The Newsletter of Basingstoke Choral Society
Edited by Karen West
Well I never did - the threat of an all-Wagner edition of In Tune has worked wonders and so welcome to a bumper-edition, filled with all kinds of great contributions from fellow-members (almost exclusively from Sopranos - other sections, please note!). I hope that you enjoy reading it and exercising your ‘little grey cells’ with the crossword and quiz towards the end of the newsletter. Please keep those articles and pictures coming - send these to email@example.com. So, how are you keeping busy during the continued lock-down? I’m especially curious to know what musical diversions are managing to entertain you. My retirement from paid work began on April 1st (no April Fool and fortuitous timing indeed), so I’ve begun a timely room change from work office to music room and re-discovered all sorts of great CDs I had forgotten all about. The temptation is to spend much of the day playing these, but I’m also fitting in practice for the two virtual choirs that I have signed up to - Gareth Malone’s Isolation Choir and, more seriously, along with at least 3 other BCS members, the Self Isolation Choir (2,123 members and growing), working towards a performance of Handel’s Messiah on May 31st. I’m not quite sure how the latter will work, but it will be fun finding out - although I’m not so sure my neighbours think that my rehearsing would be what they would call ‘fun’, even at Baroque pitch!
In the meantime, stay safe and healthy and let’s look forward with hope and anticipation to happy reunions and new music to sing in September.
A bit of this and that from the Chair
by Tony de Jong
In my mind because two of our three concerts in this 2019/20 season were to be out of town, it was going to be the season that BCS went "on tour". Instead it is turning out to be the year that BCS stayed at home and by that, I mean literally at home. If things were as we knew it BC (before Covid19) I would be writing about our concert a week or so ago, how it had been a great experience and despite our pre-concert anxiety we had manged to pull it off. I would possibly have added something along the lines that it would have been nice if we had mustered a bigger audience. We would be waiting for David's verdict and Amanda would be gently nagging about returning our hire scores. Sarah would be chasing a few late payers for the next concert's score and the committee & I would be looking forward to getting the planning and marketing under way for our trip to Winchester. But it was not to be. Instead we are faced with a situation none of us could have anticipated. One where our Spring concert was cancelled, our Summer concert looks virtually certain to be cancelled and we have no plans to return to the Vyne School for rehearsals for the rest of this season. When it looked as if our friends in Croydon could face a large financial hit if they cancelled the concert I told the CPC Chair that some of our members wanted us to pay their coach fare refund to them to help; she was visibly moved by the offer. Eventually the concert was cancelled by the venue, not by CPC, and so the large loss was avoided. The offer of the coach fare politely declined as it was no longer needed. So where are we now? Firstly, there are things we can do during this stay at home period. We can prepare for when we do get back together. Our programming team have led the way on this and have settled on a lovely programme for November 2020 in the Anvil which falls on St Cecilia's Day; she is the Patron Saint of musicians. It comprises The Music Makers by Elgar, Elgar's Cello Concerto and a piece for St Cecilia by Finzi (no, not Fonzie for those who remember Happy Days from 70's & 80's TV!). The draft future programme is also sketched out, but there are one or two little things to check before I can share it though I can say it is likely to include a popular request from our on-line Suggestion Box I want to work on the Members Directory compiling photos of members (only if you/they are willing) so we all get to put names to faces and faces to names when we do get back together. (Editor’s note - will these be photos of us pre or post the end-of-self isolation hair-cuts? If it’s the former, it’s a ‘no’ from me - and I suspect from others too!). S0, what can we do during for this period of isolation?
3. As Karen has noted above, a number of us have signed up to the on-line Self Isolation Choir. This has sprung up recently by a team in Wales and has attracted hundreds from around the world. They have just started weekly on-line rehearsals of Messiah that are due to last 8 weeks. Each voice section rehearses separately on different days which is nice with a joint rehearsal on Mondays. All previous rehearsals can be seen on YouTube. OK, Messiah may be a little too familiar for some, but I think it is a good choice to start with while everyone gets used to the rather odd experience of singing with over 100 other people, but doing whilst alone with no-one able to hear you.
4. Several of us had an informal virtual Coffee Morning chat on-line using Zoom for half an hour on what was to be concert day and we all agreed how nice it was to see fellow members and have a bit of a catch up. If you want to know when the next one is just send me an email or a WhatsApp message. 5. And of course, we have the BCS Members page on Facebook. A great place to share stuff if you are into Facebook.
When I took over from Fiona, I knew I still had a lot to learn about how BCS works but I did not anticipate having to learn how to be the chair of a choir in lockdown! So, whilst I try and get the hang of this please watch your emails. I will be in touch about something in the days and weeks ahead, though at the moment I am not quite sure what that something will be. I am watching what other choirs are getting up to for ideas but please, if you and if you have any suggestions, experience or skills that you think may be relevant please do let me know. I am all ears.
Finally, please spare a thought for the professional musicians and soloists who we depend on for our concerts. Many, if not most, are self-employed and suddenly their income has dried up and no-one can tell them for how long. A world without musicians is a world without music and we all need music, perhaps now more than ever. You may want to donate to the Musicians Benevolent Fund, details at www.helpmusicians.org.uk/support-our-work .
