apart/together - Choral music after COVID
Young Oxford singers from the Choir of New College, Oxford, have joined up with production company, Positive Note, to produce a poignant call for attention, as the pandemic threatens the future of choral music in Britain.
Kept apart, they sing together, Bach’s Letzte Stunde. Not a Zoom performance, but a recording of voices and instruments to concert standard in isolation, then brought together by Positive Note into a seamless performance of one of Bach’s most beautiful arias.
apart / together is designed to highlight the loss to the nation of choral music in our churches, cathedrals, chapels, concert halls:
apart: musicians everywhere are refusing to remain silent, harnessing technology to remind us that music should be made together.
together: we must work together to ensure that live music comes back to the nation’s life.
From the poignant opening shots of a deserted chapel, the film highlights the loss of music from all our chapels, churches and cathedrals – and the predicament of the many singers whose musical and professional lives are on hold.
It also shows a commitment to keep singing despite the odds – the children in this film have all learnt new skills to complement their training as choristers.
Robert Quinney, the Director of the Choir, writes: ‘We cannot survive in isolation, and the quality of ‘lockdown’ performances such as this is only possible because the singers have learned and honed their craft with intensive training, hearing and responding to each other’s voices. Without the possibility of singing together, a rich and vital tradition will be lost. Most importantly, this is the point where authoritative national research is needed to enable informed decisions about the viability of choral singing – which contributes so much to the nation’s spiritual cultural life, and to the education of so many people’
Letzte Stunde, brich herein is taken from Bach’s Cantata no 31, Der Himmel lacht! Die Erde jubilieret, composed for Easter Day in 1715. In this beautiful aria the soprano voice, often reserved by Bach for moments of special radiance, asks to be ‘just like the angels’, ending high in the voice as if already ascending to heaven. In our performance, the text is interpreted in British Sign Language by Paul Whittaker, and accompanied by members of the Oxford Bach Soloists.