The Newsletter of Basingstoke Choral Society
Edited by Karen West
On behalf of all Committee members, Happy New Year and welcome to a new decade of music making. We hope that you’ve enjoyed a peaceful Christmas and are now looking forward to our next term of singing. For many of us Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana is a familiar piece, but, of course, for everyone a first will be performing at the newly restored and reopened Phoenix Concert Hall in Croydon.
Do you watch Only Connect? I really enjoy it, although seeing the links between the clues is always very difficult. A while ago Victoria Coren finished an episode with a little verse which Anne Hurst offered as an appropriate titbit for In Tune for this term. It is a paraphrase of the song Let’s call the whole thing off.
Instead of saying: “You say eether and I say eyether,
You say kneether and I say neyether
Eether, eyether, kneether, neyether
Let's call the whole thing off.”
Her version goes as follows: :
“You say Carmina, I say Burana,
You say Carmina, I say Burana,
You say Carmina, I say Burana,
Let’s Karl the whole thing Orff!!”
Another first - thanks to the miracle that is modern technology, this edition of In Tune will soon appear as a blog on our website. As Tony de Jong, our new Chair, commented although to date the termly newsletter has been written solely for members, this presents an opportunity to further broadcast what we do and, to interest others to come and join us - or at least to encourage them to come and listen to us singing a familiar or new piece of music. You can read Tony’s first Chair’s letter on the next page and you’ll quickly become infected by his enthusiasm for BCS as a force for good in our local community.
Be warned though, apart from Tony’s letter, there is far too much of your Editor’s writing in this edition. Despite all my efforts to encourage new/returning members to draft something, nothing arrived in my in-box before putting finger to keyboard. Given the size of the Society, surely there must be SOMEONE who can pen something on a musical theme for our Summer edition?
In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading my interview with Anne Hurst, recently nominated as the nicest person in Basingstoke; about the Voices for Hospices performance of Elijah in Winchester Cathedral and a recent visit to Elgar’s birthplace in Worcestershire where, as you can see below, I got to tinkle on the great composer’s ivories!
In the meantime, thank you for the continued encouraging feedback following the Summer edition of the newsletter. Please keep those comments - and even more so, those articles - coming. And also don’t forget to enter the competition which you’ll find further on - whilst the prize doesn’t anywhere near match that of the EuroLottery I promise it will be tasty!
by Tony de Jong
Shortly after my taking over as Chair, Karen got in touch to ask me for the usual piece for the next edition of In Tune. It was one of the jobs that I was never fully aware Fiona did since she took all these so much in her stride. So, I want to begin this piece with a big ‘thank you Fiona’ for her nine years at the helm, dealing with the plethora of jobs that are tucked away behind the scenes. Wish me luck everyone, she is a hard act to follow.
I have to say I feel really flattered that so many people reckon I am up to the task and I will do my best not to disappoint. The many messages of support have been very encouraging. BCS is a brilliant choral society and I will do my best to ensure it stays that way. Of course, I will need all the help I can get. Thank goodness we have an experienced and hardworking committee in place.
And now for the grand statement: I believe our community is the better because of BCS's existence and I want to do everything I can to help it flourish. I say this because to my mind choral societies do two things simultaneously.
Firstly, they keep choral music alive in the community. Without us, and societies like us, the musical choice before the public would be largely a selection of song music, Broadway musicals and tribute acts, many of which are performed to recorded music. There is no question that they all have their place, but where would someone curious about hearing Handel, Haydn, Orff, Dvorak or Rossini or others go to hear a live performance? CDs and MP3 are all very well, but this music should not be relegated to background music for house cleaning, cooking dinner or doing the shopping! Secondly, they provide a space for people who want to do more than just listen to choral music, but who also want to sing it, whilst learning about the piece and its context at the time it was written. And not just sing, but to give others the opportunity to hear them live. All this while enjoying the company of like-minded people from whom, in my case, I learn so much.
So, as Chair I will do what I can to keep BCS building on the success of my predecessors, to grow our audiences and our membership. Not just because I enjoy getting out of the house on a Wednesday evening, but because BCS plays an important role in the cultural life of our region.
A mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes or Chief Inspector Morse….
by Karen West, 2nd Soprano
Just who did nominate our hard-working Secretary, Anne Hurst for the recent Gazette competition to find the Nicest Person in Basingstoke? Anne herself doesn’t know, despite her own attempts at playing detective. Was it someone from BCS or maybe from her days as a school-teacher? For sure someone with access to a photograph from her son’s wedding… the mystery deepens! But at the end of the day it matters more that we are all very proud that she was a finalist and even though she didn’t win, as you’ll see in the photograph on the following page, we wanted to take the opportunity at the recent dress rehearsal for Haydn’s Creation to let her know how much she means to us all.
The day of our last concert was also extra special for Anne since it marked her 18th anniversary since singing in her first BCS event - Brahms’s wonderful Deutches Requiem. Anne says that it’s still her favourite but isn’t sure if it’s because it was her first or more that it’s an amazing composition. And she hasn’t missed a concert since, despite her potential worries about being unable to sing in the Haydn following hip surgery. As for many of us who’ve been members for a while, her biggest musical challenge was learning Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, but “I felt I did enough to get away with it and had such a buzz when it was over”.
Anne has always been involved in musical societies. Prior to BCS with Basingstoke’s Operatic Society she was singing mainly Gilbert and Sullivan, but appreciates David’s “totally different rehearsal technique”. Anne mainly attributes her love of music to her father’s influence and told me that “if he knew I was singing regularly with professional singers, orchestras and conductor, he’d be so pleased”.
Unbelievably Anne has been a Committee member since October 2002, so for almost all of her 18 years with BCS. During this time she has taken on the responsibility not only as the Society’s Secretary, but also more recently for drafting our amazing programmes which, as we all know and appreciate, are filled with fantastic facts about the pieces we are singing. She also liaises with Croydon and Southampton choirs on joint concerts and answers many and varied questions from our soloists such as “where can I get something to eat ahead of the concert?” - not so easy when you are at Douai Abbey, necessitating raiding her own and others’ sandwich boxes to keep tummy rumbles at bay!
So what else keeps Anne motivated as a BCS member? She talked with genuine enthusiasm about the friends she has made over the years with our members, as well as with Southampton and Croydon colleagues; describing people as “so friendly and supportive. For me there’s no better proof than when someone is ill or when we have the sad, but wonderful privilege to sing at a member’s funeral - there’s always people who want to help.”
A new era has begun for Anne with Tony as our Chair - he is the fifth that Anne has supported. Some way to go yet to beat the Queen with the number of Prime Ministers she has worked with, but, as we know, Anne is always up for a challenge and we wouldn’t have her any other way! On behalf of us all, thank you Anne for all you do and congratulations once again on your nomination as the Nicest Person in Basingstoke.
Voices for Hospices 2019 - Elijah in Winchester Cathedral
October 15th, 2019
By Denise Waring and Karen West, Soprano 2.
Eeeeeeek! Had it really been five years ago since we had last opened our Elijah scores? It was therefore with some trepidation that a small number of us from BCS joined more than five hundred singers to sing Mendelssohn’s great oratorio. But our anxieties were more than made balanced out by the opportunity to perform in Winchester Cathedral alongside Sir Thomas Allan.
If you don’t know of the Voices for Hospices organisation, every two years it brings together amateur choir members from across all of Hampshire and beyond (even from overseas) to sing a major work with the purpose of raising money for seven local hospices, including Basingstoke’s own St Michael’s Hospice (North Hants) and the yet-to-be built hospice in Winchester. Four years ago we sang Jenkins’s The Armed Man and in 2017, Handel’s Messiah.
We spent the afternoon rehearsing the choruses with which we were later to entertain an audience of 200+ who were squashed into the north aisle of the Cathedral, so many singers were we. The great nave of the Cathedral had been re-set sideways with orchestra and soloists by Wykeham’s Chantry and the huge choir flanked either side - you can see this in the images. It made for something of a challenge to maintain good eye contact with the conductor, John Sutton, but we coped!
