Beowulf Diary, 21 July 2017, Christopher Monks, conductor

About two years ago the soprano Elin Manahan Thomas came to me having just worked on another project elsewhere with our composer in residence, Toby Young.  She, like I was really taken by his music and his ability to work proactively and inspiringly with the musicians he was writing for. Elin convinced me that the epic story of Beowulf was the right starting point for a collaboration.

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Tony Hadley at Oz & Armonico

We’ve just returned from our summer festivals tour of Oz & Armonico Drink to Music which included the privilege of being artists-in-residence at Harrogate Festival and a trip to beautiful Buxton. Our final concert before the summer break was at Lichfield Festival where we found we had a surprise visitor: the Spandau Ballet and I’m A Celebrity star, Tony Hadley, was at the Swinfen Hall Hotel event having recently become a patron of the Lichfield Festival. He thoroughly enjoyed the evening of music, wine and anecdotes.

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Beowulf Diary, 4 July 2017, Toby Young, composer

The oldest surviving poem in Old English, Beowulf is a fantasy saga which has inspired countless retellings of the myth, including Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Armonico Consort’s composer-in-residence Toby Young, who has previously worked with the likes of Duran Duran and The Rolling Stones, has set this touching epic drama to music.

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St Matthew Passion – first rehearsal

St Matthew Passion was the first piece of music I ever truly dismantled as a conductor 15 years ago in an attempt to get under the skin of this incredible work of art. It is now three years since Armonico Consort’s last tour of Bach’s masterpiece, and whilst I have conducted the work countless times, I never fail to feel slightly daunted by the task of bringing it to life for the modern ear.

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What a fantastic rehearsal tonight at AC Academy!

This week I led the warm up through the use of rounds, first a clapping exercise then a song. The clapping exercise involved splitting the choir into four and asking them to clap different rhythms. Whilst it would be expected that by the end of the exercise the students would have sped up, they kept a good tempo and, as always, approached the task with enthusiasm.

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Another fun session at AC Academy today

In the choir rehearsal today Gaynor let me lead the warm up before the session. First I decided to loosen the students up by a fun exercise called Up, Down, Stop, GO! which got them moving around the class. I followed this by some comical yet effective vocal exercises the students approached with full confidence and enthusiasm, although being amused by them.

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A term with AC Academy

I am currently studying music performance at Coventry University and feel extremely passionate about music education and the importance of music practice in schools, particularly for young children. As part of a module in my current study I was offered the opportunity to work with one of AC Academy after school choirs which, after a little research, seemed the perfect chance for me to gain experience with children that have shown interest in music.

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Office Move

We are pleased to announce that we will be moving to a new office in Warwick town centre in late January.

Not only will this put us closer to our frequent partner and venue St Mary’s Church, but will also lower our carbon footprint as we will no longer need to drive to the post office!

The new office will better accommodate our ever-growing company and our ever-rising ambitions.

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AC Academy Leader Training Day

With a fuzzy head, we began the year by bringing all of our professional AC Academy choir leaders together from across the UK for a training day. We were very grateful to the staff and pupils of Thomas Jolyffe School in Stratford-upon-Avon who not only donated rooms and refreshments, but also their choir and a couple of teachers who selflessly became ‘guinea pigs’ for the day!

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