A swell day in the life of a Senior Organ Scholar

Worcester Chapel is blessed with three talented organ scholars, whose varied responsibilities range from training the probationers and choristers of the boys’ choir; directing and accompanying rehearsals and services; and the organising the administration that goes along with running the music for a busy college chapel. They all somehow manage to fit in a Music degree too in their spare time. When I registered an interest in chatting to them, so our loyal blog readers could get an insight into a typical day, our senior organ scholar Dan Mathieson willingly piped up.

How does a normal day start for a Worcester OS?

Well, if we have a morning boys’ rehearsal, which we do have three times a week, then we have to be down at the Cathedral school at 8am. The three of us are pretty non-communicative at this time as you might imagine, so the team coffee normally waits till afterwards. Some of the boys travel in from quite far though so their days start a lot earlier – they’re often half way through their mornings by 8 so are feeling bright as day and ready to go. We currently have 20 boys in the choir, all between years 4 and 8 at school. A typical rehearsal will start with a warm up then we’ll split them into groups to learn repertoire. They’re actually on half term break this week, but they’ll be back with a vengeance on Sunday of 4th week for Noble in B minor and Wood O Thou the Central Orb – stay tuned!

Dan Mathieson
Dan enjoying a well-deserved drink after a busy day

And how would your day progress?

Well, for example today I had a lecture at 9am on string quartets after Beethoven, which covers everything from Brahms to Stockhausen’s ‘Helicopter String Quartet’. After a brief Combibos coffee with my esteemed Worcester music colleagues, I dashed off to the Music Faculty to pick up a score of Monteverdi’s opera The Coronation of Poppea that I need to analyse for a tute on Monday. Then it was back to college for Staff Choir!

(Worcester has had a thriving Staff Choir since Trinity Term 2015, and Dan was the founding accompanist.)
How is Staff Choir going this term?

It has around 10 core members at the moment and grows to about 20 in peak times, though today it was a bit quieter than normal as it’s quite busy in the college offices at the moment what with admissions. Today we started some Christmas rep to go alongside our three-part arrangement of California Dreaming. It’s led by our Director of Chapel Music, Tom Allery, who’s known for his enlightening metaphors or “Allerisms” which he uses to explain particular vocal techniques; today he brought out a classic – just like how the counterweights of lifts work, when you’re singing low, think up! Surely everyone’s favourite Allerism, and one that seems particularly appropriate for this week’s blog entry, however, is the time tested slogan: “the organ does the text”.  

And what else did your Thursday of 2nd week have in store?

After Staff Choir I managed to squeeze in a bit of work before preparing for Mixed Choir rehearsal for evensong at 4.45pm. Our music tonight featured two double choir unaccompanied pieces (Holst Nunc Dimittis and Brahms Wenn Ein Starker) to fit in with the Oxford Lieder Festival that’s going on until Saturday 29th October around the city, along with a chant Magnificat which I harmonised on the organ. We were rewarded for this rather challenging repertoire so soon into term by a very strong formal hall; blue cheese risotto, braised steak and syrup sponge pudding. On Thursdays we follow formal with a cheeky one hour rehearsal to look ahead to music that’s coming up; today we focused on the Fauré Requiem which we are performing at The Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy in London on Wednesday 16th November, along with assorted choral favourites.

Sounds like you’ve had a busy day Dan!

Indeed, it never stops (!) – it’s all great fun though. And, luckily, our newly appointed choir social sec Dom arranged a post-rehearsal cocktail night tonight so we could all blow off some steam!

Next Week: The life of Worcester Choral Scholars through photos

The Staff Choir performing on Nuffield Lawn in 2015. Photo credit: Dominic Yeo

Prospective applicants of organ awards should seek more information at this link.

Please see http://www.brandenburg.org.uk/tickets/wed-16-nov-7pm for details of our upcoming concert in London, mentioned above.

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