News of RSCM Winter School, Sydney, 2019

NSW Chair, Ross Cobb, writes in the NSW newsletter Newsclef (July 2018):

“I’m so excited about our RSCM Winter school, ‘SydneyinSpires‘!
Running from July 6-14 2019, and assembled from across Australia and New Zealand, our celebration of all things wonderful in church music will be led by:

  • our old friend, the inspiring Dr David Hill, Director of London’s Bach Choir and Yale University’s Schola Cantorum;
  • London’s pre-eminent church musician, Professor Noel Tredinnick from the Guildhall School of Music;
  • Sir Stephen Cleobury, Director of the Choir of King’s College Cambridge;
  • Anne Marsden Thomas, director of the Royal College of Organists’ training programme;
  • St Eustache Paris’ Maître Thomas Ospital,

with many other experts from round the world, and with the National Youth Choir of Australia (NYCA) as ensemble-in-residence.

All participants will sing in the performance of Bach’s immortal ‘St Matthew Passion’…conducted by Dr David Hill.
Throughout the week, lecture-demonstrations, services, seminars, recitals, ‘flash choirs’, workshops, and concerts will be held in our finest churches and Cathedrals. Come and sing Evensongs with King’s College Cambridge’s Stephen Cleobury.”

Exciting stuff, indeed! Stay tuned for more information. RSCM members can read more in the Newsclef magazine, linked in the Members page.

Calling Queensland organists of all abilities: Organ workshops kick off soon!

Are you an organist? Do you play regularly or have you not played for a while? These sessions are for you!

RSCM is committed to assisting church musicians at every level, and these workshops are designed to equip intermediate and/or advanced organists with skills in playing hymns, voluntaries and improvisation. These workshops will be of interest to organists who wish to improve or reinforce their skills. You may be renewing your acquaintance after time away, or you may already be playing for services regularly.

Workshops will be conducted by Dr Phillip Gearing, Director of Music at St Mary’s Anglican Church, Kangaroo Point. He has had extensive experience in liturgical music and as a teacher.

The first workshop is taking place at Nazareth Lutheran Church, Woolloongabba on Saturday 7 July from 9am -11am.  There will be a further five workshops in the series occurring over a three month period at times most convenient for those registered.

Pricing:
RSCM Members & Friends – $120
Non-RSCM Members – $180 (includes membership)
RSCM does offer scholarships in some circumstances.
Please contact us if you would like more information.

Hurry! These workshops begin on 7 July and places are limited! 

Position Vacant: Director of Music, Christ Church St Lawrence


The Anglican Parish of Christ Church St Laurence, Sydney seeks to appoint a suitably qualified and experienced Director of Music. The position will become vacant in September 2018. Christ Church St Laurence is renowned throughout the Anglican Communion for the quality of its music and liturgy. The Parish Choir sings a wide range of repertoire, has undertaken several international tours, and has produced a number of acclaimed commercial recordings of sacred music.

The Director of Music is responsible for training and conducting the choir, planning repertoire in consultation with the Rector and music staff, and the ongoing development of a large and vibrant music programme. The music department includes a professional organist, organ scholar, choral scholars and a choir management team.

The position of Director of Music is a part-time appointment, equating to approximately 3 days per week. Stipend, conditions and a detailed position description are available on request. Applications and expressions of interest may be e-mailed to the Rector, The Rev’d Dr Daniel Dries fr.danielccsl.org.au or telephone 02 9211 0560 for more information. Applications close Monday 25 June 2018.

Position Vacant: Organist, West Epping Uniting Church NSW

West Epping Uniting Church (located on the corner of Carlingford Rd and Orchard St, Epping in Sydney, NSW) is urgently a seeking a new organist, as their regular organist is no longer able to play.

This organist is required to play in West Epping’s traditional Sunday worship service that takes place every Sunday morning commencing at 8am. There are normally four or five hymns selected from Together in Song (or the Australian Hymn Book) together with the need for music shortly before and after the service.

This service has a strong tradition of traditional hymn singing and the pipe organ is greatly valued.

