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August 10, 2018

Singing the Praises of Chorister Camp

Four choristers from St. Columba's: Clara Dean, Annalise Ross, Carolyn Hoff and Henry Beale, attended the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) course in Charlotte, NC this summer. The course provides the opportunity for training and exploring wonderful choral music in liturgical settings. At this week-long camp, they and choir members from many other church choirs across the U.S. worked with director Robert McCormick to prepare repertoire for a Eucharist and Evensong.

Written by Carolyn Hoff, member of the St. Columba's Gallery Choir
One of the special things about taking courses at the Royal School of Church Music is that the music is not chosen to go along with the liturgy; the liturgy is chosen to go along with the music. This year, the theme was the Virgin Mary, as much of the music was related to Mary. The choir sang, among other things, two "Ave Maria's" (by Brukner and Dupre), a Lully "Salve Regina," William Whitehead’s arrangement of the Christmas classic, “The Seven Joys of Mary,” and Edvard Grieg’s "Ave Maris Stella." They also sang Ivor Atkins' "Evening Service in G," and Monteverdi’s "Mass for Four Voices."

The choir had three rehearsals each day: trebles and ATB (Alto Tenor Bass) have separate rehearsals in the morning, and everyone has two joint rehearsals in the afternoon: one before dinner, and one before evening prayer. At evening prayer, the choir sings what they had worked on that day, and the chaplain, Father Ed, gives a sermon based on the theme of the week.

Singers also have chances to do other things. While the youth have a "rest and activities" time, adults have the chance to go to seminars led by musicians from all over America. Youth have a theory class everyday, where they can enhance their music theory knowledge. For the past two years, one such class has written a descant for the final hymn at Morning Eucharist by analyzing the hymn's chords and writing a melody that fits in with the chords.

A number of traditions make Saturday a fun-filled day. In the morning, everyone gathers at St. John’s for a final rehearsal and lunch. The kids then go to Sports Connection for laser tag, arcade games and bowling. The day ends with a talent show where anyone attending the course is allowed to perform. This year at the talent show, several campers played their instruments, and Mr. McCormick did an organ improvisation based on themes the choir suggested, such as Harry Potter and Johnny Boy. One group of choristers sang an arrangement of the Sound of Music from “The Sound of Music,” and the adults performed their annual Psalm in which they make fun of the director’s jokes by singing new words to a psalm chant: a classical roast. This year, everyone surprised Henry Beale, by singing happy birthday to him, in at least four-part harmony.

The Charlotte RSCM course has always been a blast, which is why Annalise and I have been back so many times! We hope many more people can join them next year for another great week, with director George Richford and the theme of Mary Magdalene.