped perfectly in the end, and he gave a wonderful performance, and I do believe performed it on one or two more occasions. The images are from New Year’s Day – a glorious sunrise up near Bamburgh Castle.

December 11th
It’s a medieval song about the onset of winter. We’re currently learning it in The Bridge Singers for Saturday’s concert. This is my arrangement and is here performed by Bailiffgate Singers in 2014.

December 10th
It’s a merry French carol which we’re learning this year in The Bridge Singers. These pictures are of a trip we made to St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall a few years ago. In other news, I went to The Hepworth Wakefield yesterday and was exceedingly jolly with the “Footpath of Detritus” composing. Fifty people passed through the workshops during the day, which is not bad for a sunny afternoon in December when there are festive events a-plenty around town and shopping to be done. In the next door studio, lots of gentle, quiet wreath-makers were making the place smell very piney and festive. Meanwhile I was being noisy and energetic as usual.

December 9th
It’s a festive song that always reminds me of my hometown Worksop – partly because the lyrics were written by Sister Bernadette Ward who was resident in Worksop at the time, and also because since the very first recording of it, it’s been combined with these delightful pictures of the town. In other news, I’m off to Wakefield this morning for some Musical Sculptures workshops, responding to Michael Dean’s entry in the Hepworth Prize exhibitions. It should be exhausting, but fun.

December 8th
It’s a Christmas Fanfare performed here by Rock Festival Choir and part 2 of the Five Christmas Fanfares.

Also, in my extended version of this calendar which is sent with news from my daily life to friends and family around the world, I told today of our new bathroom and illustrated it with this new video:

December 7th
It’s The Lamb, performed by The Bridge Singers with pictures by Dawn Minto. The solos at the beginning are Jamie, and Peter Hall. We’re performing this one again on Saturday 15th December and we also performed it earlier in the year at Brinkburn Priory.

December 6th
It’s a song about a robin. The words are by Robert Burns. The music is sort of by me – it’s based on a tune Burns used, but I’ve tweaked it so that it can be sung as a round. The art work is by Yvonne Steward. The Bridge Singers performed it at their Burns Night Celebration in January.

In other news, I am struggling to adapt to British time. Most of these Advent Calendar entries are being written at 3am – I may as well make use of these times of being awake, but still it’s rather frustrating. Yesterday, unlike every day since we’ve been back (RFC rehearsal, concert, TBS rehearsal, research trip to Wakefield) I did not have any actual meetings or things that had to be done by a particular time, so I (mistakenly as it turns out) thought that if I slept whenever I was tired I would catch up and therefore be sleepy at proper bedtime. No. Hardly slept during the day, still so sleepy that I cannot keep my eyes open at 6.30pm. Up at 2.30am. I shall try harder today. I have a meeting at 10 am and then Lionheart Harmony at 6.30pm so maybe these will help. Meanwhile, I’ve had a brainwave about Sunday’s Hepworth workshops, so plenty to keep my brain occupied….

December 5th
Here’s an arrangement of Gabriel Fram Heven King which I did for The Bridge Singers a couple of years ago. We sang it in our Magical Glass concert in 2017 as it relates to Gabriel who features in the windows at St. Michael’s Church in the village. We’re singing it again on December 15th in our Christmas Recital. The trickiest thing about this song is the pronunciation of the medieval English. We do find it hard to get into our heads and as a result we’re heads down for most of it. I made this video to help with the learning and pronouncing!

December 4th
I’m off to Wakefield today and so here’s a carol about a building in Wakefield. I’m heading to the Hepworth today to check out the new exhibition. I have workshops there on Sunday and the exhibitions have recently changed, so I shall be spending the rest of the week planning what to do. I can’t do that until I’ve seen what’s on. This particular carol’s being performed by The Bridge Singers on 15th December in Felton Village Hall if you want to hear it in real life.

December 3rd
It’s a festive poem about sheep performed by my wonderful, funny friend and singing colleague Sid.

In other news, yesterday’s Rock Festival Choir Advent concert was exceedingly successful with what seemed like a huge audience including lots of friends from The Bridge Singers who were there supporting the four of us who are in both choirs. I was happy with my piece and one or two said the same, adding that it was one of their favourites of mine. Other feedback included, “it sounded odd from where I was sitting. Is that what you intended?” and “I really liked the Poulenc, actually.” Ah well, you can’t win ‘em all! Today, I’m back with The (afore-mentioned) Bridge Singers as we prepare for our own Christmas recital. I’ve missed them so much while I’ve been away. It will be splendid to be back amongst them.

December 2nd
This afternoon the choir that Jamie and I sing in will be performing its annual Advent Recital at 3pm in St. Paul’s Church Alnwick, Northumberland. Do come along if you’re in the area. The repertoire list includes music by Britten, Taverner, Chilcott, Mealor, Camm, Poulenc, Whitacre, Howells, McDowall. The Camm piece is this one, performed this afternoon by the sopranos and altos of the choir. Apart from my own piece my favourite other pieces are Quem Vidistis by Poulenc and David Blackwell’s arrangement of Lo, How A Rose. I love this last one and it has inspired in my head an idea for The Bridge Singers Christmas recital 2019!

December 1st
Musical Advent Calendar 2018:1 In The Bleak Midwinter. Yesterday Jamie and I came home from Australia where for the last few days I’ve been struggling with temperatures of well over 30 degrees and humidity of over 80% at times. While the weather here was not snowy or frosty for our return, it did require the use of my new big coat for our foray to the supermarket for supplies, so I give you Jamie singing about the cold weather for this year’s advent calendar opening!

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