This would suit either an established organist or a student.  The church is able to offer remuneration in line with established scales or offer payment according to accepted levels.

The organ is described here: http://www.sydneyorgan.com/WestEppingUC.html

Enquiries may be made of the minister,

Rev John Barr
jmbarrwepping@gmail.com

Church Office:  (02) 9868 3574
(Office Hours: Monday to Thursday 8.30am to 3.00pm; Friday 8.30am to 12.30pm)

Peter Godfrey Memorial Service

From the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul Facebook page:

The memorial service for Peter Godfrey will be broadcast on RNZ Concert on Thursday 28 December at 7pm. Thereafter it will be available from RNZ website.

MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR PETER GODFREY

Over six hundred people filled Wellington Cathedral of St Paul on Sunday evening, 12 November for the Memorial Service celebrating the life and work of Professor Peter Godfrey, long-time patron of New Zealand Choral Federation. Two hundred were singers in any of the seven choirs Peter had conducted in Wellington during the nearly forty years since his retirement from Auckland University, and for the massed items they were joined by another fifty or more former singers of those choirs as well as many who’d attended Wellington Region’s NZCF May Workshops.

There were also many Cathedral parishioners, vocal soloists, orchestra players, music administrators, and many whose lives he had touched while giving so much to New Zealand’s choral life since the late 1950s. The service was conducted by the Cathedral’s Dean Digby Wilkinson and Christine Argyle filled the role of presenter introducing each item. Individual choirs each sang a piece of their own choosing – and all music was either from a work or by a composer that they knew Peter admired – there was Pearsall’s Lay a Garland, Fauré’s Sanctus from the Requiem, and compositions that Cathedral Choir organists had written – Dienes’ Jesu Dulcis and Walsh’s Eternal Spirit. Peter’s Kapiti Coast choirs sang And the Glory from Messiah, Elgar’s As Torrents in Summer, and Elizabeth Salmon’s Blessing, which she had written for Peter’s local parish church. The massed choirs, conducted by Guy Jansen, opened the service with Wood’s Oculi Omnium, the favourite grace that Peter had every choir in the country sing by heart before a meal. Brahms’ How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place, which Karen Grylls conducted, brought the service to a very moving conclusion.

Other highlights among many were the magnificent singing of the hymns, all Peter’s favourites – RVW’s For All the Saints, Parry’s O Praise ye the Lord, and Howell’s All my Hope on God is Founded, while the heart-breakingly beautiful Dido’s Lament by Purcell was sung by Janey MacKenzie, who had a long association with Peter as chorister and soloist. This gave the service a lovely interlude of hushed sadness amid the uplifting thankfulness expressed in the other items sung by the choirs.

The singing was interspersed by three fine addresses. Peter Averi, long-time colleague and friend, recounted Peter’s exceptional contribution to the country’s musical and choral life, John Rosser, chair of NZCF, spoke of his personal experience as a choir member for many years, expressing for us all his admiration of what every singer has gained from Peter’s choral leadership and vision, and Simon Bowden, Chair of the New Zealand Arts Foundation, described the arts world’s tremendous gratitude to Peter, as they awarded him an Arts Icon in 2005. Simon Winn, the Cathedral’s Canon Precentor, read Psalm 139 vv1-14, and before the final blessing, the Royal School of Church Music’s Chorister’s prayer was recited by all – a fitting end to the service .
It was clear that all the singers were singing their hearts out for Peter Godfrey one last time; the congregation rejoiced in sharing the heart-felt emotion of the service, aware there is much to be thankful for in the gifts he gave to New Zealand’s musical life for so long.

10 Tips for Starting a Children’s Choir at your Church – by Judy Fromyhr

Have you been thinking about starting a children’s choir at your church? Perhaps these tips might help you to get started.

1.  Have organisational aims and objectives.

It is important that you have clear aims and objectives for your children’s choir or choral group, and that these are articulated to everyone who will be involved – preferably in writing. Why does your church want to start a children’s choir and what will the role of such a choir be?

Your aim might be quite general and could be – to provide an opportunity for young people to contribute to worship through music and to develop children’s skill development in choral singing.

