Welcome to the choir blog in the second week of the University term. This evening the choir sang an Epiphany Carol service and now we are in conversation with tenor choral scholar, Dominic Spencer Jolly.
So Dom, tell us a little about who you are and about your part in the choir…
I am a fourth year chemist and I started in the choir in my first year. I am actually a student at New College but sing in Worcester’s choir.
Tell us a little but about the musical experience you had before University
I starting singing when I was reasonably young. My older sister used to have singing lessons and I often used to jump in at the end of her lessons! I went up the singing grades and sang in a number of choirs. When I was 11 I started at Birmingham Junior Conservatoire and received vocal training there, singing in vocal ensembles. I did a diploma in the year before University and also sang with the National Youth choir.
What attracted you to sing in Worcester College choir?
I applied to Worcester College, and the choral award interviews happen before the academic interviews. I was offered a choral scholarship place but was academically pooled to New College. I decided that I still wanted to sing at Worcester College and here I am! It has been wonderful to make friends in another part of Oxford and be part of such a friendly choir and enjoy making good music.
What makes Worcester choir Worcester Choir?
Surely it is the camaraderie of the members – we all get along really well. Worcester is unique in having two separate choirs, the boys’ choir and the mixed choir. This gives a really good dynamic to the choir. Also, we do some great trips away and tours which really adds to the social element of the choir. Over the summer we went to sing for a few days in Worcester Cathedral which was really good fun. So – the social aspect, really good music, and the unique setup of the choirs.
The other thing about Worcester is that it isn’t a huge choir. I feel as though ever member really counts and it relies on the musical contribution and commitment of all of the members and in everyone getting along. It’s a real team atmosphere; the setup trains you in personal responsibility and it has really improved my sight-singing over the years. On some Mondays we split into consorts and this gives a unique experience for us in services to sing in a small group.
What would you advice would you give to someone aspiring to a choral scholarship?
Train and practice your sight-singing, and get to the stage where you can sing with confidence and musical shape, even in sight-reading. With solo pieces, prepare to bring something to sing that you know really well and do it to your best rather than choosing something really difficult.
What is your favourite piece of repertoire?
It would have to be Parry’s My Soul there is a Country. The different snapshots of images that you get through the setting are wonderful, and I love the structure of piece with its short sections. I recall a particularly poignant performance of the piece this earlier in the year at an important Memorial service in the University Church for a former Worcester Fellow. It just seemed to capture the atmosphere perfectly and I remember my friends in the choir really pulling together to make an incredibly moving performance that day.
What has been your best moment in the choir so far?
It has to be the Puglia tour 2015. There were some really hilarious moments, especially when travelling around in the heat! We stayed in an amazing town, ate some wonderful food, and did some brilliant concerts. For one of them we had to wait 50 minutes to start because we couldn’t start until the Bishop arrived! (laughter…) then we cracked out the Holst Nunc Dimittis which brought the house down after each concert. It was a great tour – we had a great pool to ourselves at the hotel too!
What are you looking forward to in the rest of the year?
I am really looking forward to the Stations of the Cross service at the end of term as I love the music for Lent and Passiontide. At Eastertime we are doing a recording of early 20th century music with load of great pieces – Howells, Stanford, and Darke.
There are also a couple of Gaudies coming up – these are always good fun. These are occasions when former members of the college are invited to the college for an evensong service and a meal. The choir sings evensong for them and then we have a lovely meal and get to meet former members of the college and choir.
Finally, how would you sum up the choir in three words?
Fizzy, flourishing, and fun, very fun.
Thank you Dom. See you next week!