Education

Glorious Russian Choral Music

Posted on

A Talk by Simon Dunbavand

Simon Dunbavand
Simon Dunbavand

#torquay #music #Russia # choral –  South Devon Choir are adding to their social calendar this spring with a talk by lecturer and musician, Simon Dunbavand.  He has entitled the talk “Glorious Russian Choral Music” and it promises to be gloriously illustrated with music and a fascinating account by Simon which you can be sure will include some interesting personal anecdotes.

Simon describes himself as an organist, pianist, conductor, choral animateur, lecturer, researcher, writer, composer, teacher, and traveller.  Not only that, Simon is also a Cambridge graduate and was an Organ Scholar of Peterhouse, now resident in Torquay he is also organist at Paignton Parish Church and is accompanist to South Devon Choir among his many other roles.

One of Simon’s passions is Russian Choral music and he has directed performances of Russian Orthodox music, which he researches and collects in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kiev.

Simon is also a frequent lecturer on classical music themed-cruises, as well as inspiring singers in the Choirs-at-Sea programme. Travel is his greatest pleasure, and when combined with music, produces a thrilling anthropological and ethnographical cocktail, from the ghats of Varanasi, to the monasteries of Luang Prabang in Laos. Simon is proud to have played the ceremonial gong at a Hindu watermelon ritual on Moheshkhali Island in Bangladesh, and trekked to the ancient Buddhist Monasteries of Inle Lake, Burma, across the mountains of the forbidden Shan State to the two-thousand stupas of Kakku with their bells tinkling in the breeze. Simon has visited the Mursi tribe of the Lower Omo Valley in Ethiopia and attended the chanting of the St George’s Day rites in the rock-hewn orthodox churches of the holy city of Lalibella. Recently he took the infamous Tazara train from Dar es Salaam to Zambia, and continued onwards into Zimbabwe and South Africa. In 2015 he has particularly enjoyed visiting the Corcovado district of Costa Rica, Bocas del Toro in Panama, and travelling by train across Uzbekistan.

The event will take place in The Rougemont Room, Toorak Hotel, Chestnut Avenue, Torquay, Devon, TQ2 5JS on Tuesday 6 March commencing at 7pm.  There is a bar and tea/coffee are also available.  The cost for the event is £7.00 per person – tickets are available from Prim Wood, Telephone 01803 872296, or on the door.

Find out more about Simon Dunbavand on his website.

Rhythms get stuck in our heads

Video Posted on Updated on

When George Gershwin wrote ‘Fascinating Rhythm’ he was describing what we all can identify with – when one of those tunes gets stuck in your head and you just can’t stop it – “Got a little rhythm, a rhythm, a rhythm, that pit-a-pats through my brain”.   In fact, it’s “So darn persistent, The day isn’t distant, When it’ll drive me insane.”

Of course the Choir’s intention on Saturday 11th July is not to drive you insane but to entertain you with our concert of Gershwin music – Fascinating Rhythm.  Tickets are available online and on the door.  The performance starts at 7.30pm at Central Church, Tor Hill Road, Torquay.

And if you’ve wondered about this strange mind phenomenon, known as an ‘earworm’, perhaps this little video from TedEd will illuminate what might be happening.

And now for something completely different

Posted on Updated on

George Gerswhin
George Gerswhin

AND now for something completely different’, as they used to say on Monty Python’s Flying Circus. That’s a little quotation that fits the bill nicely for our concert on Saturday 11th July, for after our many decades of singing the likes of Bach, Handel, Mozart or Haydn we have none other than the 20th century American composer George Gershwin. Read the rest of this entry »

Got the Gershwin Blues

Posted on

Which way to turn ... the page?
Which way to turn … the page?

Has Chorally Confused got the mid-term Gershwin singing blues?  Learning songs for our next concert, Fascinating Rhythm, has been a challenging and steep learning curve.  The harmonies are complex and very different from the classical pieces of choral music the Choir has learned recently and the rhythms are well, fascinating.

The score for this concert has been hand written in places and this makes for an appreciation of what singers might have experienced before the advent of printed music.  Think Handel with a goose feather quill and octopus ink, a shaky hand after a pint or two of good German lager and you begin to get the drift.

Chorally Confused, who has never learned to read music but can now follow it (as she thought) pretty successfully, is suffering from repeatitis.  For those of you who spend time with your head in a stave this might be just run of the mill but for those of us with a big red L-plate on our back in the musical reading department repeated repeats can become confusing and the score for this concert is full of repeats: repeat: full of repeats!

Not only are there simple repeats, sing through to the repeat mark(:) turn back and sing it again, but there are repeats inside the repeats.  Sing to the repeat mark, turn back and sing it again, carry on after the second time to the repeat marks, and go back – Where!?

The most useful musical term learned so far is “Thumb”, written at the point where Chorally Confused must insert her thumb in order to go back to the first repeat.  It  may not be the correct classical music notation but its the easiest way  to navigate successfully.  One wiser and more experienced member of the Choir said use a paperclip, which is a good idea, and anyhow Chorally Confused would need to have a thumb in the score to find the paperclip.

Spot the repeats :
Spot the repeats :

Chorally Confused sings soprano, the top line – the previous user of the score, who sang alto on the next line down, wrote some instructions too, although not quite sure what auburn refers to…. faster is perfectly clear.

Come what may the Choir is very grateful to the North Devon Choral Society for the loan of the scores and to Robin Page, who painstakingly and beautifully arranged the music in SATB parts for Choirs like us to sing.

Porgy & Bess

Image Posted on

Porgy and Bess
—Photo by Michael J. Lutch

First performed in Boston in 1935 the opera Porgy & Bess has been  performed many times over the intervening years.  Here  are Norm Lewis and Audra McDonald bringing soul to the American Repertory Theatre’s production of The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess in 2011.

The story of the writing of the opera runs thus. At some date in the 1920s a black American named Goatcart Sammy murdered a woman and was pursued by the police who, being provided with Cadillacs, not surprisingly overtook the goat-cart and put Sammy in gaol.  This story caught the fancy of one DuBose Heyward who put it into a novel called Porgy.  This caught the fancy of George Gershwin when he was touring in 1926 with one of his earliest and best musicals, Oh, Kay!  He wrote to Heyward suggesting an opera.  Heyward put him off because he was dramatizing the book for Broadway.  The play was a hit and in 1932 Gershwin propositioned Heyward again.  He saw in Porgy a chance to write and opera where he could find the middle ground between classical music and American jazz, one of his lifelong desires and by now a fixation.  The deal was done; Heyward was to do the libretto working along with George’s brother Ira, widely know as a top class lyricist.

George put in a lot of homework living on an island off Charleston, South Carolina, studying a community whose music was thought to be the nearest thing to the real ‘McCoy’ in the matter of spirituals.  He wrote the opera in 20 months.  The piano score was entirely his own work but how much of the orchestration he did himself has always been a bit of mystery.

The Gershwin brothers were the impresarios as well as the creators of Porgy and they took great pains to audition and selected their all-coloured cast.  Todd Duncan got the role of Porgy and was to sing the hit numbers all over the world for the next 40 years.  After the out-of-town run the show had its real first night in the Alvin Theatre, New York on 10 October 1935.  It ran for 124 performances – not enough to recoup the investment on a Broadway musical but surely a candidate for the Guinness Book of Records as an opening run of consecutive performances of a new opera.