Objectives might be more specific, relate to the members of the group and encompass some of the following:

  • to contribute to the church community
  • to be part of a team and work with others
  • to take responsibility for attending rehearsals and services
  • to take responsibility for learning the chosen music

 

2.  Age group

Decide on the age group that you will start with and try to stick to it. You can, of course, adopt a “whole of primary school approach” but a wide range in ages makes rehearsals and choice of music very difficult. I have found that a grouping of children in grades one to three, and four to seven works successfully. These age groups are quite homogenous socially but at the same time allow for the older children to take responsibility for leading a section, doing solos, providing good models for new choristers etc. I don’t include pre-school or prep children in the group because the even wider age range can be difficult to handle and the length and intensity of rehearsals and performances can be taxing for the younger ones. You might decide to start with one age group, and then expand to the other group as the number of choristers grows. Both groups can eventually join together for some occasions but have separate rehearsals

 

3.  Type of music

The style of music that you want to present at your church may have a bearing on the
type of group that you put together. Are you intending to sing traditional hymns (in
unison or parts), children’s unison worship
songs, popular songs with instrumental accompaniment or one of many other styles? Once you are clear about the type of music that suits your congregation, make this clear to anyone who might like to join so that they know what to expect. I once had a little boy who joined one of my choirs and was disappointed because we never went on a plane – he thought that he was joining the “Qantas”

 

4.  To audition or not to audition?

I prefer not to audition in this age group because I see a children’s choir as a beginning and formative activity in choral singing, and therefore my responsibility to provide the experiences and materials that will help a child become a good chorister. Yes, there is a downside to this, but even with adult choirs I have observed many instances of people who have developed into very competent choristers but probably would have been passed over in an audition process. If you have to audition, try to see the children in groups of 4 or 5 and play some music games that will enable you to see potential. One-on-one auditions are difficult for anyone!

 

5.  Commitment

When will rehearsals be held? How long will they go for? and How often will the choir sing for church services? Families are very busy these days and need to plan ahead for all of their children’s activities so, the more notice you can give, and the more consistent you are, the better. My children’s choir (5 – 9 year olds) rehearses for one hour per week. At the beginning of each year and with many new members, it takes us quite a while to be
ready to sing for others. In the second half of the year, we are able to plan for more

 

6.  Assistance

It is always preferable to have someone to assist you in rehearsals and when the children are singing at a service so that you are sure that you can meet your “duty of care” obligations. You can’t leave the choir to supervise someone who needs to go to the toilet, or to assist a child who is feeling ill or upset. I invite parents to stay for my rehearsals and they are always a great help. However, if you can have a specific person whose role it is to look after the children, it allows the conductor to concentrate on the rehearsal or performance without distraction. Make sure that everyone who is working with the children has a BLUE CARD well ahead of the start of rehearsals. They can take up to 8 weeks to be processed.

 

7.  Accompanist

A good accompanist is an invaluable asset and can assist with warm-up exercises, games, and part-work, as well as actually playing for the choir. Having an accompanist, and preferably a paid one, also gives you an ally and another musician to bounce ideas off or contribute to selection of repertoire.

 

8.  Technology

Technology can help in a number of ways:

  • Have an email contact list or sms distribution list for the families involved in your choir so that you can easily let them know what the choir is doing, any changes to the schedule, how parents can help the children to learn their music at home, what pieces are needed for the next church service etc. Communication is the key to consolidating your work in the early stages.
  • If you don’t have an accompanist to start with, there are many publications now that include both rehearsal and performance tracks. There is no need to sing along with a group of adult singers on a pre-recorded CD.
  • Consider creating rehearsal tracks for the children to use at home for practice. You might record these yourself and send them to the families as mp3s or burn the tracks to a CD. You can also create scorch files of the music you are using and make them accessible to the children. If you don’t have the equipment or time to prepare these yourself, there is sure to be someone in the parish who does. Access to practice materials contributes to the success of the choir and engagement in its activities.

