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Guest delvin146

Ho-lee Smurfs?

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Guest Lee Blick
Surely the choir should provide a positive lead for one and a blend with the other?

 

:blink:

 

err, that was my point. :mellow:

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err, that was my point. :blink:

 

Ah, I must learn to read properly.

 

:mellow:

 

Back to these vowel sounds then.

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About fifteen years ago, I went to Choral Evensong at St. Paul's Cathedral when John Scott was conducting. Every other verse (apart from first and last) the choir didn't sing and let the congregation accompanied by the organ sing on their own. I thought that was a nice touch.

 

I think that what you are describing may have appeared like that from where you were sitting but in fact, usually on Sundays anyway, the choir used to sing the first and last verses 'full' but the intervening verses were sung alternately by Decani and Cantoris, the other side resting. Powering your way through nine rather long hymns on a Sunday could be very tiring along with all the other music the choir has to sing, so it was done to give the boys (and men) some vocal rest.

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Guest delvin146
Either I seriously need some singing lessons or you need to sack your singing teacher. The amount my mouth moves between the O and E of Holy is minimal and could never be described as stretching. When you say Hoe Li, do you mean Li as in lift? Wouldn’t that tend to cause people to “snatch” the last syllable?

 

:blink:

 

What I mean is, get rid of the last syllable "li" or "lay" or however you want to do it. I wouldn't want it snatched ,but I would look for the second syllable of the the word to be of less power than the first. (As is the case with many two syllable words appearing at the end of a line). To me, singing a soft "li" and lifting would do the trick so far as I am concerned because I'd be looking for a weak but focussed vowel at that juncture and in that context. Perhaps others wouldn't be happy with that.

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What I mean is, get rid of the last syllable "li" or "lay" or however you want to do it. I wouldn't want it snatched ,but I would look for the second syllable of the the word to be of less power than the first. (As is the case with many two syllable words appearing at the end of a line). To me, singing a soft "li" and lifting would do the trick so far as I am concerned because I'd be looking for a weak but focussed vowel at that juncture and in that context. Perhaps others wouldn't be happy with that.

 

As you say, it’s very much down to personal preference. I’d be inclined to stress the first syllable rather than reduce or change the second.

 

:blink:

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Guest delvin146
As you say, it’s very much down to personal preference. I’d be inclined to stress the first syllable rather than reduce or change the second.

 

:blink:

 

I think I could live with that you know. Of course it's about personal preference, but occasionally one stumbles across something which really shouldn't be such as the "Chinese man". I do believe this is an example of such a thing, and probably not the only one sadly. I'd imagine it's pretty common at average parish level.

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"Ho-li", (my personal preference), or "Ho-lay" if you must. (Persoonally speaking, I think Ho-lay reduces the power and encourages things to go flat).

 

It's not about getting at a regional dialect because this "Ho-LEE" seems to have crept in in many places. (My roots are firmly in Somerset). I suppose I was spoiled having excellent and respected choirmasters such as Anthony Crossland and Brian Anderson. Not forgetting the late Alan Harwood. when in the Southern Cathedral Singers. I might have been a little spoilt. One of the first things I was taught as a choirboy was not to sing about a chinese man. (I accept that's probably not very PC nowadays).

 

PC or not, I just don’t get why you/we can’t sing “Holy” as it’s said? I see why you want shading, but that’s how I’d naturally sing it anyway (see previous post). If you sing with a relaxed jaw and a good support of air (diaphragm), then most vowel sounds sort themselves out (as I’m sure has been mentioned by someone else).

 

:blink:

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Guest delvin146
PC or not, I just don’t get why you/we can’t sing “Holy” as it’s said? I see why you want shading, but that’s how I’d naturally sing it anyway (see previous post). If you sing with a relaxed jaw and a good support of air (diaphragm), then most vowel sounds sort themselves out (as I’m sure has been mentioned by someone else).

