Saturday, 7 January 2012

Ebenezer Prout or Watkins Shaw? That is the Question!

Mr Watkins Shaw's arrangement.
The Marlborough College Choral Society will be singing Handel's "Messiah" in March this year.  It is a well known work, and this will be about the 12th time I've sung it during my long love affair with choral singing.  There are two arrangements of the work, one  by Mr Watkins Shaw and the other by Mr Ebenezer Prout.  The two arrangements differ slightly and each chorus, air or recitative is on a different page in each edition.  Each of my two copies of this work is marked with the page numbers of the other, and last night we had the same confusion that always reigns, the conductor says,  "Right, for those with the Shaw it's page 99, and in the Prout it's page 78."  The bar markings vary too, so my copies have the bar numbers of each edition.   Hi di ho, confusion reigns but we get there in the end!

Last night, singing the "Hallelujah Chorus" (that's Shaw page 171 bar 1, or Prout page 158 bar 1) we produced a most magnificent sound.  When asked, over two thirds of the choir of 240 singers had sung the work before, so last night's practise went really well.  It is easy to sing in a "run of the mill" Messiah, but last night our pencils were busy marking our scores with accents and diminuendoes, ff and mf.  The language of music is universal, these same markings would be understood from the North to the South Pole, and from east to west.

The music librarians organising the various editions of the Messiah.
Copies of the "Messiah" can be hired, so the two music librarians were kept busy issuing the scores.  I have a copy of each arrangement, so do not pay a hire fee.  The photo below is of the auditorium in the College theatre where practises are held.  We spend 10 sessions here, and then have two practises, and eventually the concert itself in the College Chapel.  This year we will be accompanied by a London  orchestra, I was told its name,  but my ageing brain has forgotten already.  I need a cuppa!
In the auditorium at Marlborough College before the first practise.

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