My Favourite Bars

Now, I know GCCS tend to favour Dram on Woodlands Road, but that’s not the kind of bar I’m interested in here, nooooooo….   I mean THIS kind of bar…


…which is actually Bar 43 of Lauridsen’s “O magnum mysterium”.

So why is this one so special to me?  Well, it is the second of 2 bars (the other being Bar 39)  where the harmony slips momentarily into a parallel universe, where everything is very close, but never touching…. a bit like this:

Three Points 1939?40, cast before 1949 by Henry Moore OM, CH 1898-1986
Three Points 1939  by Henry Moore

It is both agonising and exquisite – and I would recommend you give it a listen, preferably with at least a few bars either side, to give it some context!  And as coincidence would have it, we will be singing this bar, bar 39 and a good few more, in our Christmas concert on the 12th December, so come along and see if you can spot it!

After the Christmas concert, I’ll be looking at favourite Bars in Handel’s Messiah, but if you have a favourite bar that you’d like to share with us, please get in touch.  I’m looking forward to checking out your recommendations!

Pop-Cultural Briefings – …and don’t call me Shirley.

Our last rehearsal featured a timeless quote from one of my all-time favourite movies – Airplane!

This gem of a spoof takes on the thoroughly 1970ies fashion for disaster movies, like The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure, and puts a decidedly Leslie Nielsen spin on it. It’s teeming with extremely quotable gags, but let’s have a look at yesterday evening’s obscure reference:

Meet…. Ed. Who’s also at the front, somewhat to the right.

This week, it’s my special pleasure to introduce our accompanist, Ed.


Being the rehearsal accompanist means you probably get all the hard work and very little of the glory, so it’s time to state the blinking obvious: without Ed, we’d be very stuffed.

Three cheers for our stalwart pianist!

Name: Ed

Section: Piano accompaniment

Any official choir function? Trying my best to keep it all together, and laughing at some of James’ jokes

Joined in: 2013

Daylight job: At the piano – performing, rehearsing, practicing, or teaching

What do you enjoy most about playing for us? The quality of results we achieve whilst maintaining a relaxed and friendly atmosphere

What is the most exciting choral piece you’ve ever accompanied? Britten’s War Requiem certainly has its moments

What’s the hardest choral piece you’ve ever accompanied? Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, because of the extremely difficult piano reduction and number of choral/solo parts to add in

Which choral piece is your guilty pleasure? Anything by Tavener

Do you also play any other instruments and if so, which? I tried the ‘cello and the clarinet when I was younger, and learned the organ for three years. I soon realised I should stick to the piano!

What other music do you enjoy? Hopefully I can learn to appreciate anything good

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not playing the piano? I love travelling, so exploring new cities and countries

Tea break! What’s your favourite biscuit? No biscuit, just a strong black tea to get me through the second half

What’s your choir super-power? Pretending to play all of the voices in Monteverdi’s Vespers at the same time

Tell us something we don’t know about you.  When I was sixteen I played for and met HM The Queen, but I doubt she remembers!

Meet… James (he’s the one at the front!)

Name: James Slimings

Section: Tenor

Any official choir function? Conductor

Joined in: 2012

Daylight job: PhD Student/ Modern art installation

Why did you join a choir?  I was playing trumpet in my county youth orchestra on tour and ended up playing the piano and singing a little bit in the bar.  The conductor of the choir (who were on tour with us) asked if I would join.  I was besotted with one of the sopranos at the time, so went along.

What do you enjoy most about singing with us?  The fun that we have in rehearsal, every time we can’t sing for laughing I know I’ve done my job right.

What is the most exciting piece you’ve ever sung? This is a difficult question, there are exciting pieces because the piece is exciting, and exciting performances.  As a singer, I think that the most exciting choral piece I’ve done is Harmonium by John Adams at the Edinburgh Festival last year.  As a conductor, it HAS to be Symphony of Psalms

What’s the hardest piece you’ve ever sung?  There is a piece called Cantus Mari Baltica which was released on Delphian with the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain. Either that or Taverner by Sir Peter Maxwell Davis, which was my Freshers Week concert.  As a soloist, Les Noces by Stravinsky… my Russian Sprechgesang isn’t ideal.

Which piece is your guilty pleasure? Jesus Child, Rutter.

Do you also play an instrument and if so, which?  Piano and a bit of trumpet.  My claim to fame is I’ve played Triangle in Die Walkure with Martyn Brabbins conducting and Sir John Tomlinson singing Wotan.

