I spent the afternoon at a Come & Sing Christmas Carols session organised by the BBC Singers. ewtikins joined me and we met for lunch beforehand -- it was lovely to catch up a bit and talk about bikes and music and stuff before heading off to the Emmanuel Centre to sing.
The carols were all from Carols for Choirs 1 so I knew them all already (though in most cases was more familiar with the tenor part, as a result of spending a long time singing in choirs with a shortage of tenors!) but it was lovely to sing with such a big group (a couple of hundred people, I reckon?) and with the BBC Singers themselves. It's also always noticeable how much more fun it is being led/conducted by a professional -- in this case Bob Chilcott, who was lively and dynamic and kept the session moving forwards at a fairly fast pace without ever making things feel rushed.
Two of the carols we sang (David Willcocks' arrangement of "I Saw Three Ships", and Peter Cornelius's "Three Kings from Persian Lands Afar") were being recorded for Radio 3 (to be broadcast at some point in December), and interestingly, they were recorded in sections rather than as a whole -- to be spliced together into one perfect recording of each by "the wonders of digital technology". It was a shame not to do the Three Kings properly all the way through (except for one initial sing-through), only piecemeal, but it was still lovely to sing -- it's one of my all-time favourites, and the soloist from the BBC Singers was good (and rather cute, ahem). The others were just for fun -- "The Sussex Carol", "Ding Dong Merrily on High", "Torches", "In Dulci Jubilo", "Away in a Manger" (to the twee tune, unfortunately) and a rousing "O Come All Ye Faithful" to finish with. It's never too early to sing carols (we've been rehearsing them in Cherwell Singers since mid-October!) and I never feel I've had too many of them, so this was a welcome fix before the real Advent/Christmas carol service season starts (though it always starts early in Oxford because term's over almost before Advent has begun!).
The BBC Singers seem do these Come & Sing events a few times a year (I went to a marvellous Come & Sing Spem in Alium they did a few years ago for the 40th anniversary of Spem) so if you're interested it's worth joining the mailing list and keeping an eye out for them.
It did feel strange, though, to be singing from Carols for Choirs inside rather than in the Cambridge Craft Market where I sang carols every December for 6 or 7 years with the Portfolio Singers, busking for charity (hoping to make it back to join them this year, too, in fact). My carol book has permanently wrinkly pages from being out in the rain so many times... It was also strange to be able to sing the same part all the way through for "In Dulci Jubilo" rather than having to swap between two alto parts (and fill in occasional other bits and pieces) to make up for not having enough people to cover the 2-choir arrangement. I do really miss being part of that kind of cheerfully-makeshift small singing group, the sort where people are happy to sight-read stuff for fun, and swap parts around all over the place, and sing bits of the accompaniment to cover the gaps... and somehow it still sounds good. I'd love to find (or found!) something similar in Oxford, but never seem to have the time and/or opportunity... but that's a post for another day. Maybe one day I'll actually do some of these things I keep wishing I had a chance to do.