Zoom Meeting 1 Speeches

 

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Clive’s Speech

Good evening everyone! It’s great to see so many of you, albeit virtually! At this stage, my wheelie bin has been out more often than I have. As we mentioned in our email we are keen to keep contact with everyone as we rest between engagements.

This is a very frustrating time for everyone as we are forced to hibernate for everyone’s safety. It has also been a time of great worry and sadness for many people as loved relatives and friends fight the COVID virus and other illnesses, in isolation.

We all know people who have been ill or suffered loss, not just from the virus, in the last number of weeks. In this regard, on behalf of the choir I would like to extend our condolences and sympathy to Aisling Guckian whose husband Tom has passed away in recent days. Tom was well known to many members of the choir over a long number of years and was an enthusiastic supporter until, more recently, illness prevented him from attending our concerts and social events.

We also extend our sympathies to both Siobhan Mac Ionmhain on the passing of her brother, George and to Carrie Maher on the death of her mother Kay. May their souls rest in peace.

On a brighter note I have seen evidence that many of our members have been actively engaged with social media and indeed the printed word. I saw a letter in the IT last week from Robin Miller, a recently retired member of the bass line, who remarked that his efforts to ensure he takes daily exercise has given him an appreciation for how the family pet hamster must have felt on the exercise wheel. Robin’s letter even received a mention the following day in an article by one the IT’s leading columnists.

For the rest of us we have come to grips with Whats App and other novel means of communication, exchanging literally hundreds of funny, sometimes rude, lewd and crude messages. One day I was directed to a website which when you inserted your date of birth played a record of the No. 1 song in the charts on that date. I was relieved to see it was 45 rpm and not a 78!

I would also like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to David for his fortnightly playlist as we journey through his selection of some of his favourite music through the centuries. It has been a great pleasure to listen to.

I know there was much disappointment that we had to postpone our performance of the Dream of Gerontius scheduled for next Monday. Fortunately, our soloists and the orchestral players were very understanding and readily released us from our commitments and we have also been able to recover our booking fee from the NCH. As a result, our irrecoverable outlay has been minimised. This performance will be rescheduled so our preparation has not gone to waste. However, we have to wait until we know when both the NCH and our soloists will be available before setting the new date.

In the meantime, and bearing in mind that we may still be operating under certain Covid related restrictions, we have continued our preparations for our 70 th Season, commencing September 2020. Our finances are in good order, although I would remind some of you that there a few bills remaining outstanding for membership and ticket sales last Christmas. Please do examine your conscience and your wallet. If there are any difficulties please speak with our Treasurer, Brendan Supple and we can sort things out.

Our first concert, will be a performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio in the RDS on Saturday, 5th December 2020. David will speak about this shortly but suffice to say it will be a lengthy concert so we propose a novel approach which we hope will be attractive to our audience.

In recent years we have held the Guinness Choir Christmas Concert in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. As you know, the cathedral is being reroofed at present and, as a consequence, will not be available to us this year. However, we have been approached by our friends in St. Peter’s, Phibsborough who have asked if we would be available to perform a similar Christmas Concert with a Special Guest in aid of their Organ Restoration project on Sunday, 13 th December. This, we have agreed to do, subject to the aforementioned Covid Restrictions.

We also plan a Gala Concert in April 2021 where we will perform some of our favourite pieces plus the premiere of a piece entitled “The Weaver”, based on the theme of a poem by Diane Tierney. The work will be composed by Judith Ring, a recognised Irish composer who has also been a member of our tenor line. This has been commissioned by the choir to mark our 70 th Anniversary Season and we are seeking support towards this project from the Arts Council.

As you know we have planned to make a short tour of the UK over the June Bank Holiday. We continue to plan for this, although it will of course be dependent on developments surrounding the current pandemic.

We also plan to hold a Celebration Dinner in a prestigious venue in Dublin where we can relax with our partners, friends and supporters. Further details, as they say, later.

Finally, before handing over to David, you’ll know this is a very fluid situation at present and we do not know if our venue or the rehearsal format will remain as before. However, we are working on the basis that we will begin returning to relative normality in the near future and will adapt, as necessary.

Many thanks for your attention.

