Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Drop Drop Slow Tears and memories of the Middleton Singers

One of the greatest joys in my singing life is being part of fine and vocal small ensembles. Singing part songs, madrigals and sacred anthems with just a few voices per part with the sound being so unified one was almost unaware of the sound of one's own voice in the mix.

In the Middleton Singers we sang so much gorgeous music, much of which I have used in my own teaching career over the last 30 years ! I am so thankful for that vast base of music which I simply acquired by osmosis as a teen and twenty something, and I am equally thankful for imbibing the sound of finely tuned part singing and a pure and beautiful tone quality, which even now, I hear in my head all the time I am teaching. My youthful years with the Middleton Singers set me up for my whole teaching career, and I forever have wanted to recapture the sound of those days.

When I retired from the JRAM I thought I would most likely never achieve that honey toned sound again, and moving to Paradise made me resign myself to that fact. Then, two or three years after the big move I suddenly found myself with young and older singers who were beginning to gel, to unify the sound, and make that part song magic !

At our last concert in February there was a moment in the Welsh Lullaby when I heard that sound again, the soft, clean and open vowelled tone, and my goose bumps start to do gymnastics up and down my arm !

Last night two of my ladies came to run through a trio for song school, my own three part arrangement of the sublime setting of Drop Drop Slow Tears, in reality by Orlando Gibbons, but arranged by yours truly as we have a serious lack of tenors in Paradise, so a simplified Soprano, Alto and Baritone version was a must.

We were without L, so it was just the top two parts and my piano line, yet even at a relatively early and routine rehearsal, and missing the dark chocolate sound of the chap, that Middleton sound was there, plain as the nose on your face, open, relaxed and so well focused. The magic has travelled down from Middy through three generations, and the elegant and glorious soft sounds ring through as if I was hearing it in 1968 in Milton Street Church Hall.

Well done my two ladies for blindly obeying what I say, and delivering those timeless tones, and thank you Mid.


A rather lovely version of the Gibbons sung by the Banchieri Singers, a group of very talented young singers from Hungary who all studied at the Kodaly Insititute. Kodaly was a very important composer and musician in the 20th century, who wrote wonderful choral pieces and developed a method of teaching choral singing to children, now popular world wide. Try googling some of his part songs like 'See the Gipsies' ...........enjoy.


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