 

:blink:

 

If you sing "holy" as it's said the mouth goes to the side, (or at least in my case it does). Natural speech of the word (in my case again), does indeed come out as "Ho-LEE" however much I try not to pronounce it in that way. Do we actually speak this word "holy" exactly as it is written anyway, is it even possible? Wouldn't it sound more regional Birmingham if we did, hence the need to change it. The closest I can get to pronouncing it exactly as writ is "Ho-lyy :mellow: Don't think it sounds good to be honest. I couldn't agree more about the diaphragm support and relaxed jaw. It's pretty essential really. Add to it a good head tone and you're pretty much there.

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Do we actually speak this word "holy" exactly as it is written anyway, is it even possible? Wouldn't it sound more regional Birmingham if we did, hence the need to change it. The closest I can get to pronouncing it exactly as writ is "Ho-lyy :mellow: Don't think it sounds good to be honest. I couldn't agree more about the diaphragm support and relaxed jaw. It's pretty essential really. Add to it a good head tone and you're pretty much there.

 

The English language is littered with odd pronunciations. I live in Helens Borough, which is spelt Helensburgh. In the hymn we’re talking about, the “Ho” falls on the strong beat of the bar and the “lee” on the weak, hence I sing “HO lee” not “ho LEE”.

 

:blink:

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If you sing "holy" as it's said the mouth goes to the side, (or at least in my case it does). Natural speech of the word (in my case again), does indeed come out as "Ho-LEE" however much I try not to pronounce it in that way. Do we actually speak this word "holy" exactly as it is written anyway, is it even possible? Wouldn't it sound more regional Birmingham if we did, hence the need to change it. The closest I can get to pronouncing it exactly as writ is "Ho-lyy :blink: Don't think it sounds good to be honest. I couldn't agree more about the diaphragm support and relaxed jaw. It's pretty essential really. Add to it a good head tone and you're pretty much there.

Does it change anything to point out that Nicaea, as printed in the English Hymnal (1906) has a pause (fermata) on the second and fourth notes? There is a NOTE printed below the tune: This hymn is marked to be sung at a much slower rate than usual [minim=42], it may, if preferred, be sung at the more usual rate of minim=63 and the pauses may be omitted.

 

Michael

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Guest delvin146
Does it change anything to point out that Nicaea, as printed in the English Hymnal (1906) has a pause (fermata) on the second and fourth notes? There is a NOTE printed below the tune: This hymn is marked to be sung at a much slower rate than usual [minim=42], it may, if preferred, be sung at the more usual rate of minim=63 and the pauses may be omitted.

 

Michael

 

I certainly would never ever contemplate putting pauses on the second syllable of a word as per the suggestions. I don't favour overly fast choppy hymns, but as good as the harmonies are in that book I do find many of the suggested tempi far too slow even for my tastes. However, tastes change I suppose and we might now think differently than they did back then.

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I certainly would never ever contemplate putting pauses on the second syllable of a word as per the suggestions. I don't favour overly fast choppy hymns, but as good as the harmonies are in that book I do find many of the suggested tempi far too slow even for my tastes. However, tastes change I suppose and we might now think differently than they did back then.

The implication is that the pauses were part of JB Dykes composition. I have certainly seen them in other old hymnals.

 

What I find interesting is that you seem to think that chorally we are off to hell in a handcart and that there was a golden age perhaps 50 years ago before everything got infected with continental tendencies, but the pauses and the tempi of the 100-year old English Hymnal are something you couldn't countenance.

 

Michael

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I'm surprised at the level of vitriol in this thread.

 

I personally don't think the sound sample is the most musical singing for some of the reasons outlined by other correspondents. To be specific I would certainly prefer the musical stress to be on the first and third beats of the bar, and I really think the gap before the word 'morning' is diabolical. Not only does it sound rediculously contrived, but it also ensures that the word 'morning' comes in with a most unmusical thump to my ears.

