Counterpint III: the aftermath

So this is how last night’s Counterpint ended up for me:

How did I end up lumbering through Kingston after midnight, trying to figure out both how to get home and why the foxes of KT2 are so brazen? Because I’d so enjoyed another top night of singing and boozing that I’d lost all sense of time (and probably decorum too).

Once again, the Canbury Arms did us proud with a great singing space and lovely food and beers to keep us going.

It was great to see so many of you there, both regulars and first-timers.

Apologies for the mix-up at the start, by the way; I really didn’t intend to warm everyone up by asking the sopranos to sing top Gs straightaway but you have my admiration for getting up there. Though perhaps it was with a little help from an external source (sauce?) that you managed to reach those high notes…

Interesting that you all responded well to the Italian masters. To my mind the Gallus is easier than the Anerio but you were definitely stronger on the latter.

Among many, many great moments, the highlight of the night had to be the Mantua O vos omnes; the final run-through approached the sublime.

Lovely that we had along representatives of local singing groups, including the Canbury Singers and the South London Military Wives Choir*; hope to see you all again and do bring even more of your friends next time!

Still sorting out arrangements for the next Polyphony Down the Pub and Counterpint sessions so watch out for updates.

In the meantime, thanks again and see you soon.




*Speaking of the SLMWC, they have a concert coming up that’s worth supporting:



Kingston, are you ready?

We really hope you are, because Counterpint is back down your way tonight and is set to be even more epic than last time!

Included in the setlist are a couple of double-choir motets, with some other great numbers by Palestrina, Victoria, Arcadelt and many more besides.

Looking forward to seeing many PDtP/Counterpint regulars there, as well as welcoming some newcomers to the fold.

Just a reminder that attendance is by registration only but you might still be able to nab a place here.

Also, don’t forget to download and bring along the sheet music with you as we don’t have spares.



Counterpint III music is ready

so grab it from the usual place.

You’ll find a fine selection from the Renaissance masters, including a couple of thrilling double-choir motets.

Inspired by hearing both the St John and St Matthew Passions earlier this week, I’ve thrown in some chorales from these titanic works as warm-ups. Two of the chorales from the SJP are matched by contrasting harmonisations from the SMP, to make things more interesting or perhaps more confusing.

Please remember that attendance is by pre-registration only owing to space considerations; there may be one or two slots left but if not, there’s a waiting list that is worth signing up to.

Cheers (and Happy Easter)


Achieving the impossible – or at least the improbable

I have a confession to make: putting out the chairs and tables for last Monday’s double choir special, I had a momentary wobble.

Trying to divide the upstairs room of a pub to comfortably accommodate two 30-strong choirs, the reality of what we were trying to do suddenly hit me. Cue the cold sweat, palpitations & thoughts of ‘this will never work/what was I thinking/if I make a run for it now I can be in Belgium by midnight.’

I genuinely thought that I was pushing my luck and that it would all fall apart during the first motet.

How wrong I was.

From the get-go it was a brilliant evening of singing, with some fantastic moments coming out of these antiphonal motets.

While it’s fair to say that the Eccard probably didn’t float many boats (I liked it, though!), the Gallus, Croce and Trombetti (let’s have more of him) seemed to go down well with you all.

As expected, the big highlights included the Victoria (just how great is that work? I mean really, they just don’t come much better) and the Palestrina, but the Anerio took the crown for most popular and engaging number of the night, despite (or maybe because of) that crazy chord produced by Choir 2; how I wish we’d captured for posterity that sonic wonder.

For my money, though, the most fascinating number of the night was the Gombert (with which I have become slightly obsessed).

It really is an extraordinary piece, and one that fully deserves to be revisited. Admittedly, it stood out from the others for a number of reasons: while the true double choir motets play out in 4:4 formation, Gombert’s masterpiece is really 1:1:1:1:1:1:1:1, and its subtly shifting harmonic centre gives it an elusive, at times almost unsettling feel.

I’m doing a bit of further research on it which I’ll share with you another time but rest assured that it will reappear at a future session, albeit possibly in a different guise. (Hmm, mysterious.)

Big shout out to all who took part, particularly for your patience and willingness to try out something even more complicated than we usually attempt – it’s fair to say that thanks to you pioneers we’ll be enjoying more polychoral PDtP sessions in the future.

Speaking of the future, no news yet on April’s PDtP session but if you are itching to get back on that singing and boozing horse, we have a Counterpint session taking place at the marvellous Canbury Arms (great beer, lovely, lovely people) on Wednesday March 30th.

If we get enough people, we’ll almost certainly revisit one or two double choir numbers. Places are already being snapped up so don’t miss out – reserve your place here!



PDtP 18 sheet music is now ready…

and available via the usual page.

You’ll see that there are only 8 works on the set-list, to spare your printers from overheating and also give us time to swap the choirs around after a couple of run-throughs.

As I said the other day, I’m really quite excited about singing them all with you. Some, such as the Gallus Adoramus te and the Trombetti Gaude Maria virgo, are pretty standard affairs, with homophonic blocks of call and response between the choirs.

Others, like the Palestrina Laudate Dominum include some nice imitative passages, to mix up the texture in places.

While there are no JSB chorales this time around, I’ve stuck in a little charmer by one of his Mühlhausen predecessors, Johannes Eccard:

The ones about which I’m totallly psyched (yes, totally psyched) are the Victoria Lauda Sion Salvatorem and the Gombert Tulerunt Dominum meum. 

The Victoria is an absolute cracker, with blue notes and sassy little syncopations aplenty, all of which should keep us on our toes.

The Gombert is unlike anything else on the list; it’s a much earlier work than the others and is not so much a double-choir number as a richly textured interweaving of 8 distinct voices. The harmonies are utterly beguiling to boot, so if we can pull this one off then I’ll be going home a very happy man.

On the night, I’d ideally like to start as soon after 7 as possible so that we can all be in place and get a-boozin’ & a-groovin’ quicksmart.

Just a reminder that Monday’s session is pre-registration only so apologies if you missed out on a spot. We have quite a few on the waiting list now but I’ll send out a note if there are any late cancellations.



PS Our friends in the Thames Valley Early Music Forum are holding their next workshop in Chiswick on Saturday 19th March, directed by Peter Holman and accompanied by baroque strings and continuo. Singers will have the chance to work through Blow’s God spake sometime in visions and Purcell’s mighty fine My heart is inditing.

Spaces left for all voices (sopranos and tenors in particular), £14 per person. Closing date for registration is next Monday 7th March; contact Simon Hill if interested.