Our (Actual) First Full Day

It really is incredible to wake up, go about the day with your schedule in mind, as you also recover from the jet lag, and still try to remember how amazing it is to be in Oxford. Waking up this morning, I treated it like nothing different from any other morning. Got out of bed, made sure I looked decent and wouldn’t scare anyone if I smile at them and said hello, and made my way to breakfast.

Breakfast was delicious, with ham, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, toast, and more, all waiting for us as we arose from our slumbers. We all needed the night’s rest as we recovered from the lack of sleep after our plane ride, and waking up to a fresh and filling breakfast was what we all needed. We all had plenty of food available as well as apple and orange juice and coffee for all.

Following breakfast, the time had come. All of the new members who were able to come to Oxford looked forward to this moment like none other. We would finally receive our Oxford polos, where I joked that it was almost as if we finally were a part of the choir. Not after the tuxedos or dresses we brought for our concerts, but with the black Oxford polos that every member seemed to have. We went to the store to pick them up, walking through the city, which was absolutely beautiful. The architecture of the city is stunningly beautiful, passing through stores and other parts of Oxford University. The buildings look incredible and I know at some point during the week when we have more time, I plan to walk around more and explore and admire. Another fun part of our journey back to St. Stephen’s was walking through the streets and accidentally walking through, what we think, was the shooting of the television show Inspector Morris. I had no idea when walking through, but others understood as we hurried through, asking how I never caught the camera. But on the bright side, I probably never broke the fourth wall!!

Afterwards, we enjoyed a lecture about the history of the church and the school, and followed with asking questions about the religion’s influence on the school. The class was very interesting to gain a better understanding, and afterwards, we all gathered in the dining hall for lunch. Again, the food was fantastic with vegetables, salad, chicken and potatoes, all of which tasted great!

Dr. Jordan held a class for the conductors titled Sound as Teacher, while choir members were given free time to relax and recover some more. Many of us took naps, and now I think we have all finished dealing with our jet lag. Thank goodness.

Everyone gathered again for tea time to enjoy the down time and talk to one another, with some guest appearances by Thomas LaVoy, who is staying for the rest of the Institute, which is fantastic as we love working and spending time with him, as well as the famous Jaakko Mäntyjärvi. Dr. Jordan has worked on music of his with his choirs. Having time with each will be much appreciated as I am sure we will learn tremendous amounts from during our time here.

We all then broke off into our two choirs, to work with each of the conductors and either James Jordan or James Whitbourn. My choir worked with James Whitbourn today as well as 12 of the conductors participating in the institute. Each had 10 minutes to work with our choir, going through the entire piece, and then working on little details after. Working with the conductors was incredible as each has prepared so much for this as we can tell quickly. They each bring a great deal of personality, inspiration, and honesty to the piece they conduct, and the choir can tell instantly. While working through the piece, James Whitbourn would find little things to work on with each conductor, or ask how the conductor felt in the experience, or ask the choir for advice as well. Everyone received the advice very well, and seemed so willing to work on anything that might arrive while continuing to learn as much as possible in the short amount of time. I know I have learned a lot not only as a choir member but also as a conductor through watching and carefully observing as each conductor works with the choir.

Dinnertime quickly arrived, where we all dispersed throughout town to grab a quick bite. Remembering that chips are our equivalent to fries, crisps to chips, and bacon now to ham, might take a little work, but so far I haven’t made any mistakes with food that will kill me!!

Compline occurred at 8:30 (our time), where we rehearsed the compline service through, gaining a better understanding of chant and how we must sing the chant to make music of it. After rehearsing for some time, we ran the service as we will three other times this week, and it was quite beautiful. Seeing everyone together, singing through the chants and acting as one unified group was amazing. Mistakes do not matter, as we all work through the service together, and the sound that develops as we slowly develop from 75 independent singers into one collective group continued to grow in its beauty. I am really excited to see how the compline service adapts and evolves throughout the week, as I am sure the magic will soon take hold.

Well, it is REALLY late as I finish up here tonight (almost 2 a.m. in Oxford), so I shall say good night to all, and to all a good night. There is more music to be sung, more magic to be made, and more memories to be shared. I cannot wait to see what is in store tomorrow with our master classes and more time working with the conductors!!

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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