What other music do you enjoy?  I enjoy a little bit of everything, but if I’m just sat working you can’t beat a bit of Postmodern Jukebox.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not singing?  I’m always singing.  Always.

Tea break! What’s your favourite biscuit?  A Penguin, of course!

What’s your choir super-power?  Managing to shoehorn an obscure Monty Python reference as a metaphor for a complicated physiological process.

Tell us something we don’t know about you.  I’ve been gaffa taped to a wall before.

What would you say to anyone thinking of joining our choir?  Choir isn’t about the performances, it’s about the pure unadulterated joy of singing together, in rehearsal in concerts but it’s all about US as a unit and we have so much fun together.  You won’t laugh as much or have as good a time for less money anywhere else in Scotland.

Meet… Michael.


Name:    Michael

Section: Bass

Any official choir function?: No

Joined in: My connection with the choir goes back to 1994, when I was still at school. The former secretary, Vera Sweet, noticed that I was going to the choir concerts and she asked me to help sell tickets and arrange chairs, which I did before joining many years later. (We became friends and I think she’d hoped that I’d join, once I received a bit of training and experience, perhaps in a church choir somewhere.)

Daylight job: I do some voluntary work for Help Musicians UK (previously called The Musician’s Benevolent Fund). I visit retired and disabled musicians socially and I can make recommendations if they need any social or financial help to the charity. I enjoy it. It’s such a worthwhile thing to do and I get to meet professional musicians who have spent their whole life making music.

Why did you join a choir? I do enjoy singing, sometimes, but probably most of the time I can’t say I have a love of singing. This might seem unusual for someone who sings in a choir and often does solo singing in church not to have a particularly strong passion, or pleasure, for singing. I joined the choir because I find that it helps my understanding of the music. I like being introduced to music and learning it and being moved by it, if it stirs one’s emotions. If one sings a piece of music, over and over again then this process gives me a greater appreciation, and love, for the music in question. By singing, one can also concentrate of the text and if in opera, there’s the acting, costumes, lights and production. The experiences I gain in a choir can be transferred into watching other people singing.

What do you enjoy most about singing with us?  There is the social aspect of it as there is a tea break during rehearsals (something that some choirs do not have). A friendly face and a chat is a nice way to spend one’s time. During concerts I seen there are some audience members who just ‘glow’ and smile so broadly when they hear us singing a piece of music which they appear to know. There is satisfaction bringing joy into someone’s face!

What is the most exciting piece you’ve ever sung? Within the choir, I enjoyed doing Charpentier’s Te Deum. French baroque music, which I enjoy, isn’t often performed in Scotland.  Outwith the choir, singing for the Pope at the Papal mass (and having a couple of close ups of the recorded event of me on tv).

What’s the hardest piece you’ve ever sung? I wouldn’t say I feel that confident about doing ‘runs’, so some music that has these long, long runs is quite hard, especially in some of Handel and Mozart’s music.

Which piece is your guilty pleasure? Steps! ABBA

Do you also play an instrument and if so, which? Piano, but not very well.

What other music do you enjoy? Lieder, Bel Canto Operas, ‘soprano’ based music. Handel and Mozart. Baroque, French and Italian. Ella Fitzgerald, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross and some Tina Turner (i.e. Quality pop).

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not singing? If I’m not singing, then I enjoy hearing other people sing. I am always going to concerts and operas. I like visiting world class opera houses and art galleries. I also enjoy reading plays, audio books, radio dramas.

Tea break! What’s your favourite biscuit? Quite happy with shortbread or something chocolatey

What’s your choir super-power? Every choir has its ‘key’ singers. If someone has been accepted to sing with the choir, then I would treat everyone equally, and with respect, no matter if I thought they were a strong or weak singer.

Tell us something we don’t know about you. I have studied at Oxford University, for seven years, doing ‘Cultural Studies’. I attended their summer schools, took online classes and correspondence courses and sent essays to them throughout the year. It was mostly opera based courses, on the history side of things and examining opera: how does that character develop psychologically? Compare and contrast the roles in Puccini’s operas. I did also pick up several scholarships to allow me to study there. (I do come from a very poor working class background and it sometimes makes me giggle if I come across someone uncouth who seems to judge me from where I come from, not knowing I’ve been to Oxford, or how cultured and artistic I am.)

What would you say to anyone thinking of joining our choir? Give it a go. You have nothing to lose. We are a friendly bunch and the choir must be doing something right if I’ve had a connection with it, since my school days, and I’m still there over 30 years later.


If you’d like to join Michael and have a (potentially in-depth) chat about La Scala (see photo), do come along for one of our rehearsals!