The Scottish Episcopal Cathedral of St. Mary, Edinburgh, is the only Anglican church in Scotland to sing daily services using choristers drawn from its own choir school. The cathedral’s choir, now open to both boys and girls, maintains a very high place in Anglican choral music. The choir was founded in 1880 (one year after the cathedral) and continued as a choir school until 1972 when it became St. Mary’s Music School, a specialized Music and Dance School.
Please visit the school’s website and see what a little vision could do to your parish’s music program. The choir school is not just for cathedrals, it could work in YOUR PARISH!
Enjoy this great recording of Gibbon’s O, Clap Your Hands by the Cathedral Choir of St. Mary’s.
The BBC broadcast of Choral Evensong comes live during the Octave of Easter from Temple Church, London. If my memory serves me rightly, St. Thomas More worshiped here during his time as a London barrister (before the English Reformation). Temple Church also played a role in the Anglican Choral revival in the 19th century, since which time it has been well known for its music program.
We have finally come to the first of Bertalot’s 12 Steps to Sight-Singing—to Sing One Note. This sounds ridiculous in its simplicity, so let’s find out what he means.
When most singers receive a new motet, they focus on the words rather than the music. Bertalot once demonstrated this to a group of adults by giving some children the words (minus musical notes) of a hymn and then asked them to sing it. He played a melody on the piano that he made up on the fly, yet the children seemed to sing it like they had heard it before. Bertalot made the point that children are great imitators and what looks like sight-singing is often just imitating what they have heard on the piano only a millisecond previously. If you work with children, try this some time—it is all too true. How does one get around it? The answer is to get them to read the music notation as well as the text.
In the first rehearsal you have with your new singers, you will need to teach them a couple of basics of music notation before they can sing one note, namely that music is written on the staff (five lines AND four spaces) and the staff has a clef (if you are working with children, this will be the treble clef). Once you draw the staff and the treble clef, point out that the belly of the treble clef wraps around the line we call G. Play G above middle C on the piano and ask them to hum what they hear. Then draw a quarter note on the same line. Explain that the quarter note tells each singer to sing G for one FULL beat, meaning that if you as the director begin counting at number one, the children must sing the G from the moment you say 1 until you say two. Then point to the note and have the children sing what they see. You have just taught them how to first see, and then sing one note (both pitch and rhythm) correctly. It always amazes me how excited children get when they have learned to sight-sing their first note.
As an aside, if you have your choristers sing a G at the beginning of each rehearsal, most of them will memorize it within the first few rehearsals and will thus have a reference point for pitching other other notes without the help of a piano.
Choral Evensong comes live today from St. Edmundsbury Cathedral. Many of the choirs we have heard during Choral Evensong are comprised of choristers from the cathedral school alongside professional lay gentlemen who sing the lower parts. St. Edmundsbury Cathedral is different because it has no cathedral school, so the choristers come from many schools around the area, while the lay clerks are volunteers, which goes to show that one can achieve great sacred music on a volunteer basis.