 

I'm sure there are many different theories about how to, or whether to, or which, vowel sounds should be modified during singing. I can't entirely go along with the idea that singing is a purely natural exercise and therefore just do what comes naturally. This brings to mind to old joke about the vicar and the gardener...with the punch line "ah but you should have seen what it were like when ee ad it all to imself."

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Guest Barry Williams
I'm surprised at the level of vitriol in this thread.

 

I personally don't think the sound sample is the most musical singing for some of the reasons outlined by other correspondents. To be specific I would certainly prefer the musical stress to be on the first and third beats of the bar, and I really think the gap before the word 'morning' is diabolical. Not only does it sound rediculously contrived, but it also ensures that the word 'morning' comes in with a most unmusical thump to my ears.

 

I'm sure there are many different theories about how to, or whether to, or which, vowel sounds should be modified during singing. I can't entirely go along with the idea that singing is a purely natural exercise and therefore just do what comes naturally. This brings to mind to old joke about the vicar and the gardener...with the punch line "ah but you should have seen what it were like when ee ad it all to imself."

 

 

I entirely agree that singing, as done in most churches, is not a 'natural' matter. An organist of my acquaintance teaches 'natural singing' yet "trains" untrained sopranos to reach a top B flat. If there is to be any 'natural singing' it would surely be only within the limited range of folksong or plainsong, i.e. no more than an octave. Anything more needs singing technique.

 

Using the the lips for tongue vowels will always produce horrible results such as 'Ho-lee'. This is nothing more than a failure to understand the fourteen main vowel elements, twenty three obscure vowels and the twenty-four consonants. Surely these are the fundamentals of choir training, with, of course, the breath notes - another much misunderstood issue.

 

It is difficult to see why such ugly and inappropriate sounds come from choirs. The correct singing technique is akin to learning how to put the correct fingers on the notes - hardly difficult stuff.

 

Barry Williams

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I'm surprised at the level of vitriol in this thread.

 

I personally don't think the sound sample is the most musical singing for some of the reasons outlined by other correspondents. To be specific I would certainly prefer the musical stress to be on the first and third beats of the bar, and I really think the gap before the word 'morning' is diabolical. Not only does it sound rediculously contrived, but it also ensures that the word 'morning' comes in with a most unmusical thump to my ears.

 

I'm sure there are many different theories about how to, or whether to, or which, vowel sounds should be modified during singing. I can't entirely go along with the idea that singing is a purely natural exercise and therefore just do what comes naturally. This brings to mind to old joke about the vicar and the gardener...with the punch line "ah but you should have seen what it were like when ee ad it all to imself."

 

I apologise if anybody found anger in any of my postings, it certainly wasn’t my intention. I read an article that singing is more natural than speech. If I can find the article then I’ll put the link on here. The problem arises when people try to modify vowel sounds or produce notes outside their natural range or at unnatural volumes. This can cause throat problems, which if left uncorrected will eventually cause damage.

 

:)

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Guest delvin146
I apologise if anybody found anger in any of my postings, it certainly wasn’t my intention. I read an article that singing is more natural than speech. If I can find the article then I’ll put the link on here. The problem arises when people try to modify vowel sounds or produce notes outside their natural range or at unnatural volumes. This can cause throat problems, which if left uncorrected will eventually cause damage.

 

:)

 

That's a very good point about throat problems. Not sure I'd totally agree that modifying vowel sounds are going to cause this. Although I would have thought a tight chest tone would be more likely to encourage throat problems, and nodes on the vocal chords than a relaxed head tone. A properly trained head voice should minimise strain on the moving parts and produce power tone and resonance almost effortlessly. In my book forced smurf singing will cause more damage to the vocal chords long term. To those trying to learn how to use head voice for the first time of course there's going to be some coughing and plenty of snot to start with as the sinuses start vibrating and get cleaned out, but this will decrease over time. It's the same as constantly shouting if one insists on carry the chest voice up to the higher register. It's also interesting to ask how many boys who sing with chest tone will develop into fine altos? Answer = none. The constant need to drink water which seems to have appeared relatively recently in choirs I suspect stems from a dryness of the throat by using chest tone. It's usually knackered old altos or sopranos who've got to be doing this all the time because they stem from a period after headtone was fashionable in choirs after the boys disappeared in the 1970's onwards as it became less PC to have have boys choirs. Also the lung capacity of the older ones where they've been smoking 200 ciggies a day for the last 100 years and all the tar coming up shows them up when they try to use head tone. We never felt the need to drink much water when we sung in head tone as boys.

