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OGC newsletter 2002 [newsletter 2003]

Christmas 2002

Our first Christmas event was a private performance of Britten's A Ceremony of Carols and other music at Blenheim Palace on Saturday 14 December (right). The next day Mansfield College Chapel was packed for our Christmas Concert, which included Britten's Hymn to St Cecilia and David Fanshawe's Dona nobis pacem, sung by the senior, junior and boys' choirs, together with an ensemble of parents.

On 5 January a choir of present and past members met at the Queen's College Chapel to record Edward Dudley-Hughes' setting of John Donne's Ascention, written for the choir in 1996 to commemorate the life of the Revd Dr David Nicholls, and Arvo Prt's Littlemore Tractus, composed for the bicentenary of John Henry Newman in 2001.


Complete Hildegard, vol.3

During the week before Christmas former OGC members Emily Burn, Victoria Couper, Louise Eekelaar, Clemmie Franks and Emily Levy recorded Volume 3 of the Complete Hildegard with SINFONYE at Douai Abbey, near Newbury, for Celestial Harmonies. (See recordings for details of vol.1 and 2)

standing - Victoria Couper, Richard Vendome, Jocelyn West, Louise Eekelaar, Moira Smiley, Stevie Wishart; kneeling - Emily Burn and Clemmie Franks.


22 December 2002

Cambridge choral awards

Congratulations to senior girls Miranda Jewess and Charlotte Roberts, who have both been offered Cambridge choral scholarships. Former Head Girl Georgia Black has jst taken up her scholarship at Clare College, Cambridge, and is enjoying herself...

28 October 2002


Oxford Girls' Choir triumphs in Italy

La Pietà concert programme notes (Vivaldi and Pampani)
Dido & neas programme notes


rehearsing "behind the grill" in the south choir gallery of the Pietà

The Oxford Girls' Choir recently presented a recreation of performances of 18th century music by Vivaldi and other Venetian composers at the Church of the Pietà in Venice. Thirty girls aged 12 to 18 from the Oxford area were accompanied by parents led by choir chairman Peter Kent and music director Richard Vendome. Vivaldi wrote much of his best music for the young women of the Pietà charitable institution in Venice to perform from behind ornate grilles in their own church. But it is many years since authentic performances of this difficult music, under the conditions of 250 years ago, have been attempted. Even the management of La Pietà church did not realise what a glorious sound could be produced. Arrangements for a return visit and possible recordings are already in hand. Also taking part in the concert was the Oxford Baroque Ensemble, led by internationally renowned local musician Marshall Marcus, who has two daughters in the choir [click here for programme]

Dido, act 1, scene 2, "Echo dance of the furies" in the Sala dei Mercanti at Madonna del'Orto, Venice


As well as the music by Venetian composers, the Oxford Girls' Choir and the Oxford Baroque Ensemble gave two fully staged performances of Henry Purcell's opera "Dido and Æneas", written for a ladies' academy in London over 300 years ago [click here for programme]. Through its performances and recordings of unusual music written originally for young women's voices, the choir now has an enviable reputation in many parts of the world. Last year, the choir visited Oxford's twin city Leiden. Many members of the choir have gone on to win places at leading music academies, and to become professional musicians.

on to the next venue - moving instruments around Venice... [harpsichord kindly lent by David Bolton]

Peter Kent, chairman of the choir, said: "we are very proud of our girls. They gave the performances everything they could, but most of all, they enjoyed themselves and gave pleasure to others." Oxford city councillor Alan Armitage, who also has daughters in the choir and accompanied them to Italy, said: "the girls impressed our Italian hosts with their professional attitude and commitment. They are first class ambassadors for Oxford and for the standards of music making we perhaps take too much for granted here."

14 September 2002


Junior choirs concert - 7 July

For the first time all three sections of the younger end of this expanding organization met to perform to a large audience at St Andrew's Church, Linton Road. Some forty singers between the ages of three and ten were involved and showed a fine grasp of some diverse repertoire.

The youngest and largest group was the Oxford Prep Choir whose lyrical performance of "Butterfly" was a charming contrast to their spirited rendition of "School dinners". The Directors, Camilla Stephenson and Jane Brown encourage a remarkable response with a focus rarely achieved by such young singers.

I am fortunate to inherit their older girls in the Oxford Girls' Training Choir. At present this group consists of fifteen talented and enthusiastic 8-10 year olds who enjoy equally the challenges of Gordon Jacobs' two part arrangement of "Brother James' Air" and repertoire of a popular nature.

It was a great delight to introduce the first public performance by the founder members of our new Oxford Boys' Choir. After only five rehearsals this small group sang from memory two movements from "Captain Noah's Floating Zoo" with such panache that they earned the loudest applause of the afternoon. Congratulations especially to soloist George Inscoe!

