Having had a very early birthday breakfast and dropping the birthday girl and the somewhat disgruntled NOT birthday boy off at school, I am sitting having a peaceful and much needed flat white coffee and pain au raisin in a lovely morning coffee cafe in the beautiful medieaval town of Arundel. I am making a swift visit to the Poor Clare nuns to put final polish on a piece we went over in January.
It is for their Easter Mass, and quite beautiful. The nuns in Arundel have, over the years had a good amount of music composed for them by some of the most eminent catholic composers such as Dom Alan Rees. These mass settings and anthems are interesting in their style. Remembering that when a woman enters a convent and takes Holy Orders, they do so knowing that they may have to sing up to 5 or 6 times a day, sing solos, lead the responses or take turns in being the Hebdominarian. Wanting to become a sister does not necessarily mean that one has a fine singing voice, so they often have to work very hard to become accomplished and confident enough to feel as though they are doing the 'job' so to speak !
The best settings for the mass take this into consideration, they often have extra parts written in so that if the abbey has the resources it can be performed in 2 or 3 or even 4 parts, but the melody line can stand alone, if it is better for the choir to sing a strong unison. Certainly Alan Rees knew exactly the ladies for whom he was writing, and indeed I have pinched a few of his pieces for my own use. They are especially good for young singers !
I have always pinched with permission however !
I am driving from Arundel, north to Godalming in Surrey where I will be adjudicating their school choir classes at 2pm, which will take place in the most glorious chapel at Charterhouse School. Many years ago I would take my own school choirs to compete in these classes - things come full circle !
But first my dear Arundel friends will be put through their paces in around 20 minutes !
Arundel Castle peeking out over the top of a typical Arundel Elizabethan building, and the river Rother which is host to a large colony of swans and ducks, who are not around, so clearly still in bed!