David’s Speech

Good evening everybody and thank you for zooming in! It’s good to see you! We thought it would be important to maintain contact with you during these strange and unprecedented days when, on good advice, we are prevented from meeting to rehearse and indeed perform. Perhaps there is some consolation that many other Choir’s and groups of musicians are in a similar situation, and I feel for those whose full-time or part-time professional careers have been affected, particularly the more than 70 musicians and singers denied their potential earnings when we cancelled our 27th April performance of Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius. My son Nick has had all the professional engagements through August in his diary cancelled. I join with Clive and all of you in sending my sympathy to Aisling Guckian, Carrie and Siobhán and indeed we think of all those who have lost loved ones to this virus.
Now, please stand . . . . . . Oh no! That won’t work.
As you were! Sorry. Force of habit!

I ​have ​been ​cocooned ​in ​Walkinstown ​as ​I ​was ​here when ​the ​advice ​was ​announced​. ​The ​Chairman ​and I ​have ​been ​in ​regular ​contact​, ​dealing ​with ​choir matters​, ​together with the ​treasurer​, ​Ada ​and Valerie​, ​John​, ​Philip ​and ​Olwen ​(for ​IT ​tutorials​) ​and the ​rest ​of ​the ​committee​. ​Clive ​has ​outlined ​our plans ​for ​the ​coming ​season ​- ​our ​70th​. ​We ​have ​a commitment ​to ​perform ​Bach​’​s ​Christmas ​Oratorio ​in the ​RDS ​- ​a ​suggestion ​from ​one ​of ​our ​patrons​. ​It ​is a ​good ​suggestion​, ​and ​I ​am ​happy ​that ​it ​reappears in the ​choir ​repertoire​. ​Will ​we ​be rehearsing ​at ​2 metres ​separation ​by ​then ​I ​wonder​?

As ​we ​decided ​not ​to ​promote our ​Christmas ​Concert in ​St​. ​Patrick​’​s Cathedral this ​year ​because ​of ​the challenge ​of ​selling ​two ​concerts ​in ​close ​succession​, instead ​we have ​accepted ​an ​invitation ​to ​do something ​similar ​in ​St​. ​Peter​’​s ​Church ​in Phibsborough​, ​following ​the ​success ​of ​our ​visit ​there last ​year​. ​They ​will ​be ​promoting ​this ​concert ​and engaging ​the ​guest ​soloist​. ​We ​plan ​to ​hold ​a ​Gala Celebration ​Concert ​in ​late ​April ​or ​early ​May​, ​and will ​look ​to ​the ​NCH ​for ​confirmation ​of ​a ​date​. ​The main ​work ​to ​be ​performed ​will ​be ​decided ​soon​. ​The programme ​will ​include ​the ​first ​performance ​of ​The Weaver​, ​a ​setting ​of ​a ​poem ​by ​Diane ​Tierney ​which we ​have commissioned ​from ​the ​composer ​Judith Ring​. ​This ​is an ​exciting ​project​, ​and ​I ​have ​been ​in
touch ​with ​Judith ​in ​recent ​days​. ​W​e ​are ​in ​the process ​of ​applying ​to ​the ​Arts ​Council ​for ​funds ​in relation ​to ​this ​commission​. ​I ​look ​forward ​to ​seeing the ​completed ​work ​before ​the ​end ​of ​the ​year​. ​A short ​tour ​to ​the ​UK​, ​based ​in ​Cambridge​, ​coinciding with ​the ​June ​Bank ​Holiday ​weekend ​next ​year ​is planned​. ​We ​might ​include ​short​, ​informal ​concerts as ​part ​of ​the ​itinerary​. ​The ​Chapel ​of St​. ​Peter ​ad vinculum ​in ​the ​Tower ​of ​London​, ​Ely ​Cathedral ​and
a ​church ​near ​Cleveden ​(​the ​home ​of ​our ​Patron​, Lord ​Iveagh​) ​are ​venues ​being ​investigated​. ​We would ​include ​further ​performances ​of ​Judith​’​s ​new composition ​in ​these ​events​. ​Beyond ​that​, ​we ​intend to return ​to ​St​. ​Patrick​’​s ​Cathedral ​in ​December ​2​0​21 and ​we ​are ​actively ​investigating ​a ​joint ​concert with the ​TUD ​Choral ​Society​. Somewhere ​in ​all ​of ​this​, ​we must ​not ​lose ​sight ​of ​Elgar​’​s ​Dream ​of ​Gerontius​. We ​had ​already ​put ​a ​considerable ​amount ​of ​work into ​preparing ​this​. ​W​e ​ow​e ​it ​to ​ourselves​, ​and ​to ​the soloists ​and ​musicians ​who ​were ​engaged​, ​to complete ​our ​work​. ​Disappointing ​as ​it ​was ​to ​cancel (​through nobody​’​s ​fault​) ​everyone ​was ​very understanding ​and ​our ​booking ​deposit ​and ​all tickets ​which ​had ​been purchased ​were ​refunded ​by the ​NCH​. ​Works ​I ​am ​considering ​for ​the ​future include ​Mozart​’​s ​c ​minor ​Mass​, ​Stanford​’​s ​Stabat Mater ​a​n​d ​Orff​’​s ​Carmina ​Burana​.