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Guest delvin146
Yes, this would be a good idea.

 

Had the ears done today, you were right they did need doing! It even made a huge difference to the pitch which went up by about a 6th, not much change in tone though.

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I entirely agree that singing, as done in most churches, is not a 'natural' matter. An organist of my acquaintance teaches 'natural singing' yet trains untrained sopranos to reach a top B flat. If there is to be any 'natural singing' it would surely be only within the limited range of folksong or plainsong, i.e. no more than an octave. Anything more needs singing technique.

 

I think my use of "natural" requires qualification and would probably be better described as entirely relaxed, certainly mentally. Almost the first thing we do as children is vocalise, instinctively, with massive amounts of power and freedom of range. Likewise walking; a difficult thing to do, but it just happens after a few false starts, without being shown how. It's almost as if we know everything at birth and then do nothing but put obstacles in the way after that, to the point where things which once were instinctive become difficult.

 

In my view, requiring the artificial substitution of vowels to conform to some pre-conceived idea of what some choirs sounded like in the last century is putting up an additional obstacle, and not removing one.

 

Don't forget also that how we assess these yearned-for sounds is open to question; recording was a relatively new thing 50 or 60 years ago; stereo hadn't been around that long, and we weren't that far from the days Gerald Moore talks about in his autobiography (which read) of singers bellowing into brass resonators in order to make an impression on the wax cylinder (in one case, he describes putting drawing pins into the hammers of the piano so its sound could be picked up by the equipment). A collegiate or cathedral choir, already under huge pressure, then has even MORE pressure put upon it to get it right in one take (seamless editing and instant replay being not always possible). Is it really safe to assume that the sounds some people hanker after were actually the ones which the makers intended? Or is it just a question of the ear being accustomed, rather as we have become accustomed to Equal Temperament without it actually being a necessarily good thing at all times? (aha!!!!!! don't even START!!!!) If you think it's a poor analogy, play Mendelssohn I on a mild unequally tuned organ, and it's a fair bet that Mendelssohn had that sound in mind when he wrote it. Is what we hear today really better, or just different?

 

I know of a choir which I have alluded to before, which was constantly being pressurised and bullied and cajoled into making the sounds the conductor required - now completely transformed by a new broom who instead just let them start at the beginning, finish at the end and tweak with the odd wrong note here and there. It became enjoyable and fun. Things are tried in a humorous way, in a swing rhythym or dotted or double speed or in a minor key or with a bitonal accompaniment, and the kids instantly respond in a way which makes musical appreciation come naturally. I was astounded that, when asked to play for them recently, I played the choir out to something quiet and eerie with lots of 4ths and 5ths and one of the younger members, around 7 or 8 at a guess (possibly a probationer) came up and said "Was that by William Mathias?" Wow! Aspects of technique are dealt with in a universal way rather than a piece- or bar-specific one, in a way which a child of 8 will instinctively understand is transferrable and will apply to the next piece and the one after that. If a mistake is made, it's not the end of the world.

 

The results have been absolutely spectacular; by working on almost nothing but breathing, posture, relaxation, note reading and listening skills, 99% of the work is being done by itself; the tension that is manifest in a choir of children having far too much to think about shows itself up in tuning problems, tension around the jaw, and (importantly but often overlooked) lack of enjoyment, amongst a very great deal else. Reference is often made to the way an organ gets its wind and distributes it, the comparative size of a Dulciana and Open Diapason and what makes one quieter than the other, etc. I don't think it's a gross exaggeration to say that you can't achieve anything in singing without relaxation, and just as in playing the organ or driving a car, the mechanics and physics involved in what makes it work are crucial to understand and actually rather interesting to a young mind.

