Haydn Mass in Time of War Beethoven: Mass in C major – 2015

Charity: Motor Neurone Disease Research Association
Venue: Oxford Town Hall
Date: February 21st 2015
Wilma MacDougall (Soprano)
Olivia Ray (Mezzo-soprano)
Tristan Stocks (Tenor)
David Ireland (Bass)

Oxford Times pre-view:
‘An extraordinary coming together’ at Town Hall

Drawing blood: The Oxford Orpheus Choir at Oxford Town Hall, where they play on Saturday. Giles Woodforde talks to the man who leads a choir from rehearsal to showtime in a day

‘Without the luxury of protracted rehearsal time, I have to think quickly on my feet — literally — and avert any possible disasters I see looming!” says Oxford Orpheus conductor Robert Dean. “Fortunately, my work as an opera conductor gives me an advantage here, as there is no predicting what can sometimes happen on stage to divert musical concentration in the singers.”

Robert is describing Oxford Orpheus’s annual Come and Sing concerts, which have been raising money for local charities for the past nine years. Last year more than £6,000 went to the Oxford MND Care and Research Centre at the John Radcliffe Hospital, and this same cause is being supported this year. With only one preliminary workshop held in advance, Orpheus rehearses and performs a large-scale choral concert all in a single day — a process that would normally take weeks, if not months.

“You do feel slightly terrified when you’ve got a performance in only a few hours’ time,” admits choir member Peter Shaw. “Robert Dean’s skill is in showing you that you can do it — or rather that we can all do it together. He raises our expectations, and gives us the confidence to tackle these works.

“I’ve been in choirs all my life, and have sung in a lot of shows for Oxford Operatic Society. The Come and Sings have presented some great opportunities to tackle serious, artistic works that I sometimes hadn’t done before.”

Peter has sung in all nine Come and Sings, as has alto Jo King. They began with Handel’s Messiah in 2006.

“I sang when I was at school, and then not for decades,” says Jo. “ I started with a ‘non-singers’ choir made up of people who thought they couldn’t sing! So the Come and Sing, being a one-day event, was actually a big step for me. But I did know quite a lot of the Messiah from way back at school — it was a bit like taking up bike riding again after a long gap.”

This year it is Beethoven’s Mass in C and Haydn’s Mass in Time of War. How, I ask conductor Robert Dean, does he choose the works?

“I must personally respond to the music. If I am enthusiastic about it, I can more readily communicate that enthusiasm through words and gesture: beseeching, pleading, drawing blood — if necessary! — and a commitment to the task in hand.”

“At the end of a very long day, I want the singers to have enjoyed themselves, but also to be enriched by their participation in an extraordinary coming together of like minds and voices, singing choral masterpieces for a common cause.”

This truly is an “extraordinary coming together”: singers now come from all over Britain. Your neighbour may well be a complete stranger — so, as singer Jo King puts it cheerfully, “You are jolted out of any comfort zone you might have from rehearsing standing next to your familiar friends.”

Oxford Orpheus
Oxford Town Hall
Saturday, February 21


Here are some feedback comments from the concert:

From Soloists:

Saturday was an absolute pleasure. I was delighted to have the opportunity to sing with you again and was astounded by the quality – in particular the marked improvement from rehearsal to performance. (Olivia) CONGRATULATIONS on a terrific concert. It was fantastic and I am so pleased I was able to be part of it. It was terrific seeing everyone from our courses and hearing you all sing so beautifully, and great to work with Robert again. He is so wonderful and inspiring. The results he got from you all…(Wilma) It was a wonderful concert yesterday and I was very glad to be part of it. Robert does an amazing job and manages to get everybody to raise their game at the same time as shaping the music and producing a convincing performance. (Gay Amherst)

From Choir:

Just to say how much I enjoyed Saturday. Huge fun, and very stimulating… I just want to thank you for giving me (and however many others) a most inspiring, exhilerating and enjoyable day. The buzz during and feedback after the performance was terrific, and I feel privileged to have taken part. I shall look forward to the next one –

Thank you, thank you for such a lovely, joyful, inspirational day yesterday. I had a lovely time, thank you so much for letting me come.  Well done for creating and arranging it all.  Robert is a joy to sing under.  Gorgeous to hear Wilma in flight……I felt like an angel when I stepped off that platform, almost that I was going to burst with the sheer joy of singing….

Thank you for another wonderful Oxford Orpheus season.  I thought we did even better this time.  One of the orchestral players I later had drinks with said he thought we were as good as many choirs that have a whole term to rehearse.  It is amazing how Robert pulls it together.  And I suppose it is partly that an esprit has corps has built up over the years that makes us all want to do well in order thank you both….

Thanky ou so much for a wonderful experience on Saturday (21st February). What wonderful works and a privelege to be part of it.

Congratulations on a splendid day yesterday!  I found it very enjoyable ………  It was all thoroughly worthwhile and I hope it will have raised some useful funds.

Another utterly memorable day!  Thank you very very much.   Lots of heartfelt compliments from friends and family in the audience!   It was a really good turnout.  My two nieces, sop and alto, both new to the Come and Sing experience were thrilled – and said they felt all tingly!!  My husband said he was very moved by the Haydn particularly.

From my point of view, the difference between the November workshop and Saturday was astonishing.   I enjoyed the workshop from a learning point of view, but not for it showing up how little of the music I’d retained from previous experience of both – in my defence they were both 6 and 7 years ago.  I definitely was thinking ‘oh dear’ and ‘have I done enough homework?’ for Saturday.  But from the moment, it kicked off, I felt the choir come together.  Or was that my imagination?

A big day.  Warmest thanks again, and lots of good wishes as ever…..


From the  audience:

Congratulations on the concert last night.I confess that I only came because Paulette was singing and because I felt a certain amount of subliminal pressure from her, and of course, because she paid for the ticket.  But I am so glad I did.  It was a tour de force and you must have felt the honesty of the enthusiastic applause.  Quite how you all managed to perform so brilliantly with just one day’s rehearsal completely defeats me….Well done…..

Just a quick note, Leo, to congratulate you on last night’s concert. …. The music was as terrific as ever…..

Well, that was a truly magnificent concert you conjured up for us all yesterday.  The performance of singers, orchestra and soloists was wonderful and you brought out all the musical and tonal subtleties in both scores.  It was a privilege to be there as a listener….

What a magnificent evening !  You did a truly wonderful job
pulling it all together ….. Speaking to some in the
interval they asked how you brought down a professional orchestra from – they presumed – London.  I told them that you had organised the whole
thing – singers – orchestra and all – from your links in Oxford and further. Wow ! was their reply !   And Robert produced in the singers an incredible performance – how he brought out all the subtleties of the scores I know not – but he did to perfection.