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Heads and Hearts

With the Winter concert approaching we are getting a new tongue twister into our heads:

To begin to toboggan first buy a toboggan,

but don’t buy too big a toboggan.

Too big a toboggan is too big a toboggan

to buy to begin to toboggan in

Then we moved on to Winter Winds. This is the second single by the London folk quartet Mumford & Sons, released from their debut album, Sigh No More. It was released in the UK on 6 December 2009

Fraser McAlpine of the BBC Chart Blog gave the song a positive 5-star review stating that it would serve as an "amazing Christmas carol equivalent" for a 'winterval' type holiday, as "it's quietly optimistic, pleased without being smug, melancholy but uplifting" and "sure of itself, but only because all the lessons learned have been hard-won, and generally reflective of times gone by"

The Altos and Sop 2s start us off with a light and airy sound with a one and a two tempo.

This tempo needs to keep going in your head like a metronome to keep the timing right. You just need to feel it.

Keep your heads and your hearts in the right place.

It can get confusing.

A New Year Carol was composed by Benjamin Britten in 1934. He set to music a lyric that had been circulating among folk song collectors for some decades, and which had been sung long before that: “Levy Dew”. As with many carols that are sung around Christmas and New Year, its origins and meaning were, and remain, a mystery.

It was from a collection of songs composed by him for the pupils of the school in Prestatyn, Wales, where his brother, Robert, was headmaster. He used the verses that had been published in poet and novelist Walter de la Mare’s book of collected children’s poems, Tom Tiddler’s Ground, in 1931; this in turn was largely the same as the “standard” version that had been in print since 1850.

By composing the song for a school in Wales, Britten was taking it back to its roots: “Levy Dew” describes a ceremony that used to be performed in parts of Wales. Very early in the morning on New Year’s Day, children and youngsters would gather evergreen foliage, draw fresh water from the well, and go from house to house sprinkling water over the inhabitants or on their doors, sometimes in return for a few coins. As they did this, they would sing “Levy Dew”; it’s not known what tune they were using.

Our version keeps the simplistic style with the Sops starting with verse 1, Altos verse 2 and Sops & Altos verse 3 with everyone, including the Tenors, joining in each chorus.

It should be very quiet throughout and at some points, very, very quiet!

When I listened to the video, Killing me softly with her words comes to mind.

In the Bleak Midwinter is from a poem by the English poet Christina Rossetti, commonly performed as a Christmas carol. In 1906, the composer Gustav Holst composed a setting of Rossetti's words (titled "Cranham") in The English Hymnal which is sung throughout the world.

The Sops begin this with the first verse where they are very exposed with hardly any piano underneath them.

Storytelling is important in this, so extend the vowels and emphasis ‘bleak’ and ‘frosty’.

Altos are challenged with a split between Alto 1 and Alto 2 – remember which part you are!

At Bar 46 change the Mmmmm to an ‘Ahhhhh’

The last ‘heart’ of the song was joyous with a clean crisp ‘T’. It’s amazing what we can do when we not only use our heads and hearts but our eyes too!

Please remember to print off your own music and it bring with you each week. You must have your own copy so you can mark it in a way you will understand.

Bring everything each week from now on as we will be going over past songs as well as the new ones.

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