I ​am ​now ​going ​to ​say ​a ​fe​w ​words ​about ​the Christmas ​Oratorio​. ​The ​work ​comprises ​six Cantatas​. ​They ​wouldn​’​t ​originally ​have ​been conceived ​as ​a ​single ​entity​. ​Each ​part ​being intended for ​performance ​on ​one ​of ​the ​major ​feast days of ​the ​Christmas ​period ​at ​the ​time ​of ​their ​first performance as a whole in ​1733​/​1​7​34​. ​The ​first ​part (​for Christmas ​Day​) ​describes ​the ​Birth ​of ​Jesus​, ​the second ​(​for ​December ​26​) ​the ​annunciation ​to ​the shepherds​, the ​third ​(​for ​December ​27​) ​the ​adoration of ​the ​shepherds​, ​the ​fourth ​(​for ​New ​Year​’​s ​Day​) the ​circumcision ​and naming ​of ​Jesus​, ​the ​fifth ​(​for the ​first ​Sunday ​after ​New ​Year​) ​the ​journey ​of ​the Magi​, ​a​n​d ​the ​sixth ​(​for ​Epiphany​) ​the ​adoration ​of the ​Magi​. ​This ​Oratorio ​forms ​part ​of ​the trio ​which includes ​the ​Easter and ​Ascension ​Oratorios ​of ​1734 & ​173​5 ​which ​we ​performed ​last ​year​. However, Bach re-used material from earlier compositions when compiling the complete oratorio. He often did this – waste not, want not!

The ​term ​Oratorio​, ​which ​Bach ​uses ​for ​the ​works​, describes ​a ​sequence ​o​f ​ar​ias ​and ​recitatives​, choruses ​and ​chorale​. ​They ​are ​accompanied ​by ​an orchestra ​made up ​of ​flutes​, ​oboes​, ​oboes ​d​’​amore​, oboes ​da ​caccia​, ​2 horns​, ​3 ​trumpets​, ​timpani​, ​strings and continuo​. ​This ​allows ​for ​a ​tremendous ​variety ​of colour​, ​texture ​and ​mood​. ​The ​extra ​oboes​, ​which are tuned ​a ​3rd ​and ​a ​5th ​lower ​respectively​, ​give ​a darker ​timbre ​to ​the ​orchestral ​lines​. ​The ​recitatives are ​sung ​recitations ​of ​the ​particular ​gospel narratives​, ​either accompanied​, ​or ​’​secco​’ ​which means ​minimal ​chordal support​. ​The ​speech​-​rhythm employed ​allows ​for ​a ​great ​variety ​of ​expression​. The ​arias​, ​sung by ​the ​soloists​, ​provide ​a commentary ​on ​the ​gospel ​theme​. ​Bach ​often ​uses the ​da ​capo ​style​, ​or ​ABA ​format ​- ​well ​established ​in Baroque ​vocal ​music ​at ​this ​stage​. ​The ​texts ​of ​these arias​, ​and ​indeed ​the ​choruses ​and ​chorales​, ​were probably ​by ​Picander​, ​with ​whom ​Bach ​collaborated
on many ​occ​asions​. ​The ​choruses ​are ​generally lively ​and ​celebratory ​and ​allow ​Bach ​the ​full ​rein ​to exploit ​his ​polyphonic ​skill​. ​All ​but ​two ​of ​the ​chorales are ​reworking ​of ​familiar ​Lutheran ​hymn ​tunes​, and demonstrate ​Bach​’​s ​complete ​mastery ​of ​harmony​. ​In their ​original ​performances​, ​the ​melodies ​would ​have been sung ​by ​the ​congregation​. ​When ​I ​was ​studying for ​my ​degree​, ​we ​had ​to ​learn ​to ​harmonise ​in ​the style ​of ​Bach​. ​This ​challenge ​revealed ​to ​us ​the ​wide range ​of ​possibilities ​available​, ​sometimes chromatically ​or ​rhythmically surprising​, ​and
o​ccasionally ​causing ​eyebrows ​to ​b​e ​raised​. ​I brought ​this ​knowledge ​to ​bear ​in ​my early ​career ​as a music ​teac​h​er ​of ​O ​level​. ​A ​level ​music​, ​and the Intermediate (now Junior) ​and ​Leaving ​certificate music ​and ​musicianship​. ​More ​recently​, ​these ​skills are ​not ​required ​by ​music ​students ​here​. ​Nowadays​, a ​named ​chord​, ​placed ​in ​a ​box ​over ​a ​melody ​note​, is ​all ​that ​is ​necessary​, ​giving ​no ​sense ​of ​harmonic progression or ​indeed ​the sound ​of the result​.

