And July in her eyes

Some really hot days this week, I hope everyone managed to keep cool.

People are beginning to see relatives and friends that have been off limits since March; we had an appropriately socially distanced visit from Ed and his girlfriend this week.

More activities are being sanctioned but singing is still off the agenda for the moment; as soon as we have the green light something will happen. (Let’s hope that it is before harvest!)

I spent a pleasant hour or so compiling the recordings that have been sent in so here is Newstead Abbey Singers first virtual recording of Nada te turbe featuring Catherine, Mary, Ruth, Rhoda, Vicky, John D and me.  

Something different this week, a little madrigal – April is in my mistress’ face. It is page 24 in the Oxford Book of English Madrigals, which most of you will have somewhere. For those who don’t have it (Nancy, Marguerite, Ruth?) and those who can’t find it here is a copy

An Elizabethan love song with a bit of a sting in the tale it needs to be sung lightly with a sense of the changing seasons. Just sing it for fun but I would like to do a virtual recording of this. Here is the audio track. You know the routine and hopefully more of you can pluck up the courage this time.

Have a good week.

To a Wild Rose

Haec Dies

Hope that everyone is safe this week.

The weather this week has affected some of us. Rhoda and Ellie have reported floods; relatively minor but inconvenient none the less. We have, optimistically, booked a caravan site for mid-July near Matthew so that we see them.

As restrictions begin to be eased our thoughts turn to how and when we might be able to meet again. Cathy has offered to host a sing in the open air or in one of their spacious and airy barns, which we went and inspected on Friday. When we feel it is safe we’ll organise something. Hopefully we will be able to get together regularly in the Autumn but will have to assess risk and maybe rethink some of our procedures. Fingers crossed.

Some more Nada te turbe recordings have arrived which I have started to stitch together. Altos, don’t be shy it would be nice to have some company. It is, however, showing how much we need the physical presence of others to sing together!

This week we look at Haec Dies in a bit more detail. Here are the relevant links:

Rehearsal video

Performance video

Have a good week and enjoy the return of the sun.

Wake up, Sun . . . . you can reappear!

 I’ve had enough of this cold weather now.

Cathy and John have wecomed the rain, but it has come too late to save the crops apparently.

Catherine has sent this link to face masks that  Imogen is involved with, they are reusable, cotton, reversible and £5 each, please support if you can.

Rhoda is still marking like crazy, Mary has been helping Ellie with PPE and Vicky has been getting very frustrated with technology.

Thanks to those sopranos who have responded to the Nada the turbe challenge, but I haven’t any alto, tenor or bass contributions yet.

I want to get Haec Dies by Byrd back into the repertoire. It is in Tudor Anthems p.84. 

S1- Catherine, Cathy, Mary; S2 – Ellie (I think you sang this part before), Rhoda, Ruth; A – Jane, Vicky, Nancy, Marguerite; T1 – David, John H (it is lower than T2); T2 – Renwick, (Nick); B – John D, John P

The text is a Gradual response for Easter Day and is an expression of joy.

Haec dies quam fecit Dominus:exultemus et laetemur in ea,alleluya. This is the day which the Lord hath made:let us be glad and rejoice therein.Alleluia

There are three distinct sections to the piece. The first section bubbles with excitement; with a change of meter the second section dances with joy and then you get a long, stately Alleluia section. Notewise it is relatively straightforward but there are rhythmic challenges in the second section, especially bars 39-41 when the excitement appears to overflow.

There are lots of performances to listen to. I have chosen one from The Sixteen

which is a reasonable speed and is not over stylised. I leave you to have a look at the notes this week and we’ll look in more detail next time. Here are the usual audio files:

Full Soprano 1 Soprano 2 Alto Tenor 1 Tenor 2 Bass

Have a good week, I hope that it warms up.

Sicut te turbe

Another week goes by and we are still here. The change in the weather over the last couple of days has been a bit extreme. It should have been the Gate to Southwelll Festival this weekend, they would have been cursing.

Two different things for you this week. 
Firstly Sicut Cervus by Palestrina. (European Sacred Music p. 270). You will also need this analysis sheet. Video playlist.

Read John Rutter’s note at the bottom of p.374 then listen to his performance of this edition with the Cambridge Singers.