 

In summary, change what they're doing, not the way they're doing it; either by trial & error or by instinct, they'll find a way that works and comes naturally, and this brings a tangible and rewarding sense of achievement. A sense of achievement removes important "I can't do this" obstacles, and when that's happening the sky is the limit.

 

I too hope I haven't been guilty of too much vitriol and sometimes I wonder whether I shouldn't stop posting altogether; if it was me being referred to earlier, then I can only apologise. In the spirit of him without sin casting the first stone, and seeing as they seem to have so much time to hand, perhaps it would be good if Delvin and Roffensis would be brave enough put up some clips of their own choirs, so we can all make up our own minds; certainly if either feel it's appropriate to publicly lambast in very strong terms a recording which isn't that bad at all by any means, then I'm sure this is the least we can expect or hope for.

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Guest delvin146
I perhaps it would be good if Delvin and Roffensis would be brave enough put up some clips of their own choirs, so we can all make up our own minds; certainly if either feel it's appropriate to publicly lambast in very strong terms a recording which isn't that bad at all by any means, then I'm sure this is the least we can expect or hope for.

 

I'm not going to repost the whole article, and I believe there is some merit in what you say, especially trying to make it fun and enjoyable and taking what they know as a starting point. Old recordings are not all that great sometimes, but there are several modern recordings which I personally regard as very good indeed, and would be very happy with. The sound quality of these simply cannot be discounted. To mention a couple of examples, Westminster Abbey choir. Can't remember the exact title off hand, can't locate the CD. Purple CD with lots of royal music, also St. Paul's have many excellent recordings, there's lots out there really and these are no more than a few random samples. There are also some great ones from Liverpool Anglican Cathedral who do not seem to subscribe to the same tonal quality as the other establishment.

 

I have put up extracts of my choir before on another board when we were discussing hymn tempi not so long ago, when that was in context and not talking about tone. I was on the organ and set the tempo on that occasion, so any comments could be directed straight at me. I don't think it would be useful to use examples of choirs whom we work with as evidence of what's right and wrong taken out of context. I would'nt want to involve mine, and I'm sure you wouldn't want to involve yours. I don't have a problem with using examples of professional choirs who have professionally marketed their work to the general public. My choir is mixed, and I wouldn't want to think they were being used as cheap bargaining power on an internet discussion board which is something quite seperate.

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Guest Roffensis

The problem with trying to sing without head tone has been mentioned, but the other side of the coin is the correct vocal production, and the inbuilt correct tonal produciton that goes with it. Vowels are inherent in this, as it is impossible to get a EEEEEEE with a head tone, as the mouth is wrong, and the jaw. QED..... Unless the vowel is "altered". In other words, sounds like an e when sung, but which when spoken, doesn't. To me, it is a lot more than simply leaving things to chance, and correcting a few faults. Scales from the top down, not from the bottom of the scale up, OO, AA, I, E, A , O, U, etc etc, so it goes on. You either do it or you don't. Results speak for themselves. I also think it would be terribly boring if all choirs sang the same, with head or continental tone. That is not the concern to me, so much as a skill in traditional training that has basically gone down the drain, and been all but replaced wholesale by a different, but not necessarily better, alternative. There needs to be a distinction between the two, and the both should be allowed to co exist. I would never want to hear Anglican tone in a catholic church if it was doing Latin, nor would I expect or want all churches to follow one line of thought. Surely it all comes down to what works, and what sounds good?

