The Alto’s Lament!

The life of an alto is tough. 25 bars of nothing-but- E flat, followed by fifteen bars of some complex combination of seemingly random notes with no discernible melody at all! And our efforts mostly go unnoticed…the sopranos get all the glory.

This song perfectly captures our trials…

Sing yourself fit!

We’re all implored to ‘lose weight’ and ‘get fit’. The media bombard us with images of super-skinny models with unattainable figures. It’s easy to become downhearted. But Westdal and Hayward have come to rescue, with their own unique take on the Daily Mail’s regular fat-shaming articles.

I really think RCC should add this to our repertoire. What do you guys think? Leave a comment.


Duet for Cats

The Duetto Buffo di Due Gatti – which translates roughly as ‘humorous duet for two cats’ –  is an entertaining performance piece. The “lyrics” consist entirely of the repeated word ‘meow’.

No-one is 100% sure who wrote it. It’s often attributed to Gioachino Rossini but was not actually written by him. It’s a compilation written in 1825 that draws on his 1816 opera, Otello. Even the compiler is shrouded in mystery as the name  G. Berthold appears to be a pseudonym.

I think this is one of the best versions on the internet, partly because it’s so beautifully done but mainly because the dark-haired boy on the right is clearly having a really hard time keeping a straight face!



Do Something New in 2018 – Join Raunds Community Choir

Hands up who has broken their New Year’s resolution already?

So many New Year’s resolutions are about depriving ourselves; I will lose weight; I will cut out alcohol / chocolate / crisps. How about making a resolution to give yourself something…

Here are six benefits of joining Raunds Community Choir

Singing is relaxing – It’s a brilliant stress-reducer. When we sing we learn to breathe more deeply which is great for relaxation. Singing also releases the chemical oxytocin in our brain, which is a stress-relieving hormone.

Singing makes us happy – Singing releases endorphins in our brains. These are ‘happy hormones’. If we are feeling low singing for 20 minutes or more promotes feelings of well-being.

Singing improves confidence – When we learn a new skill we get a sense of achievement which spills into other areas of our lives. You don’t have to be able to read music to join our choir, and you certainly don’t have to think of yourself as good singer (though good singers are always welcome!). You will learn tips and techniques in a fun supportive atmosphere. There’s no audition and you won’t be expected to sing solo…unless you want to! Each week you will learn a bit more and by the end of your first term you will be amazed how much you’ve progressed.

Singing is good for our social life – We are a friendly local group. Come along and meet us.

Singing is good for our health – Singing is an aerobic activity so it increases the amount of oxygen in our blood, exercises muscle groups in the upper body, increases lung capacity, is good for the heart and has been shown to boost the immune system.

Singing is good for our brain – It forges new neural connections, enhances our memory, concentration and awareness.

So why not forget your broken resolutions and make a new one. Join Raunds Community Choir in 2018. Our first rehearsal is on Tuesday January 16th at 7:30pm in St Peter’s Community Hall opposite Spar, in Raunds.

We will be learning new songs so everyone will be starting from scratch, so now is a great time to join.

See you on Tuesday!

Competition Winner

Congratulations to William Tirebuck who is the winner of our acrostic poem competition.

The idea was for members of the audience at our Christmas Wassail to write an acrostic poem for the letters WASSAIL.

Thank you to everyone who entered. We enjoyed reading all the poems.

Here is the winner.

When the snow began to fall
All the town was white
Santa flew down in his sleigh
So it was Christmas night
All the children fast asleep
If they are girls and boys
Little children hope for lots and lots of toys

By William Tirebuck

Merry Christmas everyone.

From all the members of Raunds Choir.


Never one to let us sit back and relax, choral director Sally has decided that over the next few months we should attempt something very challenging.

 Vocalise, Op. 34, No. 14, is a piece of music by Sergei Rachmaninoff. It was composed and published in 1915. Initially it was written for soprano and tenor with piano accompaniment. There are no words; instead it is sung using one vowel (singer’s choice!)

It was dedicated to soprano Antonina Vasilievna Nezhdanova, who was an amazing Russian opera singer.

Over the years it has been transposed into various keys to allow other singers and choirs to perform and enjoy the piece within their range.

Tenor Mike sent me a link to a wonderful choral version which I include here.

Music fact…

The Pet Shop Boys song Happiness is an Option uses large sections of the Vocalise score underneath the spoken text! I include it here too…in case you don’t believe me.

A Bientôt! Clare!

On June 18th Raunds Community Choir performed in the Raunds Flower Festival. It’s safe to say it went very well and we all enjoyed it, probably more than any concert we’ve done to date.

Sadly for us it was the last time we will perform with our soprano Clare, and I hope all of Raunds Choir wish her well for the future.