The words:
Sicut cervus desiderat ad fontes aquarum, ita desiderat anima mea ad te, Deus. Like as the hart desireth the water-brooks: so longeth my soul after thee, O God.

This motet is an absolute gem, fitting the words perfectly. I want to show you some of the skill that Palestrina uses in this piece. Bear in mind that the original singers would only have the notation of their own line in front of them.

The more that I examine Sicut cervus the more I find. The rather crude yellow, green and red scribble is a diagram of the polyphony of the first 23 bars.

Now watch the video. Then sing along with the Cambridge Singers.

Second thing: I have made a very primitive multi-tracked version of Nada te turbe for us to have some fun with.
There is a full version and four versions each with a part missing. You can sing with the full version or put in the relevant missing part. You can just sing for fun or to practice …….but……I would like to replace my voice in the recording with yours, especially sopranos but I am not proud of the other parts either. Listen to the recording through headphones (on high volume); record yourself singing on a computer, tablet or phone and send the recording to me (audio or video but the final version will be audio). I suggest that you don’t listen to the recording, you won’t like the sound of your unaccompanied, solo voice.
Nada te turbe audio files:
Full: Soprano: Alto: TenorBass:

Have fun, and let’s see how it sounds – it must be an improvement!

Keep safe, keep singing.

Northern Lights

I hope that you are enjoying this beautiful weather that we are experiencing at the moment, but spare a thought for Cathy, John and other farmers who really need rain.

A couple of things have been sent to me this week. Mary sent the Sinfonia Choral Newsletter which includes “an interesting adaption of Now is the month of Maying”

Cathy forwarded an email about a concert being live streamed “from” St. Martin in the Fields on Sunday that you may e interested to listen to:

Ellie had been having fun with garden furniture and the WhatsApp group had a very interesting “visitor”. As a consequence I have had to reset the joining link. It is now:

This week we are looking at Northern Lights. We have done well with it and our performance back in the Autumn was reasonably successful, There is, however, a lot more that we can do with it.

I have sourced a couple of performances that are interesting. The first is by the eight voice group Voces 8. They are one of my favourite groups for a number of reasons; one of which is that they are very good. The blend and balance that they achieve is remarkable, obtained through personal practice and detailed, thorough rehearsal. There are things that we can learn from them.

The other performance is by an American University Chamber Choir with an improvised piano accompaniment by Gjeilo himself. 

You will need to warm up before tackling the rehearsal video. It might also be useful to look back over God so loved the world videos as some of the points are the same. Listen to the Voces 8 performance first, warm up, watch my video then sing along with Voces 8 and at some point watch the other performance.

All the videos can be found on the Newstead Abbey Singers playlist

Voces 8 performance

Central Washington University Chamber Choir with Ola Gjeilo

Rehearsal video

Have a good week.

O Lord in thy wrath

After last week’s long missive, I’ll try and make this week’s a bit shorter.

As predicted this week has been a lot warmer. I’ve got a few bedding plants out so we’re looking forward to a bit more colour in the garden.

Only one person has sent a positive reply to the virtual video so I’ll tell Michael to loo elsewhere. thanks to those who responded.

This week we are looking at O Lord in thy wrath – Oxford Tudor Anthems p. 231. 
Orlando Gibbons was one of the last English polyphonists, succeeding people like Byrd, Tallis, Weelkes and Tye. His church music was written for the recently formed Church of England and is exclusively in English. O Lord, in thy wrath is regarded as one of the gems of the period.

The text is the first four verses of Psalm 6 and often performed during Lent.

O Lord, in thy wrath rebuke me not: neither chasten me in thy displeasure. Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am weak: O Lord, heal me, for my bones are vexed. My soul is also sore troubled: but, Lord, how long wilt thou punish me? O save me, for thy mercy’s sake.

Here is a recording to listen to in the same key as our version, so you can sing along to it.

Search for recordings and you will find them in various keys. There is a good reason for that. The original manuscript is down a minor 3rd – the first note is a D. It is known that the church choirs in the early 17th century consisted of young boys and men. Boys with unchanged voices would not be able to sing that low in our modern pitch. There is oodles of research on early pitch but no-one knows for certain exactly what the pitch was in any region of Europe. it varied from country to country, and even from city to city. It gradually became unified that the A above middle C was 440 vibrations per second, but even today certain German orchestras tune to 445 and some American to 436.  It is generally accepted that Tudor pitch was approximately three semi-tones lower but contemporary professional choirs choose whichever pitch suits them best.

