Saturday, 12 August 2017

17. Halle Tour Day 2 - Beamish, Beethoven + Team Nebula

There is always one day on our musical adventure when we get the opportunity to go and try something new and to learn about everything that the realm of music cannot always offer immediate access to. More specifically on this occasion, immersion into history itself. We hopped back on the coach (sans instruments this time) and headed towards the Beamish museum.

Whilst this might not sound any different to the usual experience with learning about the past and how it has impacted upon the present, it was actually entirely new for all of us who went because instead of looking at artefacts and reading about them you are essentially going back in time. Through the re-construction of spaces such as farms and mines from throughout the past century or so, with actors who interact with passers by, you essentially wander around an entire village of different things. You get to experience them in a way that really allows you to comprehend information by engaging with it internally - just like you can only really learn from a mistake by making it yourself.

Always been a farmer at heart - Copyright CLSS 2017
Possibly the best part of the day for me was getting to ride on a metal trolley car along the old street. Whilst it isn't in the midst of San Francisco, I still count that as one off the bucketlist. I felt like Judy Garland in the trolley song (you know the one).

Whilst there is much about the present that I would never change, from the surge in progress when it comes to medicine to the comprehension of big questions such as why we are here, I do often wish that we could take certain elements of the past and integrate them into the present so that it felt more homey than the present currently does. I guess this is why we writers work so much on Steam Punk texts - we are searching for that right place that is somewhere between here and there and we can only do that with imagination and a few words.

Clang Clang Clang goes the trolley - Image copyright CLSS 2017
Upon arriving back at the school (loaded, of course, with lots of new facts) we headed out to our rehearsals. First of all were consort groups. This consisted of the youth choir being split into four smaller groups who will now work on close harmony pieces, madrigals etc. for a small informal concert that we are putting on this Friday evening. My group is doing ok so far - today was mostly about experimenting with balance for us and finding out what sort of piece exactly it is we want to work on. So far our choices are between a King Singers arrangement and a popular madrigal but that's all I'm saying at the moment because the rest is going to be a surprise!

We also had the full choir rehearsal (amongst several other classes) which incorporated Beethoven. I've never quite been sure what to think of old Ludwig and it seems that this is the case with a lot of critics too. They split his work into three different periods, you know? They say it is between his second and third that he began to lead the transition into the romantic period, with no real clarity of where the different periods of time begin in his life. This of course may be due to missing pieces or simply due to debate on the content in terms of theory.

The movements we are working on may only be short in length but they are packed with so much complexity. The Kyrie is quite light and simple, but the other two definitely contrast this. They are much more dramatic and operatic considering that they are part of a classical/romantic choral mass setting. There are those infamous announcing sforzando chords that Beethoven is infamous for. They trace throughout, along with fugue like statements that often really emphasise the extremes of vocal ranges (he wasn't renowned for writing choral work and only ever completed one opera, Fidelio). My favourite movement is the Credo but this also happens to be rather Handel-esque (lots of high pitched, fast paced scales in sequence) so it is also the most complex. Whenever I listen to it I can't help but think the whole room sounds like a hive alive with our buzzing.

Busy as a buzzie bee - Image copyright CLSS 2017
But again, rehearsal was greeted by a welcome calm warmth, which was today the annual tour quiz. It was much harder than I was expecting and whilst my team didn't end up placing (there were about 50 different teams in our defence!) it was absolutely hilarious trying to come up with the right answers sometimes. Plus it meant an excuse to do some ear training whilst eating sweets which always makes for a fun music theory lesson that doesn't even feel like a music theory lesson.

One round was listening to different extracts of music and guessing what movie it was from as well as who had composed it. Needless to say, that was definitely one that Team Nebula aced!

My friend Leah has a gift with making up team names!
Day two overall has ended up being quite a long day and now, after all of that work, learning and extra travelling, I find myself feeling rather sleepy. It is definitely time for bed before another day of concert preparation. The week is already going by so quickly and yet I never want it to be over. Who ever said that summer schools were dull? This is some of the most fun I have had all year!

Thank-you for all your support and comments. It is a fantastic thing to be able to help answer any of your questions and to share my adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day! 

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