November's assignment gave the Fellows a concentrated burst of wide-ranging challenges and opportunities.


Our sessions in late November gave us the full scope of the Fellowship programme - we had the opportunity to learn from a fantastic industry professional, gave a workshop for some young musicians, and sang our first recital as a group together.

Rehearsals in London (bolstered by Jaffa cakes and many cups of tea) were a chance to refresh the repertoire we’d tackled for our first appearance together on BBC Radio 3 'In Tune', and to knuckle down to work on new rep for our forthcoming recitals. It was a privilege to have Joanna Forbes-L’Estrange with us for our afternoon session to help us work on some close-harmony arrangements. As a former Swingle Singer, Joanna was able to impart her extensive knowledge and effortless cool-ness on our performances, including Ward Swingle’s ‘It was a lover and his lass’, and an arrangement of 'Sleigh Ride' by Mr Ben Parry. It’s a genre that not everyone had much experience in so Jo’s input was really invaluable.

A few days later we arrived at the Royal Hospital School in Holbrook for a composition workshop day with year 10 and 12 music students. Due to a delayed train we were thrown straight into an immersive demo of choral music from Tallis to Tavener to give the students some ideas for their own GCSE and A-Level compositions - props must go to Elspeth and Ben for popping out some serious high notes on very little warm-up time! Armed with Ben Parry’s quick and easy guide to choral composition, we split into pairs to help guide groups of students towards their goal of creating a short piece. The day presented some challenges - though there are a few composers within the group, plenty of us have no compositional experience post-uni, so having to teach it was quite daunting, but Ben’s breakdown made it simpler for both them and us. Rob and I and our group of year 10s set the first verse of 'The Owl and the Pussycat', and as we had a few saxophonists in our class the final product was a study in jazz. All four groups came together at the end of the sessions to hear the Fellowship perform these brand new works, which ranged from our jazz-inspired ditty to a graphic score(!) on the theme of water.

There was time for a quick rehearsal in the afternoon to make the final touch-ups to our concert programme and rehearse with graduate Fellow Beth, who was stepping in for Ana. By the time the evening came round we were exhausted but excited to give our first recital together as a group. It’s a delight to work with such fantastic musicians - particular highlights for me were Monteverdi’s ‘O primavera’ and being able to put our session with Jo to work in ‘It was a lover’. Overall the day was a huge learning experience for many of us, teaching and working with secondary-age students for the first time, but it’s rewarding to know that they were gaining from it too.