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This week we impressed Elliot with our choir sound repeating the great performance from last week,


We started with a brand new song, Crossing the Bar.


The extended metaphor of "crossing the bar" represents travelling serenely and securely from life through death.


The Pilot is a metaphor for God, whom the speaker hopes to meet face to face.


It is based on an 1889 poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.


It is considered that Tennyson wrote it in elegy; the narrator uses an extended metaphor to compare death with crossing the "sandbar" between the river of life, with its outgoing "flood", and the ocean that lies beyond death, the "boundless deep", to which we return.


Tennyson is believed to have written the poem after suffering a serious illness while on the sea, crossing the Solent from Aldworth to Farringford on the Isle of Wight. Separately, it has been suggested he may have written it on a yacht anchored in Salcombe, where there is a moaning sandbar.


British folk music group The Longest Johns released their own cover of this poem in 2018 in their album Between Wind and Water.


Though the speaker is describing his own death, he makes it clear that he does not fear it and he does not want those he leaves behind to mourn his passing.


On that note we started learning the notes and getting the feel of the song. 


It has long lines and is quite repetitive and is very exposing. 


It will be important to watch for clear cut offs when the phrases end.


Altos may be on the same note for a lot of the time, but blended with everyone else it makes it very atmospheric.


Clearly sound out the two ‘t’s on ‘out to sea’.


Keep ‘Turns again home’ very gentle.


The rhythm on page 4 & 5 is unusual on the phrase ‘and may there be no sadness of farewell’ where there are long notes on ‘no’, ‘sad’ and ‘of’


Once we have learnt the notes and rhythms, Eamonn will work on the dynamics of light and shade in future weeks.


We then crossed the bar to Mad World.  It is very tempting to make it sound ‘choppy’ and robotic like it sounds in Dropbox.  Lengthen the phrases and make them sound human instead.

Pentatonic's acapella version, Amazing!


Again, it is quite repetitive, so tell the story and make it interesting.


Beware on page 6 when you encounter one of Eamonn’s curve balls with ‘Look right through me’

‘Look right through’ are all on the same note, depending on your voice part, with ‘through’ and ‘me’ being long notes.


Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security as the chorus ‘And I find it kind of funny….’ comes in very quickly, so be prepared, like a good boy scout!


After all that doom and gloom, we Let the Sunshine In.  However, when we started it was more overcast than sunny!


This needs unstoppable energy!


Remember the first two ‘Lets’ are off the beat at the beginning of the song.


After that, only the first ‘Let’ is off the beat and the second ‘Let’ is always on the beat right to the very end. 


As it is so repetitive, let each section, build with a different energy and enthusiasm to a very bright last note!


Repetition, when done correctly, allows creativity to blossom when we practise them to mastery.


Keep up the good work and practise at home and we will continue make that glorious sound together every week.

On a lighter note. There is a new song in drop box, What's Up, Linda Perry. A Rock Ballard, no less!

Trillers on a Perch


My offeringI guess many of us felt "Crossing the Bar" was a bit of a dirge. I did and maybe you felt the same when we started "The Parting cup" last year.

This choir version shows what a beautiful piece it can be when sung by a good choir, as we are apparently becoming. 

Have a listen and see if it changes your mind, it did mine! The phrasing is I think like waves breaking which is presumably the intention.

 Colin ( Lady Tenor

Crossing the Bar, another version, cheers!!

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Last night Eamonn said we were the most like a choir than he’s ever heard us sing!


A high accolade indeed.


What happened?


Was it the hilarious tongue twister:


One smart fellow he felt smart

Two smart fellows they felt smart

Three smart fellows they felt smart

They all felt smart together.


Or had we done our homework with God Only Knows?

Only a few tweaks needed on this one.

Keep the swung rhythm and look up and watch Eamonn for the cut offs.

Rabbits in films and my thoughts go to a favourite Oscar winning film, Harvey. Still makes me laugh.

Mad World followed. It is a 1982 song by British band Tears for Fears, written by Roland Orzabal and sung by bassist Curt Smith. It was the band's third single release and first chart hit, reaching number three on the UK Singles Chart in November 1982


The song was born out of the unhappy childhoods that Orzabal and bandmate Curt Smith had endured, separately, in Bath, the city where they grew up.

Orzabal’s father had been given electric shock treatment after serving in the second world war and had, says Orzabal, subjected his mother to abuse. “When I was 18, I dropped out of everything and couldn’t even be bothered to get out of bed. I poured all this into the song.”


Meanwhile, Smith’s father had been absent for much of his childhood and died when Curt was 17, by which time, the singer says, he hated him.


The song is about childhood suffering, loneliness, invisibility, and the drab, repetitive nature of most people's lives. At its heart, life appears to have no meaning: people go to work, children go to school, but everything they do seems ultimately pointless.


In the song, a young person, alienated from the world around him (its “worn-out places, worn-out faces”), recalls his agonising school days and concludes that “The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.” Not that this line should be taken at face value. According to its author, Orzabal, morbid dreams like these release tension; the dreamer wakes up feeling better.


