Weekly Notices

10 May 2020

Duncan has brought to our attention this email about the English Music Festival. It will no doubt be of interest. Look out for the following among other offerings (Saturday 23 May, 5pm):

An English Requiem’ by Johannes Brahms? Early performances of Ein Deutsches Requiem in nineteenth-century Britain

“Dear friends and colleagues,

Come and join us at the English Music Festival in a fortnight’s time! No, alas, not in person – but at our online EMF, from the safety and comfort of your own home!

Given the cancellation of the physical Festival (as a result of COVID-19 and subsequent government restrictions) we are doing the next best thing – an online Festival of concerts and talks, held at (broadly) the same times that the EMF events were planned to take place, and featuring as many of the same artists and composers as we could muster.

We have asked our artists wherever possible to provide live filmed concerts and talks from their homes in lock-down, and are delighted to have received talks and recitals from Roderick Williams, Paul Guinery, Duncan Honeybourne, Joseph Fort, Hilary Davan Wetton, Richard Blackford, Joseph Spooner and Nicholas Bosworth, Rupert Marshall-Luck, and Ensemble Hesperi. Where artists have not been able to provide us with a live film (due to their ensemble size, for instance) we have instead compiled a radio-style presentation of carefully-curated works from EM Records discs. (We regret that, due to licencing restrictions, we have not been able to use recordings from record labels other than the EMF’s own label.)

We will be charging for access to these online events, because part of our reason for setting this up  (as well as to compensate our loyal and enthusiastic audiences for lack of a real event) was to be able to give some financial remuneration to musicians, so many of whom have lost vital work and income as a result of the current situation.

You can view the full programme of events at www.englishmusicfestival.org.uk/2020-online-festival/programme.php and tickets are available from www.englishmusicfestival.org.uk/2020-online-festival/box-office/box-office-front-page.php.

The process of viewing the events online will be simple and easy: once your ticket sale has been processed, I will email you with a link to enable you to access the event(s) in question.  At the start time of the event, you will need to copy and paste the link into your browser and the film, talk or radio presentation will appear on the screen as a thumbnail – just click on the thumbnail, and the event will start automatically.

So, please do join us for this – as well as experiencing some lovely music (and being able to peek into artist’s homes in lockdown!), you will be supporting our musicians, and helping the Festival to recover the high costs of setting up and running this replacement event.

Finally, I would be hugely grateful if you could forward this email to as many interested friends, colleagues and family members as you can – the more people who support this event, the stronger the EMF will be in emerging from this situation!

So, position your computer in front of your favourite armchair, reach for a good bottle of wine, and settle down to enjoy a weekend of musical discovery.

With warmest regards as ever,

(Email sent by Philip Booth, Chair)


7 May 2020

A note from Duncan:

Dear SCS Member,

I hope you are all keeping well in this prolonged situation. Like me, I’m sure you’re missing the music and singing on a Thursday evening. Let’s hope it won’t be for too long.

Today is Brahms’s birthday! 🍷 (Hamburg 1833).

Below are some lovely links. If you don’t know his Variations and the songs for the Women’s choir he founded in Hamburg, you are in for a treat.

The disheveled bachelor almost became a member of the Schumann family. The Requiem was partly a reaction to Robert Schumann’s final days (and Brahms’s own mother’s death) and he was very close to Schumann’s wife, Clara Schumann. 
Brahms and Clara wrote beautiful sets of Variations on a theme by Robert.

The four songs for that extraordinary scoring of upper voices, harp and two horns are brilliantly sung by The Kansas City Chorale.

If you like the Variations, take a look at Julian’s book:

The Violin Concerto slow moment is gorgeous, and maybe it works as a simple part song!

You might also like to look up Schumann’s Ghost Variations – another lovely theme that Schumann famously thought was sung to him by angels or the ghost of Schubert or Mendelssohn. But he’d actually used the theme in the slow movement of his own violin concerto. The Variations is his last piece and he was very ill, poor chap.

I hope to see you soon!

