Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Oxford and Home Again

It drizzled as we drove out to Oxford on Sunday, but the weather didn’t bother us then, since we were headed into church. The meetings were nice, but I fell asleep for a few minutes during the first talks of the sacrament meeting (which was the third hour). The munch and mingle was enjoyable, afterwards; there was lots of good food and fun company.

After things were winding down, most of the company departed for downtown Oxford, but since our services were the latest, we spent some time practicing and relaxing at the chapel. Towards the end, the bishop visited with us for a few minutes about his single adult days with Sister Hall in London. The best story was how she spearheaded a production of Saturday’s Warrior. It is hard for me to see that — she puts on a good front!

The rain had died down by that point, so we made it to the bus stop without too much difficulty. However, when we were arriving at the center of town, the rain had picked up! So, our dash to Wadham was a little wet, but really quite fine. As long as the rain doesn’t keep up for the next few weeks straight! We got to the Chapel early, so we sat down and mostly journaled.

The rehearsal with the Wadham College Choir was ok, but I’m realizing that this choir isn’t the best. I wonder if there is a “ranking” of the choirs at the University. I understand that the purpose and general choral system are different than at BYU and most US universities, but there must be some sort of understood “ranking.” In rehearsal, we didn’t spend time fixing general concepts that could’ve applied across lots of moments in the music. And the students are not very invested, almost unexcited to participate.

My voice was tired, and just got tireder as we headed into the performance. In between the two, we went into the choir commons room and had biscuits. I think that is a fairly common tradition across England. It would be fun to start that in our intermissions in America. The service was somewhat unusual and long. But I enjoyed the experience and will be more prepared for when I return to the UK for school. Also, I learned that the colleges have very different attitudes and feelings about them, and researching that will be of vital importance to me as I make application choices. Wadham was very casual (no robes or dress standard for the choir) and too radical for me.

The performance went surprisingly well. However, I realized that it was missing the testimony of a BYU concert. I doubt that many of the students are Anglican or even religious, which is sad. I could feel the Spirit during the service when I was trying, but it was not ever-present like it frequently is at BYU concerts, even when singing secular texts.

Also, I still struggle with the organist as choir director. If they have good training and personal experience, I think it can work, but our director frequently sang flat when demonstrating and didn’t warm up the low end of our voices. She wasn’t a terribly director, but I could tell that she lacked some important training.

Afterwards, there were “drinks,” but I just anxiously waited to play the organ. Once people had headed over to dinner, I played my Buxtehude piece. It wasn’t perfect, but was pretty good considering how little I’ve practiced recently. Oh, to have an instrument like that available for daily practice…

Our dinner was really good. Eating in a Great Hall is fun — I can’t wait for Cambridge! Everything about Oxford just made me more excited for my time in Cambridge and made me want to come here for my education! We had to wolf down our food, since our Evensong was the last performance of the day (from 6:30 to 7:40) and the coach was leaving at 8:30. We had a serving place up at the front and then servers took our empty plates away. I wonder what level of service we will have in Cambridge. Apparently, the level of formality was different at different colleges.

All in all, yesterday turned out well. That really means something, considering the exhaustion I felt after being on the move all weekend. The weekend did a lot of good, but it made a lot of people tired, me included.

For the afternoon, Jake, Andrew, and I wandered over to the Science Museum and scoured another floor. I really enjoyed the space section. There were lots of artifacts and interesting details about our current start studies that I’ve never heard of. I’m glad we went.

The rehearsal with the Bach Choir of London was very interesting for me. This was the first large choir that we have observed during rehearsal and I was able to see some consistencies from the smaller ensembles.

The choir had a very funny balance. There were about ⅔ women in the choir, equally divided between sopranos and altos. The men, obviously, comprised the remaining ⅓, and were also equally divided. This trend towards heavy treble voices in England is not something I agree with. I like the BYU concept of firm foundations in the bass and alto sections. The human ear naturally hears the higher pitches, we don’t need as many people on those voice parts.

However, the tone was remarkably pure. Frequently, large choirs have a heavy vibrato that doesn’t match from voice to voice, or section to section. But the London Bach Choir did a great job.

Afterwards, we took the tube home, via Tesco. We don’t have class today, and the rehearsal we are attending isn’t until 11:15, so people stayed up late tonight talking and watching movies. I was in the talking group. The best news of tonight’s talking was visiting with Josh Pluim. It now looks like I will be traveling to the Netherlands with him after the study abroad is over. We would be staying with his family there. It would be an awesome experience and would save me a lot of money! I’m glad that some sort of plan is beginning to formulate for my two weeks of free time. I'll know more in a few days, but the prospect alone is exciting!

1 comment:

  1. Your font needs to be a little brighter, and larger maybe, although that would make it seem much longer. But at least brighter. It's a pretty colour combination, but too similar. In other news, the movie of Sister Hall and Saturday's Warrior is now near the top of my list for ones I must see when I cross the veil!