Music Director’s Report, October 2017

 

The season 2016-2017 has brought much to celebrate. We had a busy autumn, culminating in a jolly Carol Concert at St Benedict’s and a Christmas Concert at Trinity Church that saw the choir perform to a very high standard throughout. The programme was based on pieces that had featured in the choir’s repertoire over many years – a slightly early reflection of 70 years of festive singing.  It also offered the audience a ‘preview’ of a movement from Sacred Songs by Karl Jenkins, which was to be one of the ‘feature works’ in the Summer Concert 2017. The audience was a little disappointing numbers-wise (as our concert inevitably clashed with a number of other local Christmas events), but was highly appreciative of our musical offering. David Baker drew some wonderful sonorities from the Trinity organ and we experimented with singing amongst and behind our audience; this was very successful in musical terms but did present us with some logistical and practical challenges that will have to be taken into account if we are to try this kind of spatial experiment again.

In January, a number of members made up a choir to sing at the funeral in St Peter’s Church, Gunton, of our beloved Patron, Marianne Long.  Our contributions came together with some heartfelt words from family and friends to celebrate the life of an inspirational lady, who had delighted in music and music making and whose warm support had been so freely given to The Lowestoft Choral Society, amongst many other local organisations, over the years. We were very moved to receive a generous donation to society funds from her family in her memory.

2017 being the 70th anniversary of the founding of the The Lowestoft Choral Society not long after the end of the Second World War, we had series of celebratory concerts planned. What we had not planned for, however, was an appearance at the Gorleston (Competitive) Music Festival In March. With some trepidation, we took up an invitation to join the Statement Choir in several classes one Wednesday evening. Fortunately, David Baker was in Norfolk and was able to accompany us in some of the pieces that we were preparing for the summer. On the night, we were one of three choirs and so were able to enjoy performances from the uniquely uplifting Statement Choir and from a group of keen young singers from Flegg High School. The adjudicator’s comments were very positive all round and his decision-making in awarding the trophies showed the wisdom of Solomon, so that everyone’s endeavours received their due desserts. It seemed entirely fitting that we should bring away the Galliard Trophy for Choirs in our 70th year, as well as some very pleasing remarks about our performances in the other two classes. We were all glad we went!

The following weekend, we were again in celebratory mood when we put on an informal performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury to friends and family members, with a bring-and-share party meal in the interval, and a sing along to old favourites from the News Chronicle Songbook to round off proceedings on a high note! Our home-grown soloists (and one distinguished guest tenor) did us proud and we were delighted that our Patron and erstwhile accompanist Alison Evans was able to join us to play the piano. The Galliard Cup, filled with sweets, took pride of place in a small display of items from the history of the Lowestoft Choral Society.

Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas had featured regularly in the Choral Society’s programmes over the years. Thanks to a full list of concert programmes that Ian Prettyman was able to supply, we were able to choose long-time and more recent favourites for our Summer Concert. We returned to the beautiful surrounding of the church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea and chose a programme that celebrated not just the Choral Society’s 70th anniversary, but also that of the RSPB Reserve at Minsmere, by including a set of charming bird and English countryside-themed part songs to open the second half of our concert. A display of the work of the RSPB, together with materials commemorating the choir’s anniversary, was an added attraction during the interval. We had decided to put on this very special concert on a Sunday evening in June, rather than a Saturday in May, and had anxieties about the size of the audience. As it happened, we enjoyed a good turnout of regulars, well-wishers, church members, and some new faces, who were overwhelmingly positive about the whole experience. The recently refurbished church shone in all its wonderful Edwardian-Baroque splendour; the grand old organ found a new lease of life in the hands of our organ virtuoso, David Baker; our regular small orchestra accompanied us with the sensitivity and finesse that has become its hallmark; and the choir excelled itself once again, singing with commitment and a joy and sincerity that clearly communicated themselves to the audience. Karl Jenkin’s Sacred Songs, a compilation of items from his larger choral works, made a particularly noticeable impression on the audience, many of whom were visibly moved in some of the more contemplative movements. Mozart and Mendelssohn again wove their magic and John Rutter’s delightfully deft folksong arrangements, The Sprig of Thyme, concluded an evening that will long live in the memory.

We have the Christmas Concert still to come in this 70th anniversary year, but the Summer Concert was surely the high spot of our celebrations. I am both proud of the choir’s achievements this year and humbled by the unstinting support of so many people, for whom their endeavours on behalf of the Choral Society are merely a part of their busy lives. Without them – choir members and members of their families, and other friends and supporters (including those engaged in local politics and businesses) – my role as Musical Director would be unmanageable. For your invariable kindness and generosity of spirit, for your (well, mostly) good-humoured assistance and advice, and above all, for your loyalty, commitment and enthusiasm – Thank You! from the bottom of my heart. It has been a privilege to make music with you in this very special year.

Jennifer Baker