Best wishes,

Violin Concerto slow movement
y arrangement of the slow movement set to the poem “Liebe” by Friedrich Schiller (recorded live…) sung by Oxford Liedertafel
Four songs for female voices, harp and two horns
Variations on a theme by Schumann
Clara Schumann’s variations on the same theme


7 April 2020

Messiah Online

If you have wanted to sing the Messiah and never have, or if you have sung it and want to practise it again, the following will be of interest. It has been going for a couple of weeks, but it is possible to catch up. It has been organised via Choraline, who sent the following initial email around, written by the organiser. It is to be sung on 31 May.

Philip Booth

We have received an amazing respose to our idea of running a MESSIAH AT HOME concert during this extraordinary time. Thank you so VERY much to everyone who has contacted us with such positive ideas and wonderful support – I have been involved in the choral world for many years and have never known such an overwhelming number of singers and choirs wishing to help and take part – thank you again and I do apologise for not being able to reply in person to so many of you.As a response to ‘make this happen’ there have been lots of people working very long hours – a special thank you to Mark Strachan who has put so much time into this project and is pulling together a team of computer experts, musicians, soloists and conductors.Mark has formed the ‘Self Isolation Choir‘ which we can all join for the MESSIAH AT HOME concert – this may be the biggest choir ever with singers from choirs joining in all over the world – so far we have choirs and singers wishing to join in from England, Wales, Scotland, USA, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Africa, Norway and New Zealand – it would be amazing to have someone from every country around the world!It is a major ‘technical challenge’ as to how this is all going to work and has yet to be finalised – but please be assured we are determined and plan to send another email next week with further information as to how to join the ‘Self Isolation Choir’ and take part in MESSIAH AT HOME and other events organised for members of the new choir during this time when we are all doing our best to deal with the situation.
How you can help …As soon as we have the final details we will pass on the information to you and ask you to forward and invite every singer in your choir via email, facebook, whatsapp, twitter etc. so they too can have the opportunity to join us – in fact, please let EVERYONE you know know about this as they may well love to take part – the Messiah is such a wonderful piece to sing it will truly be beneficial and uplifting to everyone regardless of how experienced they are as a choral singer – if you know any music teachers please also let them know as it would be great to get lots of young people involved as well.
In the meantime please forward this email to anyone you feel would like to be involved so they will also receive these news letters and have the very latest updates by clicking here to register
Be ahead of the game …Learn to use the Choraline App – please click here
Ensure you have the correct Vocal Score – please click here
Start to rehearse the Messiah right now – please click here 
Thank you and please stay at home to stay safe and keep singing every day – you may wish to try our graded vocal exercises recording which has been specially made to warm up your vocal chords and keep you voice in excellent working order – please click here to hear a sample – also available on the App 


31 March 2020


Instruments of Time and Truth (IT&T), whose playing calendar has been decimated by the coronavirus, has asked us if we can move the date of our winter concert, planned for 6 February 2021, to allow them to accept another offer on that date.
We are very happy to do this and so have moved the Brahms Requiem to Saturday 23 January (still with IT&T). This means that the usual longer rehearsal the week before the concert will now be on Saturday 16 January, 10am-1pm. Go to the Dates for the Diary page for other dates. You will see there that we are optimistically keeping the date of the Summer Party open for the time being.


And while I am at it, here are a few more links to music online:


Philip Booth


25 March 2020

Jane Amies (soprano) has brought the following links to our attention. You might like to explore them while we are waiting to meet again.