Stay safe everyone.
The Mayor’s Concert, Saturday, March 7th, 2020
In pictures by Marilyn Wright, Alto 1
And from the Basingstoke Gazette
Aldeburgh, Snape and Britten
By Sue Martin 2nd Soprano
My husband and I have become captivated by Suffolk, and in particular the area around Aldeburgh and Snape. Suffolk itself is worth the drive, being a quiet county, even in the height of summer, with timeless towns and villages and endless skies along the coastline. There’s much to amuse holiday makers of all tastes, whether you enjoy bird watching on RSPB reserves, exploring old castles and Anglo Saxon sites or just mooching along the coastline. And then there’s the music. Benjamin Britten was born (in 1913) and spent most of his life in the County. The North Sea inspired much of his writing with the opera Peter Grimes, written in 1945, making him a household name. I have to confess that I haven’t always liked Britten’s music. In my younger days I positively disliked it! But then a choir I was singing with tackled the Ceremony of Carols – and that changed my mind – so I started to welcome Benjamin into my life. I can’t pretend to love all of his writing yet, but he continues to grow on me and what he achieved in his County lives on to this day through the music scene that has its home at Snape Maltings. In 1948 Britten and Peter Pears founded the Aldeburgh Festival of Music and Arts. At first this involved local musicians, but over time it grew in size and reputation and it became clear that a bigger venue was needed. In 1967 the Snape Maltings Concert Hall was opened on the site of old rambling mill buildings.
The setting is stunning, being on the edge of reed beds with views of the meandering river Alde. Over the years the site has been developed and now houses many art galleries and craft shops, as well as rehearsal rooms and smaller recital venues. It is clear that International musicians value the opportunity to make music at such a peaceful and inspiring place as there is a year round programme of music of all genres including the Aldeburgh Festival in June and Snape Proms during August. There is luxury self-catering accommodation on site and two excellent pubs with rooms in the village, making evenings of dining, drinking and concert going a delightful package!
A trip to the area is not complete of course without a visit to The Red House in Aldeburgh, the home in which Britten and Pears lived until Britten’s death in 1976.
The house with its many rooms and the gardens have been preserved and restored to be just as they were when Britten and Pears lived there. You really feel that you are going to see him come in and sit in his favourite chair in the lounge. The library has many of his books and music scores lining the walls and the piano, all ready for the intimate recitals that the two musicians used to share with those lucky enough to be invited. As well as exploring the house you can visit Britten’s composition studio in the yard and view from the outside the purpose built archive which was completed to mark Britten’s centenary in 2013 which houses Britten’s collection of scores, manuscripts and papers and many art works which Pears collected during his lifetime. The archive is only open to researchers; however, there is an excellent museum in an adjacent building which explores the life and times of Britten and Pears. So, I hope I have inspired those who do not know Suffolk to visit, and those who have been before to return and see how things may have changed. You never know, I may see some of you at a concert at Snape when life returns to normal and musical holidays become a welcome possibility once more.
Lost on the Ring
By Brigid Campbell , 1st Soprano
(Editors Note: Panic not, there is no mention of Wagner, I promise!)
Brigid herself introduces this piece as follows: “This is one of my this-years entries for the Basingstoke Arts and Music Festival, creative writing section. This is "flash fiction": not more than 500 words long, and with a connection to Basingstoke. I won first prize in the category, so I'm very proud of it” - and we’re proud of your achievement too, Brigid. Congratulations! (Photo by Ariel Besagar on Unsplash)
“Ah, Basingstoke,” he said suddenly. “I got lost in Basingstoke once.” “On the ring-road?” I asked. “That’s what people always say.” “Sort of,” he said, thoughtfully. We were sitting in the first-class carriage of a Cross-Country train. I was heading to York for a holiday, he to Oxford to speak at a conference, having got on in Southampton. We were both drinking our complimentary coffee, and had been chatting, as you do with casual strangers on a train. “Sort of?” I asked. He stared out of the window for a moment and said, “It was the most extraordinary experience of my life. “I was driving up the M3 to Heathrow to collect my wife. It was an October night, with patchy fog, about nine. There must have been an accident further along because at Junction 7 there was a police car sending everyone off onto the A30, so I turned off as directed, knowing I could get back on at Junction 6. I didn’t use my sat-nav as I’d done the route before. “It was very quiet and everything felt normal till I came to a stretch of road I didn’t recognise, with no streetlights. It seemed unexpectedly narrow, with a poor surface and dense woodland on each side. Everything became unreal, like a dream. In front, I could only see mist, but in my peripheral vision I half-saw flickering images of people with carts and animals – fleeing, in what I can only call a hubbub of noise that I couldn’t hear.