 

9.  Recruitment

If you have clear aims and objectives, it is easy to communicate these to potential choristers and their families. Can you talk about your plans for a choir at regular church services? Put clear information in your church newsletter? Have an “Open Rehearsal” or “try before you buy” session? Advertise in local school newsletters? There may be families who attend a non-denominational school who would be very happy to attend your church. Ask a local newspaper to do a story and include a photo to catch people’s attention.

 

10.  Enjoy

Singing in a choir should be a joyful and enriching experience for everyone – the choristers, their families and most importantly, yourself. Your choir may be the first experience of choral singing for some children and, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the experience of being in your choir was one that lead them to a lifelong engagement with choral music and the worship of God through singing?

[Judy is a Senior Lecturer in Music at Australian Catholic University, Brisbane Campus, and is the Musical Director and Conductor of The Young Conservatorium “Melodic Minors”]

10 Tips for Spicing up your Hymn Playing – Dr Steven Nisbet

1:  Spicing up your hymn playing starts with getting the fundamentals right. It’s like cooking a healthy meal: assemble the basic ingredients first, and add the spices for extra flavour.

2:  The process of getting the fundamentals right can be summarised by three P words – Prepare, Practice, & Perform. The first two Ps have to happen during the week before the service, in order for it all to come together in the performance.

3:  Preparation includes thinking about the text of the hymn and how the music can support the interpretation of the text. It includes deciding on an appropriate tempo (speed), suitable dynamics (loud and soft expression), what to include in the play-over (hymn introduction), where the singers need to breathe, and how much time to leave between verses.

4:  Practice! There’s a classic story of a tourist walking around New York City, who asks a local “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The local responded, “Practice, practice, practice.” To accompany hymns, we need to practice everything about our hymn playing – correct notes (including correct rhythm and correct harmony), selection and changing of registration (stops), and the play-over.

5:  The play-over should not only allow time for the congregation to find the hymn in the book, but more importantly, let the congregation know clearly what tune is being used, and to signal the tempo of the hymn. The first and last lines are usually sufficient for this. This can vary in some cases. For example, in the hymn “We limit not the truth of God” (Together in Song, Number 453), it would be better to play the last half of the hymn as the play-over, to avoid a dull repetition of the first line.

6:  Interpret the text in musical ways. Recently I played the hymn “Jesus Christ is waiting” (TIS 665) at our church service. Each verse required special treatment. Verse 1 “Jesus Christ is waiting, waiting in the streets” needed to be played strongly (as with all first verses) to establish the tempo and provide a lead for the tune. For verse 2 “Jesus Christ is raging” I pulled out a strong reed. Verse 3 “Jesus Christ is healing” required a gentler sound. In verse 4 “Jesus Christ is dancing” I played very rhythmically with lots of staccato.  I played the last verse (“Jesus Christ is calling”) strongly, with a rallentando in the last line (“I will follow you”), and ended with a major chord as a positive sign.

7:  Select an appropriate tempo for the hymn. This is guided by singing the hymn yourself during practice and making sure it does not drag, and it’s not rushed. There must be a feeling of ‘line’ to the melody, with stresses on important syllables and notes in the phrases.

8:  Decide where it is appropriate for the singers to breathe in the verses, and provide a small break for this to occur. Allow singers to take a big breath between verses and provide a rest for this too.

9:  Match the dynamics of the music to the text. The hymn “Dear Father Lord of humankind” (TIS 598, previously “Dear Lord and Father of mankind”) presents a challenge. Firstly, it should not be too loud, but stop selection must still provide a clear lead. Try to have small variations of tone colours in verses 2, 3, and 4. In the last verse, there should be a crescendo and decrescendo to contrast the ‘earthquake, wind and fire’ with ‘the still small voice of calm’. This can be achieved with the use of the swell box as well as combination pistons.

10:  The final verse provides an opportunity to reharmonise, however this must be well prepared. There are books of reharmonisations available (e.g. by Eric Thiman, Noel Rawsthorne, Steven Nisbet) for starters. Then if you have the skill, write your own. The reharmonisation must be practised along with the whole hymn.

[Dr Steven Nisbet is an RSCM Member and the Director of Music at St Andrew’s Uniting Church, Brisbane.  He is also a committee member of the Organ Society of Qld.]