From the Desk of Christopher Hampson, Organist and Director of Choral Music

A school without a choir is like a body without a soul.  Singing lies at the heart of worship and education.”
–John Rutter, composer

Six months at Groton School and with the dust settling on Lessons & Carols 2011, it seems like a perfect time to reflect upon my experiences on the Circle so far. With the pace of Groton life, it feels like a lifetime ago that I was making music and teaching on UConn’s campus. One moment Sarah, Anna, and I were sitting in an apartment with two cats in Manchester, Connecticut (directly opposite a big mall), and the next we were moving to Higley Street, where we regularly hear not the partying students living below us but the schoolhouse bells, framing another hour of tranquility (with the occasional punctuation of catfights, since we upgraded to four felines). Questions such as, “What shall I make for dinner?” and “Did you pay the rent?” have been replaced by “Did you remember to dust the stovetop?” and “Kelly dorm went through three bags of pizza bites and both the Friendly’s ice cream cakes at check-in!”

My weekday mornings start with a painful alarm at 5:45 a.m., and by 6:30 a.m. I’m in my office collecting the prelude and postlude music for morning Chapel. If I’m lucky I can sneak in an eggs benedict before playing, but most mornings I have to make do with a post-Roll Call hot chocolate from the faculty lounge (yum!). Six days a week, I hold a choral rehearsal in some form, whether it be choir, Madrigals, the Second Form choristers, or preparation for the Sunday service. Five afternoons a week I lead the musical portion of the winter production (this year, Pirates of Penzance), culminating in three performances that I will direct from the orchestra pit.

I am responsible for the Second Form music curriculum, and I meet with this class twice a week. In addition, I teach piano lessons to students and faculty children, in addition to leading an academic tutorial for the choir prefects. On Tuesday evenings, I help lead a Fourth Form Choices group and, finally, I am an affiliate in Kelly’s Dorm, which is a wonderful thing to look forward to every week. In the Fall term, in addition to weekly services, the Madrigals worked toward Parents Weekend and both the choir and Madrigals worked toward Lessons & Carols (using the same amount or rehearsal time!). I also designed the congregational booklets for Lessons & Carols and, in the week following the end of term, I edited and designed the artwork for the CD release of the same. One of the many highlights of the Fall term was watching the girls varsity soccer and field hockey teams.  It provided me the opportunity to experience some of the best and worst of New England weather. Currently on my radar are the preparations for the Craig E. Smith Spring Concert, which this year will involve not only a choir work (Rutter’s Magnificat) but also the beginnings of a baroque chamber group at Groton that specializes in the music of J.S. Bach. Also on the radar, winging its way to us, is a new recording system for the Chapel, which will provide opportunities to record Chapel Talks, services, performances, and choir rehearsals to a professional standard, all of which I feel will benefit the students and the school. Watch out for our next CD release on iTunes!

Unfortunately, the funds were not available for the pyrotechnic and dry-ice organ stops that I requested, but the powers-that-be are considering a trap door activated by the lowest pedal note when Chapel Talkers stray much past 8:20 a.m.

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