For those of you who wish to learn notes here are audio files as per previous weeks:

Full  Soprano1  Soprano 2 Alto 1  Alto 2 Tenor Bass

Have a good week.

Buttercups and fish
A sea of buttercups!!

I carry your heart

Good afternoon. It has all gone a bit quiet this week, is everyone alright? Perhaps you are just frozen, it has been chilly out. It’s nice to see your other interests and talents coming to the fore. Lots of you displaying craft and artistic skill. Catherine points us to “happy little clouds and a gentle voice”

Perhaps when we meet again we should have an exhibition.

This week we are going to focus on I carry your heart. Toby Young is a young(ish) composer/arranger who has done work for groups like The Kings Singers and Voces 8. I carry your heart was commissioned by The Kings Men, who are the altos, tenors and basses of Kings’ College Choir.

There are five videos for you to watch, which can all be found on the Newstead Abbey Singers video playlist at or through the individual links.

I have done a new warm up video and a round Dona nobis pacem (the music can be found here:

The text of I carry your heart is by the American poet e.e.cummings, who was quite distinctive in both the content of his poetry and the lack of capital letters and unusual punctuation. Toby Young adapts and shortens the poem in his setting of this poem that is about love in its purest form. I have prepared a sheet with the original poem in its entirety and the “lyrics” of the setting here

You can hear e.e.cummings reading his own poem

There is a recording of the version that we attempt:

I thought that you might enjoy the original sung by The Kings Men (down a tone)

Both versions give you an idea of the style that we should be aiming for. In both performances there is precision of ensemble and attention to balance. Your attention is drawn to the tune, whichever part it might be in but little details are clear. e.g the alto part in bars 36-40. Before any of that can be achieved everyone needs to be sure of the notes.

As last week there are audio files to assist you in your learning. A full, equally balanced version and one with each part highlighted.
Audio links:

Soprano 1

Soprano 2



Bass 1

Bass 2

I was contacted last week by a Michael Dobbs regarding making a choir remote video. 

I’m a retired videomaker living not too far away in Woodborough. In spite of retirement, I still produce a few free community videos for good causes – see Unfortunately the current situation rather limits my subject matter – and then I noticed the new phenomenon of virtual choirs on YouTube. I’m sure that you’ve seen these, but if not, you can see an example at .
This is something I’d like to have a go at, and I have the video editing skills and facilities, so all I need now are performers – hence the contact! 

The procedure involves each participant recording themselves singing (at home) whilst listening to a backing track via headphone or an earpiece. Each recording would then be emailed to me and edited into a virtual choir video for publishing on YouTube – all with the utmost social distancing! Hopefully all of the singers would enjoy the experience and your choir would get some extra publicity for the post-lockdown recovery.

If you think some of your members might be interested, please get in touch by email ( or by phone on 0115 9652376 to have a chat.

Please note that this is my hobby, and that these community video services are provided completely free of charge.

Michael Dobbs

If you are interested in having a go please contact me and I will set it in motion. We would do something in just four parts, short and simple. I would sent out a master track; you would have to film yourself singing with it and sending it to me and I would send the recordings to Michael.

Have a good week, the weather is going to be warmer.

Globe lillies

Pick Nick’s Notes

I hope that everyone continues to keep safe and well. At least we have something else to commemorate this week. People in Southwell have embraced the spirit of VE Day. Here are some pictures that I took on our daily exercise walk yesterday.

Proud parent moments:

Our younger son, Edward, unemployed with a lot of time on his hands, did this arrangement of The Baked Potato Song. He is singing all the parts.

Roger and Jane Poat sent this one of Lizzie’s choir:
We all have such talented offspring, let’s celebrate it.

This week I am giving you the opportunity to check the notes of Laudate Dominum. Firstly, an apology: I neglected to check the pitch of the Netherlands Chamber Choir version, sorry. Thanks to those (sopranos!) who pointed out that it is a tone higher. Ruth has sourced a recording by the Cambridge Singers, conducted by John Rutter, which is of exactly our edition. Thanks, Ruth. It can be found on the Newstead Abbey playlist at  It is a good recording but the articulation is a too detached for my liking.

