the weekly newsletter from Dr Ruth Weeks, Headmistress
Student Sounds Out Eton Choral Course
21 October 2016
Over the summer, Head Girl Bethany Lucas participated in the prestigious Eton Choral Course, a week-long, residential summer course for young singers, which provides intensive, fun weeks of training in singing and choral music. Here, Bethany tells us about one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, weeks of her life:
"The Eton Choral Course which I attended over the summer was without a doubt, one of the most exhausting, challenging, intensive weeks of my life. I can also safely say it was one of the most rewarding. Nowhere else is your voice pushed to its limits in quite the same way as it is on these choral courses. Warm up started at 8.40am and we sang throughout the day till about 8.00pm, bearing in mind we also had to contend with the heat wave and hottest day of the year which coincided with the course.
"Each day was a combination of Full Choir rehearsals with the 71 other participants on the course (many of these rehearsals were taken in the stunning Eton College chapel which is one of the most beautiful chapels I've ever seen), rehearsing in sectionals (which I took with the altos) and my consort (a smaller group of 12 singers). With the main choir we rehearsed a range of music, from traditional choral pieces as well as one very interesting modernist composition which I really enjoyed learning. We had three performances as a main choir: first in Cambridge at Trinity College, then at Compline at Eton College Chapel and then Evensong in Windsor Chapel.
"In our consorts we also worked on a close harmony, jazz piece which we workshopped with composer Alexander L’Estrange, as well as one sacred piece which each consort performed at lunch as grace. As you can imagine, because of the sheer volume, difficulty and variety of repertoire we tackled in such a short space of time my sight reading skills were tested and challenged. However, I can tell it has made a huge difference and it is a skill which will aid me significantly in my choirs both now and in the future.
"On top of these ensembles we had two individual music lessons and then a masterclass with our singing teachers and three other students. This was a particular highlight for me because the feedback we were all able to give each other was incredibly constructive and receiving personal tutelage from a world-class musician was a true privilege.
"In addition, there were two solo concerts where anyone could perform (which I did, despite my voice feeling thoroughly wrecked!) Again, this was a very encouraging and confidence building experience as getting to perform in a non-pressured environment is quite a rare thing for a singer.
"Something which I definitely took from the course is the confidence and drive to apply for a choral scholarship at Keble College, Oxford University. The piece which I worked on in my singing lessons and the one I performed in the informal concert - Qui Sedes by Vivaldi - is the piece I performed in my audition for a choral scholarship at Oxford on the 27 September.
"Perhaps the most surprising part of the course was the absolutely incredible support I received from the other students. Indeed, I am still in contact with friends I made and in September we held our official reunion where we not only got to catch up with one another but sang Evensong together in St Johns Chapel, Cambridge.
"It was an incredible week and at the end of it I was invited to sing with the elite, professional Rudolphus choir - however, sadly my time commitments have meant I've been unable to meet the rehearsal days in London but at some point in the future I will hopefully get a chance!
"The course has made such a big difference and as a result of the training I have been offered a choral scholarship at Oxford, which I will be able to undertake if I am academically accepted. This whole experience has given me so many memories, taught me a huge amount and finally inspired me to wholeheartedly pursue singing as I leave EHS at the end of Year 13."
Alongside Bethany, another EHS pupil, Rosie Howl, has also been offered a choral scholarship at Oxford. Congratulations to both girls on this fantastic achievement.