Over 80 choristers, aged 8 to 16, from 29 different church choirs in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, and Oxfordshire, gathered for 3 days at Magdalen College School in Oxford, to sing together. Some of the morning sessions were in ‘houses’ - groups of about 20 - learning the music for the day under the expert tuition of
Jonathan White (Associate Organist of Magdalen College, Oxford),
Ray Cook (Organist and Choirmaster of St Michael and All Angels, Aston Clinton),
Kathryn Burningham (Director of Chapel Music at University College, Oxford), and
David Bannister (Organist of Christ Church Cathedral Singers, Oxford).
The musical fare included a rich mixture of styles: some favourite passiontide hymns, psalm settings old and new, Richard Deering’s demanding two-part Gaudent in coelis, a lovely two-part arrangement of a Mozart piece to Charles Wesley’s words Love divine, the recently published setting of The Shepherd Boy’s Song by Jeremy Lund, and an exhuberant Magnificat coupled with a plaintive Nunc dimittis which were written by James Henderson especially for the Oxford Three-Day Course some fifteen years ago. All were sung with confidence and aplomb, with sensitivity and genuine commitment. Many of those in the large congregations commented on the sheer beauty of the sound that the choristers were able to produce.
On the third day, the Course was graced by the presence of the Bishop of Oxford, who took the opportunity to meet and talk with the staff and many adult helpers, and most importantly, the choristers themselves, and to address everyone at the final assembly. The next day in Christ Church Cathedral, the Bishop presided over the Eucharist with the Blessing of Oils and Renewal of Ministerial Commitment, at which thirty choristers chosen from the Course sang the Communion Service setting by Gloucester organist Herbert Sumsion in front of the clergy from the entire Diocese of Oxford. Additionally, two choristers of particular promise were awarded scholarships to attend one of the residential courses offered by the RSCM in the summer.
Thanks are due to all who helped with the Course in one way or another, with particular mention going to the energetic Course Administrator, Philip Bowcock, who, as I write, is eagerly awaiting entries for next year’s Three-Day Course.
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