At ​the ​first ​hearings ​of ​these ​six ​parts ​during ​services in ​Leipzig​, ​one ​can ​only ​wonder ​at ​the skills ​of ​the performers​, ​the ​amount ​of rehearsal ​time ​along with the ​regular​, ​weekly ​cantatas​, ​the ​industry ​of ​those who ​transcribed ​the ​copies​, ​and ​above ​all ​- ​the absolute ​energy ​and ​mastery ​of ​invention ​by ​the composer​! (Who also, remember, had 23 children by 2 wives, was a housemaster and teacher at the St. Thomas’s Choir school – not at all reliable, apparently, and was a frequent customer at Herr Zimmermann’s coffee shop, where a secular cantata he wrote in
celebration of coffee, of which he was a 30 cups a day addict, was first performed!)

Here is ​one ​detail ​I ​would ​like ​to ​share with ​you​, before ​I ​finish​. ​The ​opening ​of ​the ​1st ​part ​begins in a ​unique ​way​: ​5 ​crotchets ​- ​D​DD​DA ​- ​played ​on ​the solo ​timpani​. ​After ​a ​flourish ​of ​scales ​for ​2 ​more bars​, ​the ​timpani ​reappear ​- ​t​his ​time ​more ​insistent​, decorated​. ​It​’​s ​as ​if ​Bach ​wants ​to ​command ​our attention ​from ​the ​get​-​go ​with ​this ​demanding ​paean​, announcing ​the ​great ​news ​of ​the ​opening ​chorus​: ‘​Christians ​be ​joyful​!​’ ​Timpani ​were ​well ​established in ​music ​by ​the ​time ​Bach ​was inspired ​to ​write ​this​. Their ​ability ​to ​re​-​enforce ​a ​chord​, ​or ​provide ​a rhythm ​to ​a ​tuned note​, ​in ​ceremonial​, ​military ​and concert ​situations was extensively practiced​. ​Such stentorian ​opening ​statements ​remind ​me ​of ​the single​, ​decorated ​note​, ​given ​out ​on ​the ​orga​n ​at ​the start ​of ​Bach​’​s ​’​Toccata ​and ​Fugue ​in ​d ​minor​’ ​(​when the ​audience ​mightn​’​t ​be ​able ​to ​see ​the ​player ​and know ​when ​they ​were ​ready ​to ​commence)​. ​Or ​the opening ​notes ​of ​Beethoven​’​s ​5th ​Symphony ​which he ​called ​’​fate​, ​knocking ​on ​the ​door’​.

Further thoughts about timpani remind me of their use to great effect in Beethoven’s 7th and 9th symphonies, and the 4th symphonies of Dvorak and Nielsen. But I digress.

I ​will ​go ​into ​more ​detail ​in ​a ​possible ​future ​zoom meeting ​which ​might ​include ​questions ​and comments ​from ​some ​of ​you​. ​Just ​to ​say​, ​that ​I am ​looking forward very ​much ​to ​working ​with ​you all ​again ​on ​this ​wonderful music​.

Stay ​safe​. ​Stay well​.


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