The promotional video for Mad World was filmed in late summer 1982, in the grounds of Knebworth House. It was Tears for Fears' first music video, and features Curt Smith staring out of a window while Roland Orzabal dances outside on a lakeside jetty. A brief party scene in the video features friends and family of the band, including Smith's mother, who was having the birthday party, as well as his then-wife Lynne.


Jules’s cover of Mad World was released as a single after it appeared on the soundtrack of Richard Kelly’s strange, haunting 2001 film Donnie Darko in which a troubled teenager (Jake Gyllenhaal) encounters Frank, a giant, demonic-looking rabbit who brings tidings of the imminent end of the world.


Eamonn’s arrangement has been written to include all voice parts. 

It needs to be kept spacious with no temptation to rush it.  Even when singing the ‘nm’s (not ‘nums’ just ‘nm’)

These ‘nm’s have the Tenors and Altos together alternating with the Basses with the Sops singing ethereally on top.

Although it written in a minor key, keep it bright.

Watch Eamonn for the beginning and end of phrases so we are all together.


After the great depression we Let the Sunshine In.


This was written for the 1967 musical Hair by James Rado and Gerome Ragni (lyrics), and Galt MacDermot (music) and was a hit for the 5th Dimension.


This song will be sung at the beginning of our concert with no music in front of us. 

An easy one to learn.

Remember the first part starts in a big and epic way.

There is a small gap before the second ‘Let’.


However, when we start the next funky section, the second ‘Let’ comes straight in with no gap. 

Be prepared. Don’t let it catch you out!


At the end emphasise the endings of words on ‘sun’, shine’, ‘in’ with strong ‘n’s


We were really on a high after this sounding the best we’ve ever done and singing like a real choir!


On the back of that we went the through the section in The Rose of ‘When the night has been too lonely….’ with Altos and Tenors together and Sops and Basses together with our voices soaring gloriously to the top notes (squeezing our oranges, of course!)


Basses, be reprepared to take on the baton at the very end of the song. 

Keep it tender and nurturing and not like hoeing the ground!


Next week, Elliot will be leading us going over The House of the Rising Sun and teaching us a new song, Crossing the Bar


Do your homework and let’s see if we can impress him now that we sound like a real choir!


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A call to arms – or rather arm pits or even a Trumpet!


To hit those high notes, no matter your voice part, you need to engage your back muscles and use your upper body.  Do not rely on just vocal chords, which are thin and will be strained.


Think of holding a large orange under each armpit and when you want to hit that high note, squeeze those oranges and it will engage you back muscles. 


There is no need to rush out and buy oranges. To do this just takes some imagination. 

The more you do this your back will strengthen and it will get embedded in your muscle memory and you will eventually do it without thinking about it.


You might also hear Eamonn refer to this method as ‘opera arms’ as you’ll see opera singers using this technique to reach the high notes.


Having practised our opera arms in the warm up with Bella Signora, catchy little number!

And then we were back to Joshua which was is very good in places.


Areas to improve are emphasising the ‘ck’ sound at the end of ‘Jericho’. 

When coming to the verses, make them loud and frightening as if you are really attacking Jericho.

Then when returning to the chorus, make it terrifyingly quiet.

Attack, attack, but accurately!


As a contrast God Only Knows is challenging with it is unstructured interweaving sounds.

Just to clarify the music score: Ladies are Lady Tenors &Tenors and Gents are Basses.


On the tricky Ooh, ba ba ba, do do do section. Altos keep your Oohs round.  Sops, Tenors and Basses are permitted to slide at the end of their phrase.


Make ‘without you’ very clear with definite ‘t’ on without and don’t let sound like ‘without chew’


Sops be ready for the high note on ‘what’.  Squeeze those oranges and attack the note singing through ‘what’.


Keep the lines long and lyrical and don’t be tempted to make it a choppy sound like the underlying piano accompaniment.


Live at Knebworth England 1980

Paul McCartney has said he considers this the best song ever written ~ From one musical genius to another, says it all.

Then a well earned break while we got to know everyone as we were all labelled!


Unchained Melody. This is a clever little video. Robson and Jerome meet Brief Encounter with Trevor Howard and Celia Johnston. It follows a passionate extramarital relationship in England shortly before World War II. The protagonist is Laura, a married woman with children, whose conventional life becomes increasingly complicated after a chance meeting at a railway station with a married stranger whom she subsequently falls in love with.

 Another song to attack with the back and squeeze those oranges!


This song needs stamina.  The phrases are long lines across the bars. 

However, ‘touch’ and ‘much’ are very short.


When you get to the harmony on ‘mine’ in ‘…are you still mine’ let it shine through like glorious shaft of light!

This is followed by a gentle, ‘I need your love’ sung by the Sop 1s and the echoes by everyone else underneath should be like a whisper of backing singers.


Attack of the oranges

As the ‘lonely river flows to the sea, to the sea….’ give the music direction on its journey.

Sops, squeeze those oranges and engage the back muscles for those really high notes and attack.

They are just under at the moment, which is not a good sound!


On the last notes, basses can sing falsetto if they choose, which will add another dimension to the sound.


Next week we will look at Mad World and Let the Sunshine – more background information and facts on these songs will follow, so wait in anticipation for the next blog.






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