 

R

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Guest delvin146
The problem with trying to sing without head tone has been mentioned, but the other side of the coin is the correct vocal production, and the inbuilt correct tonal produciton that goes with it. Vowels are inherent in this, as it is impossible to get a EEEEEEE with a head tone, as the mouth is wrong, and the jaw. QED..... Unless the vowel is "altered". In other words, sounds like an e when sung, but which when spoken, doesn't. To me, it is a lot more than simply leaving things to chance, and correcting a few faults. Scales from the top down, not from the bottom of the scale up, OO, AA, I, E, A , O, U, etc etc, so it goes on. You either do it or you don't. Results speak for themselves. I also think it would be terribly boring if all choirs sang the same, with head or continental tone. That is not the concern to me, so much as a skill in traditional training that has basically gone down the drain, and been all but replaced wholesale by a different, but not necessarily better, alternative. There needs to be a distinction between the two, and the both should be allowed to co exist. I would never want to hear Anglican tone in a catholic church if it was doing Latin, nor would I expect or want all churches to follow one line of thought. Surely it all comes down to what works, and what sounds good?

 

R

 

As per too much head tone in latin, something like Pittoni's "Cantate Domino" would sound stupid done in English head voice, so of course allowances need to be made depending on style. What did the good book say about singing in the style of "an educated gentleman" or something similar as its benchmark. In Darke and Nicholson, and Dykes, then yes, in Palestrina, of course not! In Kendrick and mock-pop church music head tone doesn't work, wouldn't work in Shine Jesus Shine, or "Jesus our Lord our King and our God", perhaps the current trend of music we sing, and modern marvellous catholic gems from celebration hymnal have had something to to do with the change of tone over the past few decades. Unfortunately this tone seems to have been applied to absolutely everything "on-block", without much consideration. Also, I don't totally understand why a catholic establishment are trying to market an anglican compilation anyway. Not that it matters particularly, but if they are going to sing Anglican hymnody at least it should be as sympathetic as possible. Also the lowering of keys from AMR to AM New Standard in the Anglican context is a bad thg in my view. Mine tend to creep back to AMR pitch, and the choir and congregation seem to manage perfectly well once they get used to it and actually begin singing in a controlled and dynamic form rather than what has become the typical pathetic soto voce whimper. I find this higher key brightens the whole hymn up as the head voice matures with a slightly knocked back tempo and plenty of space for breaths. It's simply nothing more than them not being used to that sound anymore. Has anyone ever bothered to teach decent head tone in school singing for the last forty years or so? Not many I would suspect if my experience in the field is anything to go by. It took me a while to learn that such things were not best taken at break-neck speed with compromises in both tone and pitch made to accommodate the length of a note to mature. To me chest tone is largely the equivalent to an electronic organ. I believe the tone of the voice changes in the exactly the same way through a held note as an organ pipe does. If things are taken too fast and too low there's no chance for anything other than dead notes and a dead tone. Fortunately in the recording in question I thought the tempo was excellent, together with the organ playing, so it's not all bad.

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Scales from the top down, not from the bottom of the scale up, OO, AA, I, E, A , O, U, etc etc, so it goes on.

R

 

I assume that these scales (from top to bottom) are post warm up?

 

:)

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Guest Roffensis
I assume that these scales (from top to bottom) are post warm up?

 

:)

 

 

No, it's when you get a chorister to find his head voice in the very first place, doing an 00 or AH, watching the mouth shape and avoiding any chest tone whatever. That's for the traditional tone, it avoids the chest tone being carried up, but rather encourages the head tone down. Then, once they know how to do it, you can do either. You will do better to actually show them how to do it, and demonstrate the shape etc. It soon clicks.

 

R

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Guest delvin146
No, it's when you get a chorister to find his head voice in the very first place, doing an 00 or AH, watching the mouth shape and avoiding any chest tone whatever. That's for the traditional tone, it avoids the chest tone being carried up, but rather encourages the head tone down. Then, once they know how to do it, you can do either. You will do better to actually show them how to do it, and demonstrate the shape etc. It soon clicks.

 

R

 

Failing that one could always resort to the "OO-AH" mass of All Saints :) Remind me how it goes Roffensis, I've deleted my messages and I do miss the dulcet tones of your voice rising me first thing in the morning by answerphone.

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