Oxford: Day 5

On the morning of our fifth day at Oxford, we were finally able to meet our gracious host, the principal of St. Stephen’s House, Robin Ward. He talked to us about the history of the church in St. Stephen’s (yes, the very building we were sitting in!), and about the crucial role liturgical music played in rediscovering the older church traditions after the Reformation. An interesting point he made was about active participation. In the Catholic Church, the Latin Mass was changed into the more the accessible vernacular text. Apparently at one point the dominant opinion in the Catholic Church was that everybody in the congregation needed to participate in the music-making in order for it to be meaningful. Robin Ward pointed out that he believed that everybody actually “making noise” was not the only way to be engaged in what was spiritually occurring during the service.  As one of the participants said, this is exactly like conducting. Just because you’re waving your hands around, doesn’t mean you’re doing anything useful. Sometimes minimal movement and maximum trust is all you need to make the most beautiful music with an ensemble.

Like so: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5elg-JOZQE

Well, this is a little extreme. But you get the idea.

It’s finally getting to me just how much English music, especially choral music itself, is deeply rooted in church music. Indeed, we owe it to them for creating and developing much of this art form that we love.

Afterwards, our very own Dr. Pilkington also gave a session, and it was awesome.


Sarah Mae Lagasca and THE James Whitbourn

 Then we had a rehearsal with Mr. Whitbourn on Britten’s St. Nicolas. As I’ve mentioned before, Britten knew how to write music that was … manageable, while still sounding rhythmic and harmonically complex. Yeah, it’s complicated. But day-by-day I love the St. Nicolas more and more.

It’s melodically interesting, rhythmically exciting, and just all around an extremely theatrical account of Santa Claus’ life.



Mary practices for Rejoice in the Lamb before St. Nicolas. Britten for days! 

After a shortened conducting class, we pampered up for the Williamson Voice’s European debut concert.

Let me repeat: European debut concert.  Chills, ladies and gentlemen. Chills.

Oh and what a concert it was. We all sang our hearts out. But then again, Westminster Williamson Voices always does because that is the Westminster Williamson Way, and that’s what I love about us. I will never forget our voices that night.

I swear. It’s still echoing in my ears 🙂

About choralmusicinstitute

Presented by Westminster Choir College of Rider University and Oxford University's St. Stephen's House, the one-week institute provides instruction to all levels of conductors.
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