Penelope Martin-Smith (Associate Director)
18 July 2002


Roderick Williams " Good Vibrations" workshop - 6 July

Once again, the Oxford Girls' Choir and friends were lucky enough to receive the composer and singer Roderick Williams for a jazz workshop, this time based on the Beach Boys' hit "Good Vibrations". As a former member of the choir I am used to his intelligence and charisma from previous workshops, but my year apart from the talented group of young female singers had made me forget just how well we interact with him.

We warmed up to a series of exercises designed to improve listening within the group, and then moved on to singing basic arpeggios and chords. To the choir's credit, we picked up a sequence of three chords in four-part harmony in five minutes flat. On this simple basis he started the song, teaching us only by ear. Roddy taught us the different parts of the song in a very strange order, but we kept going was because he interjected such praise and enthusiasm at every section we mastered, and promised that everything would make sense in the end! Most people could catch on to the melody they had to sing but had no idea why they were singing it. At the very end of the session (and after some confusion!) the scores were produced and we launched into the song.

As is nearly always the case, the exuberance of the music came in at the last minute and it hung together well, with rapturous applause and much excitement from all concerned. This piece will be added to the choir's already highly polished repertoire of jazz, most of which are close-harmony arrangements by Roddy Williams.

Georgia Black
17 July 2002


Election of officers 2002-3

At the Annual General Meeting held on 22 June 2002 the following were elected:

Chairman - Peter Kent
Secretary - Roger Cutts
Treasurer - Catherine Dilnot
Membership secretary - Mary Kroll
Committee member - Louise Gullifer/span>

click here for AGM minutes 2002


New Administrator

The trustees have appointed Nancy-Jane Rucker as part-time Administrator from this September. Ms Rucker read Classics at Cambridge, where she was a Choral Scholar at Clare College. Her email is .


Butterflies, by Kenneth Leaper

Kenneth Leaper has dedicated his new work Butterflies, for female voices and vibraphone, to the Oxford Girls' Choir. The text, in English and Japanese, is a traditional 17-syllable haiku:

hana no yume
kikitaki chơ ni
koe mo nashi
dreams in flowers
listen - ask in butterflies
voices also none

He writes "The seventeen syllable Japanese haiku has no capital letters, no punctuation, no personal pronouns. It is like a telegram from the void, its elliptical form enabling us to experience the underlying unity of ourselves and all other things. Like the butterflies we cannot begin to express in words the sheer allure of the infinitude of paradises Creation sets before us".

Kenneth Leaper sees female voices as an expressive medium for Japanese lyrics: he has written two other pieces for OGC, Maids of Masura and A Page from our Pillow Book. We also perform his My Lady Kasa. They are all published by Oread.


Victoria Couper "calling voice" - 23 March

On 23 March, during our regular rehearsal, Victoria Couper who is in her final year at OGC took us through some songs and exercises that had been taught to the choir by Vivien Ellis in a folk workshop some years ago.

The session began with a warmup in the style of an African hoeing song; we rocked back and forth as if hoeing a field, while each person made up a call and the rest responded. Vickie then taught us a calling song in Occitan, La nobia, in which we repeated what she sang. This made us improvise much of the song, and think more about the overall sound and harmony rather than individual notes. We experimented with powerful chest tone and it sounded fantastic. It was a refreshing break to be exploring different methods of singing and learning by ear instead of from sheet music.

Catherine Crosse
25 March 2002


Abingdon Folkfest (middle choir) - 17 March

top row -
1. in the green room
2. homework
3. Hymn to St Magnus with a medieval harpist

below -
4. on stage with Penelope Martin-Smith


Andrew Parrott workshop on Vivaldi - 9 March

On 9 March Andrew Parrott, the celebrated director of the Taverner Choir, Consort and Players came to the OGC's Saturday rehearsal to give a workshop on Venetian music. As well as the usual faces some older "members" and visitors were also present. One of the aims of the workshop was to explore how the Venetian ospedali and the other centres of music of that period in Italy managed to sing, with women's voices only, the music apparently composed for normal (SATB) choir written especially for them. Andrew Parrott, like many in the early music world, challenges the convention of singing these pieces using male voices, when they were originally written for the female. Many possibilities were explored: singing the tenor and bass parts up an octave, using older voices on the lower parts and so on. We also discovered how important word setting is in Vivaldi's music for voices, with repetition of certain words for emphasis, and so on.

The session was very enjoyable and we were all very impressed by Andrew, and felt that he was a very inspiring figure. It is hard not to admire someone so passionate about what he does.

Gaia Marcus
15 March 2002


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