Metropolitan Opera | Nightly Met Opera Streams
The Ultimate Classical Music Quiz – Classic FMwww.classicfm.com › discover-music › latest › ultimate-classical-musi…

And from the website of Making Music (an organisation that we are a member of):
1. Making music with others
Virtual choirs:
The Sofa Singers, led by James Sills;
Great British Home Chorus, led by Gareth Malone OBE;
Stay at Home ChoirDistant-Sing, run by Making Music’s corporate member, Choir Community;
Duet Yourself (on Facebook);
Corona Virus Choir (on Facebook);
Choir Choir Choir (on Facebook) led by Nobu Adilman and Daveed Goldman.
2. Making music yourself
Free music download from Pennine Music;
Free brass music from Lode for Publishing – plus an online challenge to create your own recording;
Acapella is an app that lets you create and share music with each other.
3. Learn an instrument online
If you have time on your hands, why not dig out that old trumpet and get practising? There are lots of YouTube tutorials out there to help as well as professionals offering online lessons (Making Music’s Corporate Member Your Space Music, for example).
4. Making Music’s corporate member, Black Dress Code, is turning their website into a temporary digital concert hall to allow musicians to stream performances. Audiences will be charged a fee to watch, which will then be passed on to performers. Email info@blackdresscode.com for more information.
5. Watch music
The music section of this Chatter Pack article lists some streaming of live performances and pre-recorded concerts.

And Marie Bridge (committee member and alto) has drawn our attention to this performance of Va Pensiero by Verdi, by a virtual opera choir and dedicated to hospital staff in Italy.

Philip Booth


16 March 2020

Before Boris Johnson’s announcement this afternoon, the committee had already decided to cancel choir rehearsals from this Thursday. And because the possibility of reinstating rehearsals before 6 June is extremely remote, we have also decided to cancel the concert. The committee will give some thought in due course as to when and how we might perform the French repertoire at another date. 

The committee has decided it would like to continue to pay Duncan and Julian, as self-employed individuals and for obvious reasons of good will, for the rest of the term. We will also be continuing to pay our weekly rent to St Michael’s (£35). Bearing this in mind, we have arrived at a figure of £20 that we can offer as a refund on this term’s subscription. We are offering this, however, in the form of a reduction off next term’s subscription. This considerably eases our administration, as otherwise there would be over 120 members to return money to. If next term you decide you would like to donate this £20 to the choir, then you can offer to pay the full subscription when you sign on.

We are left with the memory of the stirring performance we gave of Vierne’s Mass at the last rehearsal and shall have to wait to gather together again! Meanwhile there will only be Weekly Notices when there is something essential to communicate.

Philip Booth


10 MARCH 2020



As I mentioned at the rehearsal last week, the committee is in discussion about what action we might need to take in relation to the coronavirus. I am repeating this now for those who weren’t at the last rehearsal. Basically, we do not think it necessary to go beyond the current public health advice, and we therefore plan to continue with rehearsals for the time being. As you all know, the advice on gatherings may change.
Meanwhile here is rehearsal-specific advice, all of it self-evident, to add to the general advice freely available elsewhere:
1. Do not attend rehearsals if you have been advised to remain at home or isolate yourself.
2. Do not attend rehearsals if you develop any symptoms of a common cold (running nose, cough or sore throat), a flu-like illness (fever, shivering, generalised aching etc), or cough and difficulty breathing.
3. Go home if you develop symptoms during a rehearsal.


If you are a new (or returning) member, please have a look at the Rehearsal Aids page of our website where you will find details of the John Fletcher website. It has all the music for the forthcoming concert on it. There are also links to recordings recommended by Duncan of most of the pieces at the bottom of the Next Rehearsal page.
If you have been a regular member of the choir but didn’t sing last term, you may find that you are no longer registered for the John Fletcher website. If you want to rejoin, please email Marie Bridge, our contact person for the John Fletcher site, at jfletcherrep@summertownchoral.org.uk.
Please explore the new website (http://www.summertownchoral.org.uk). In particular there is a menu for Members. These Weekly Notices and Duncan’s weekly email about the Next Rehearsal can be found there, hopefully making it easier for you to retrieve them.
The links for the YouTube versions of the French music we will be singing in June can also be found on the Next Rehearsal page.
Look at the Summertown Singers menu if you are considering coming to Porto in August.
Work is being done to speed up the website.

This email comes to you from:
Philip Booth
For details of how to contact committee members or Duncan, click here.

Philip Booth

The organ of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.
(This image related to our now cancelled concert of French music.)