I assumed that this had to be the M3 junction and made my way towards it. Suddenly I had a sort of vision of a rampart in front of me, with great gaps in it, through which a burning, ruinous building was visible, and the sense of unheard noise grew on me. All the time there was this flickering unreality, like a really badly-preserved old film. A man seemed to come up and look at me through the windscreen, and I could for a split second see his face quite clearly.” He paused, looking inward at that memory. “Then it all just disappeared, the fog cleared, and I was sitting in my car in an unlit village street. The stars were very bright, I recall. I switched my sat-nav on and found my way back to the motorway.” There was a pause. He was far away. I said, “Weren’t you frightened?” He smiled. “I felt – privileged. I know what I saw. And I know who I saw. I’d know that face anywhere. Oh, we’re coming into Oxford.” He stood up to get his briefcase down. I pulled myself together and said, “Good luck with the presentation, anyway. Mind if I ask what it’s about?” He smiled again. “The English Civil War in Hampshire”, he said, as he took his leave.
Remembering Richard Tanner - a much missed member of BCS
– an excerpt of his eulogy written by himself
Richard was born in the darkest hours of World War II in the family home at Faversham in Kent. He was brought up by his mother and aunts, not meeting Father until he got back from Ceylon after the war ended. He enjoyed school, passing for the grammar school where he did well enough to be one of just six from his year to go to university, ln Hull, as well as becoming involved in the underground activity of pot-holing, he continued to sing, a love begun in Faversham Parish Church and continued throughout his life.
Uncertain what to do with his Geography degree, Richard moved to Southampton for his PGCE year to be nearer to Lynda in Bristol, having known each other since infant school, but he then deserted her to teach in Africa. A wild colonial boy for only a few weeks before independence, he taught in the new boys' secondary school in Zambia's Northern Province, an area nearly the size of England. But they couldn't stay apart, so Lynda joined him after marriage in Nairobi and a safari honeymoon and together they made their department the best in Mungwi School.
Good geographers, they travelled extensively in East and South Africa. They even acquired a Land Rover for the overland trip to England, a venture cancelled by the intervention of wars and pregnancy. Returning via Egypt, they escaped the Six Day War and came back to Faversham to look for a job and await Susan's arrival. This took them to Birmingham where Richard worked his way up to running a large department in an inner-city school, even trialling across the city the combined GCE and CSE courses which later became GCSE Geography, while Lynda produced a second daughter, Jane. From there, following three happy years in Fowey, Richard was appointed to the Headship of Vyne School where he worked unceasingly to turn the school around, transforming exam pass rates and getting the school rebuilt. He led the education side of the Basingstoke business partnership to ensure all students had work experience, sound careers advice and every opportunity to make their way in the world. For this, he was honoured to be made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Taking early retirement, he and Lynda decided to teach in Jordan for two years. They enjoyed life at Amman Baccalaureate School so much that they stayed six years, travelling around the Middle East in the holidays. Richard helped to train teachers to use the text-books he had written, led field trips and even explained modern teaching styles through the Jordan Times. Lynda and Richard then took a geriatric Gap Year. From California, where they assisted with the new-born twin granddaughters, they went South West to Fuji, New Zealand and Australia before heading North West through South East Asia and lndia. This journey provided the slides and material for "Fabulous Fabrics", the most popular of their Wl talks. Back home, Richard's disease, acromegaly, was diagnosed and the whole family was grateful both to the NHS for treating this and also to the Sports Centre for helping him regain and sustain fitness. This allowed him to enjoy the children and grandchildren that meant so much to him.
Richard settled back into North Waltham and built Pond Corner. He worked tirelessly by serving the village through the church, the Village Trust, Neighbourhood Watch, the local history society and even the youth club. The Church was an important part of his life; as was singing, from the church choir in Faversham, to opera in Cornwall and choral singing with Birmingham City Choir and Basingstoke Choral Society with whom he sang for many years. Of course, Richard was his own man, frustratingly so at times. But despite his stress and suffering, he was a cheerful chap, very hospitable and amusing. Think of all the good things he did and, like him, try to leave the world a better place than you found it.
Empty and Meaningless
From Facebook, via Denise Waring, 2nd Soprano
C, E-flat, and G go into a bar. The bartender says, "Sorry, but we don't serve minors." So E-flat leaves, and C and G have an open fifth between them. After a few drinks, the fifth is diminished, and G is out flat. F comes in and tries to augment the situation but is not sharp enough. D comes in and heads for the bathroom, saying, "Excuse me; I'll just be a second." Then A comes in, but the bartender is not convinced that this relative of C is not a minor. Then the bartender notices B-flat hiding at the end of the bar and says, "Get out! You're the seventh minor I've found in this bar tonight." E-flat comes back the next night in a three-piece suit with nicely shined shoes. The bartender says, "You're looking sharp tonight. Come on in, this could be a major development." Sure enough, E-flat soon takes off his suit and everything else and is ‘au natural’. Eventually C sobers up and realizes in horror that he's under a rest. C is brought to trial, found guilty of contributing to the diminution of a minor, and is sentenced to 10 years of D.S. without Coda at an upscale correctional facility.
Brain Teaser (1) by Marion McCann, 2nd Soprano
Answers via email, for Karen’s attention, via the usual BCS address. See how you do - it’s a VERY taxing quiz!