Despite the fact that since BCS’s performance of Elijah in 2014 we have needed to learn much other music, we found it was amazing what comes back to you. The Baal choruses were especially fun to sing, but our combined voices were nothing compared to the magnificence of Sir Thomas’s voice which filled the vast space of the Cathedral with ease. Feedback from a local critic described his performance as “a dramatic portrayal of the of the role of Elijah was convincing and heart rending and showed his operatic mastery”. For sure, none of us present would disagree with this feedback.
Following the evening Voices for Hospices published some of the email messages of appreciation from singers:
“A total triumph”.
“The best concert I have ever been to”.
“You could feel the love and emotion pulsing in the Cathedral”.
“An incredible event”.
“I feel so lucky to have been able to take part in such a sublime concert”.
“It was an experience - wonderful - that I will never forget”.
“A glorious day!”
“An evening never to be forgotten”.
And so say all of us! All in all it was indeed a great occasion and we will look forward to the next Voices for Hospices event in 2021.
As a result of the recent VfHChoir concert in Winchester Cathedral on the 12th October we have finally received the reconciliation amount and can announce that we have raised an amazing £21,000 for our seven Hampshire Hospices; Countess of Brecknock, Countess Mountbatten, Naomi House and Jacksplace, Oakhaven, Rowan’s , St Michael’s and Winchester Hospices.
THANK YOU ALL
And here’s to the next Voices for Hospices Choir concert in 2021!
Playing Elgar’s piano
By Karen West, Soprano 2
As someone with an equal passion for history and classical music, I always take the opportunity to visit the homes of composers, especially those whose compositions I love. Elgar is pretty high up on my list of favourites. One of my all-time musical moments, as a 19 year old undergraduate, was discovering his magnificent Dream of Gerontius at a performance at the Southampton Guildhall by the choir that David now also directs - a piece of music that would for sure come with me to my desert island. How I’d love the opportunity to perform it again (and again).
And so, in some welcome late autumn sunshine, I found myself at The Firs, Broadheath, a small house with a beautiful view to the Malvern Hills where Edward Elgar was born on June 2nd, 1857.
Sir Edward lived in this pretty house for just two years before his family relocated to Worcester where Mr Elgar senior ran a music shop and eventually from where Edward would offer his piano lessons.
Soon after the composer’s death in 1934 the house was opened to the public by Carys, Elgar’s only child. It was then was run for many years by the Elgar Foundation, but is now in the temporary care of the National Trust (2017 - 2021) who are investing significantly in its development into a sustainable business.
The Firs gives a fascinating insight into Elgar the man and social history, as well as an opportunity to see original music manuscripts, including part of the Dream of Gerontius In addition to these the Museum collection includes around 11,000 letters from and to Elgar, his friends and family; proofs, programmes and other items connected with Elgar's music (including one of his pianos which I felt very privileged to play); family photographs and scrapbooks; items connected with his travels and with his hobbies including golf and cycling; personal possessions, awards and honours, and film of his later years. So there’s lots to explore which makes Broadheath well worth a visit.
A few of the precious Dream of Gerontius treasures housed at The Firs, including, opposite, Elgar’s working version of the score of Gerontius’s opening words, a programme from the piece’s premiere in October 1900 (it received poor reviews - Elgar was heartbroken since he described the piece as “the best of me”) - and a photograph of Hans Richter, the conductor on that occasion; also the conductor of the first Wagner Ring cycle at Bayreuth (never losing an opportunity to make a link to your Editor’s favourite composer!).
Mission impossible? A musical New Year word-search
Listed on the following page are the names of 20 composers whose work BCS has sung.
19 of the 20 names are hidden in the grid. Your mission (should you decide to accept it!) is to find these and email firstname.lastname@example.org by January 14th, 2020 with the name of the composer that is not in the grid. If there is more than one correct answer we will draw the name of the prize winner at rehearsal on Wednesday, January 15th.
Elgar Brahms Verdi Bach Beethoven
Wagner Lambert Vivaldi Mozart Handel
Jenkins Dvorak Todd Bernstein Rossini
Orff Haydn Rutter Puccini Mendelssohn
Dates for your diary
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