Clare is not only a wonderful soprano but also a talented French teacher and author. Her blog at Figure Out French is well worth a read. This post is taken from it:

Last Saturday I sang in my very last concert with Raunds Community Choir at the Raunds Flower Festival in St Peter’s Church. I have been singing with the choir since its very first meeting six years ago. When I joined, I said to the organiser, “I’m not sure how regularly I’ll be able to attend as I often teach on a Tuesday night”. Little was I to know that I would fast become hooked and Tuesday night lessons were immediately rescheduled. I only missed one and a half rehearsals in six years!

Saturday’s concert was the best we have ever given and at the end I was so full of adrenalin,j’avais de l’énergie à revendre! I was overflowing with energy – I had energy left to sell off. Unlike in previous concerts where I often felt nervous and unsure of myself, this time we were singing mainly songs we had sung many times before and I was happy and confident. Je m’en donnais à coeur joie­ – I was having a field day (literally I was giving myself of it with heart joy).

Sadly, toute bonne chose a une fin – all good things come to an end, and having now moved to Oundle, I’ve decided to say goodbye to my Tuesday night rehearsals in Raunds but without a doubt I shall be sitting in the audience at their next concert wishing them well and waiting for that little tingle down the back of my neck when the music starts.

A bientôt!


There is a gallery of images from the concert here.

Do you feel musical frisson?

Soprano Clare sent me this great link for the blog, all about ‘frisson.’

It’s an interesting read.

The Paul Simon version of the Sounds of Silence (which we are currently learning) has always given me goosebumps, but the song which stopped me in my tracks the first time I ever heard it was Zombie by The Cranberries. It was so incredibly powerful that I caught my breath and my skin prickled, and still does when I hear it.

I asked my 13-year-old if he experienced goosebumps when listening to any piece of music. Without hesitation he replied, ‘Yes! The theme to Jurassic Park…the first one.’

Do you experience frisson or goosebumps when listening to music, and if so, which songs? Post links to your favourite goosebump-inducing pieces in the comments below.


The Sounds of Silence

One of the songs we are currently learning is The Sounds of Silence.

When I was at university I owned a battered vinyl copy of an album called Wednesday Morning 3AM. My musical hero John Peel had mentioned it in one of his late night radio sessions, and then there it was, the next day, in a box outside a junk shop on Great Horton Road in Bradford. I took it as an omen, parted with a few pence and schlepped it back to my student flat where I suddenly remembered I didn’t have a record player, only a tape deck! When I returned home for the holidays though I listened to it over and over. It was completely different to the eighties electropop and rock I’d previously been into. I loved the acoustic simplicity. It was my first foray into the folk genre and I carefully recorded it on to audio tape, and took it back to uni, where I listened to it until the tape wore out! My love affair with Paul Simon began at that point and from there I moved on to Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, Don Maclean and Cat Stevens, and I revisited my father’s LPs of the Beatles and the Kinks. My flatmates, who existed on a solid diet of House music, Hip Hop and Gothic Rock thought I was bonkers, but something about this music really appealed to me.

My favourite songs on Wednesday Morning 3AM were Kathy’s Song and the Sounds of Silence. Paul Simon wrote them when he was 21, about the age I bought the album. I didn’t know that then but maybe his slightly angst-ridden lyrics spoke to my own angst-ridden soul!

The story behind The Sounds of Silence is interesting.

A friend sent me a link to this cover version of the song recently. It’s by the Heavy Metal band Disturbed, but don’t let that put you off if you’re not a fan. This is a wonderful, epic version and I love it.

But for me nothing will ever match the original version which I fell in love with in my twenties.

What do you think? Which is your favourite version of the song?


Singing – like you’ve never seen it before!

So the blog is back after a bit of a break.

Scientists at the Freiburg Institute for Musician’s Medicine captured footage of a baritone singer Michael Volle singing an aria from Richard Wagner’s 1845 opera Tannhäuser. What makes this footage special though is that it was shot in and MRI scanner in real-time. It’s allowing scientists to learn more about how the vocal tract works.

Our voice is the sound that comes from air passing over our vocal folds. It passes through the vocal tract resonator, which shapes it acoustically and gives it pitch. These sounds can then be shaped into recognizable speech by articulators like the tongue and lips.

Opera singers (and indeed all singers) ideally need to eliminate anything that may interfere with the voice. Tense muscles in the neck and shoulders, and even in the arms and legs use oxygen, and leads to constricted breathing and poor sound quality. Singers require a loose, agile tongue and a relaxed jaw to reach their intended pitch. This means the support from the sound should come from the diaphragm (a point which Sally makes a lot!)

If you watch the video you can also see how he drops his tongue at the back, opening up his throat and increasing the space there, something else which Sally talkes about in rehearsals.

Watch MRI footage of a world-class opera singer performing

It’s pretty cool to be able to see exactly what should be going on inside our heads as we sing don’t you think.

Thanks Clare for the topic suggestion.