This post is long-overdue, although the timing of the post benefits from an opportunity of a period of gestation for many thoughts and reflections on the past few months. Trinity Term proved to be an incredibly busy time for the Choir, especially if the academic commitments on first year students and finalists are taken into account. It is a mark of the level of commitment offered by our musicians that so much can be achieved in such a short expanse of time.
The Choir Dinner is an annual celebration of the present Choir. It usually takes place following the Choral and Organ Scholarship Open Day. As ever, this was a night to remember.
It has become a tradition for members of the Choir to sing a service of Choral Matins from the top of the Chapel tower on the feast of the Ascension.
As a developing tradition, this year three trumpets were included in the climb. It was a glorious wake up call for all those living in and around New Inn Hall Street. Unlike previous years, the tower top was bathed in blinding sunlight, which enhanced the breathtaking views of Oxford that can be enjoyed from the poor end of town.
One of the more curious events of the day is the tradition of the so-called ‘Beating the Bounds’. This ancient custom sees the College temporarily invaded by the Parish Priest of St Michael at the North Gate, along with a rabble of willow-yielding parishoners and tourists who then proceed to hit a brick in the wall above Bullwark’s Lane. It is reminder t
hat while the history of the College is relatively brief , it occupies a site that is soaked in the history of the City and University.
We loved having Will Dawes and his girls-voice choir, the Frideswide Voices, to sing with our Altos, Tenors, and Basses. To have a foundation for the training of young female voices in the city is a real blessing, as it provides an invaluable experience that is otherwise of difficult access to Oxford-based girls. We hope our relationship with this choir continues to grow and flourish for many years to come.
St Peter’s Choir sang two services at Christ Church Cathedral.
On its first international tour in recent years the Choir embarked on a series of concerts and services as part of a the Palestine International Choral Festival. Tours of this nature to the region are a first for an Oxford College Choir, and so 25 singers from St Peter’s relished the opportunity that this provided. For the duration of the trip the Choir resided in the middle of a surprisingly bustling Bethlehem, a short walk away from the imaginatively-named ‘Manger Square’, on which the Church of the Nativity can be located.
The festival aims to bring a variety of musical experiences to locals in a part of the world where such activities cannot form part of daily life as they do here. The Choir participated in both concerts and workshops with various local groups.
In equal measure this two-week tour was thus both extremely busy, and intensely rewarding. One of the highlights of the tour was the opportunity to stay with host families in The Galilee. This was the perfect opportunity to experience the extraordinary generosity of our hosts, while also having a chance to ask questions about what life is really like in this fascinating part of the world.
A special note must be made of solo performances by Rory Green (Finalist), Elena Hargreaves (Alumnus) and Dr. Matthew Thomson (Acting Tutor in Music 2016). In Haydn’s “St. Nicholas Mass”, which was incidentally performed by the choir in the church of St Nicholas, superlative performances occurred.
Ellie and Rory also took solos in performances of Gabriel Faure’s Requiem Mass, sung at the Lutheran Church of the Reeder, in Jerusalem, a church which is a stone’s throw from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. As in Bethlehem, it is difficult to express how it felt to be so close to these sites of such historic, cultural, and religious importance.
The tour was a fitting end to the Choir’s first year under new Director of Music, Jeremy Summerly. Jeremy’s relationship with the region is long-standing. Many thanks must be conveyed to him for providing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was a great privilege to visit, sing, and learn with a wonderful selection of people. A tour of the Holy Land was a wonderful close to three years at Oxford for many, and a renewing experience for those who are to return to the College to make music in the new academic year.