March 23, 2017

Value of Summer Schools reaffirmed

Meg Matthews attended the recent combined Australia NZ Summer School Adelaide. Read her comments.

> The city of Adelaide hosts the RSCM Summer School 2017

> January is not really the best month for a Summer School in Adelaide but our hosts did their utmost to make this Summer School interesting, challenging and cool wherever possible. Apart from three services and an organ recital, everything happened at Aquinas College, the Catholic university college up on the same hill overlooking the city as Colonel Light. Accomodation within the college, the dining room and session rooms were almost all air conditioned, sometimes so cool, warmer wear had to be fetched from suitcases!

> The theme was music for Pentecost and around 90 participants came from almost all states of Australia and from both North and South Islands of New Zealand. The Director was organist, composer and choral conductor Malcolm Archer FRSCM from Winchester UK and the principal Summer School organist, Andrew Georg who grew up in the Barossa Valley, is a widely respected and very active organist, repetiteur and accompanist. Chaplains – who provided thoughtful Devotions each morning were Dean Frank Nelson from St Peter’s Cathedral and Rev’d Alison Whish from the Uniting Church in Victor Harbour S.A.

> Malcolm Archer’s reputation as a composer inevitably meant we sang several works composed by him….(Pamela scooped up his most charming and effective anthem Grow in Grace for the St. Swithun’s Choir) ; his Magnificat was particularly challenging and the piece Veni, Sancte Spiritus was highly appropriate for the Pentecostal theme, as was a wonderful Lutheran styled chorale Come Holy Spirit Heavenly Dove where sung verses alternated with organ chorale preludes by JS Bach and JG Walther using the same melody. Bach’s stunning motet Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden, with many rapid runs to be sung in German proved too much for some choristers and we were scolded by Mr Archer for finding it so difficult. Perhaps for this work, a smaller auditioned group would have fared better.

> Other works enjoyed (and sung better) were anthems/motets by Palestrina, Purcell, Tallis, Attwood, Grayston Ives, John Ireland, Douglas Mews from NZ and Colin Brumby. Chanted psalms, plainsong, carols and Pentecostal hymns were added to this mix (sourced from the UK, Australia and New Zealand) for the four services we sang: the opening Service of Welcome held in the St Aquinas Chapel the evening we arrived – this is always my favourite service as suddenly, you are attending a service where everyone sings heartily and many sing harmony; a service at Wesley Uniting Church Kent Town following a brilliant and entertaining organ recital by Malcolm Archer; a service of Vespers at Bethlehem Lutheran Church and Evensong at St Peter’s Cathedral.

> I missed most workshops as much of my time was spent sitting beside Anita Banbury from Auckland who is the only examiner in Australasia qualified to examine the Voice for Life Gold Award. Paul Ellis from Christchurch gave several sessions on this excellent graded system Voice for Life and there were four candidates who attempted the Gold Award, a most demanding and comprehensive test. I cannot share any results as they must first be approved by RSCM in the UK. But I did attend the full choir rehearsals held morning and late afternoon each day and was impressed by the number of younger participants and by the fortuitous balance of voice parts. As has become a worthy tradition at Summer Schools, there was a daily newsheet with the weather forecasts, news headlines, the cricket score, interesting facts about the music we were singing, quotable quotes from Malcolm Archer’s exhortations to the choir and general arrangements for the day.

> Dr Warren Bourne and his team from Adelaide are to be congratulated for organising a Summer School where everything was carefully prepared and thoughtfully planned…. except the weather. Ross Cobb, Chairman of NSW Branch has suggested that future Summer Schools might be held in winter to solve this problem. Naturally, not everyone favours such a change so stay tuned for news of the next Sydney RSCM School following Auckland’s turn in January 2018.

> – Meg Matthews ARSCM January 2017