I haven’t made a video of my own this week but have fabricated a series of audio files for you to use. They are all in our key and are at a slower speed. There is one for each part with the relevant notes highlighted for you to listen and sing along with plus an equally balanced full version. The sounds are synthesised and there are no words but I hope will be useful for you to learn your part. You can work at your own pace then sing along with the full version or at full speed with the Cambridge Singers.

Here are the audios:

Soprano 1:

Soprano 2:





I hope that when we are allowed to reassemble everyone will be note perfect.

Any requests for next week?


First of May!

First of May, First of May, Outdoor ********** begins today! (**** insert activity of your choice!)

I hope that we are all continuing to do well and finding things to do to stave off the boredom!

This week we are going to look at Laudate Dominum by Sweelinck (European Sacred Music p.324)

All the videos for this week’s session can be found here:

The first thing to do is read the notes at the bottom of p.376, if you haven’t done so already. Did you know that they were there?

Read the text: Laudate Dominum, omnes gentes; laudate eum, omnes populi.Quoniam confirmata est super nos misericordia ejus,  et veritas Domini, manet in aeternum.

and translation: O praise the Lord, all ye heathen: praise him, all ye nations. For his merciful kindness is ever more and more towards us:  and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever.

Read the text out loud remembering to keep the tongue and jaw very relaxed. Find the different mood in each line. On the first line the mood is Praise, the second merciful kindness and the last endureth for ever

Listen to this performance: I have chosen this version because it sung by the Netherlands Chamber Choir. Sweelinck was a Dutchman so the pronunciation of the Latin is as close as we can get these days to that which he would have expected. Having said that, the Dutch are big fans of the English Cathedral tradition so there is a certain “Eau de Kings College” about it. The pronunciation is not wildly different from that which we expect. I have also chosen it because the tempo is a bit slower than the version that John Draper found.

Follow it on p.324 of European Sacred MusicLaudate Dominum

Next week we shall do some work on the notes; I am waiting for a new bit of technology to help me. In the following video we shall explore some of the melismatic* figures that appear in this motet.

*(Melisma (Greek: μέλισμα, melisma, song, air, melody; from μέλος, melos, song, melody, plural: melismata) is the singing of a single syllable of text while moving between several different notes in succession.)

You will need this sheet of extracts to work from:

Here is the video:

Keep safe, keep singing.

Tuning Part Two

Hope that all is well with you and your families.

I have not had much feedback on the new format and what I have had has been positive so I’ll keep going with it.

Renwick has sent a video made by Ellie Martin, director of Mansfield Choral Society, that you may find entertaining:
Mary also sent a video of her and her work colleagues having a bit of an energetic break from their stressful load: Mary’s granddaughter and Rhoda’s chicks are all doing well. Nancy and Ruth are spreading a lot of joy with their craft skills. Anyone else doing good works or are in receipt of them? Tell me and I’ll spread the word.

This week we follow up on last week’s session on God so Loved the World. A big part of rehearsing, from my point of view, is that it is reactive.It is important that you ask questions, disagree and suggest topics for future weeks so that we are developing together and not just on my whim. I have an idea for next week, but am prepared to divert if an alternative is raised.

Today we are thinking about how the way that we sing words affects tuning. You will need your copy of God so Loved the World again.

When we use our voice, speaking or singing, the sound is produced by air passing over the vocal folds in the larynx. Everything between the larynx and the ears of listener has the potential to influence that sound. Words are formed by the tongue and lips. The sound leaves the body through both the mouth and nose.

You can see by this diagram that the tongue takes up an awful lot of space having the potential to restrict both the oral and nasal cavities. The voice will sound at its best when there is as much space as possible between the larynx and lips. That space is at its largest when the tongue is relaxed and the tip is against the lower teeth.

The English language doesn’t require an awful lot of mouth movement to be understood in conversation. Other European languages (Italian, French, German etc.) need more physical flexibility to be understood. So, when we are singing the mouth has to move a lot more to maintain that space. English vowels also tend to be produced further back in the mouth which tends to dull the resonance and make them sound “flat”.

For convenience all the videos can be found here:

Now warm up and sing a bit of God so Loved the World with St. Paul’s:

Here is this week’s video:

These principles can be taken into every piece that we sing.

Have a good week and I’ll see you next Friday.