The historic church of King Charles the Martyr in the Georgian centre of Royal Tunbridge Wells allowed us to try out repertoire for our forthcoming 40th birthday celebrations and raise money for Demelza Hospice. For the first time we were joined by a female a capella group; The Hasty Nymphs from South London moved seamlessly from “The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” to the 15th century “Ah Robyn”.
Our 40th Anniversary Concert on June 25th saw us hiring The Cadogan Hall at Sloane Square. We pushed the boat out by engaging the Salomon Orchestra and soprano Mary Bevan. Our member Michael Withers donned his white tuxedo to share conducting duties, our accompanist Leanne took advantage of the excellent piano to entertain us with some Tchaikovsky and we took the opportunity to thank composers and arrangers Geoff Davidson, Ian Assersohn, Andrew Parnell, Jeremy White and Stephen Brown whose talents have provided us with some of our most popular repertoire. The chief guest of the evening, however, was Alyson Blackwell whose father’s legacy had given us the impetus to plan such a celebration. Old friends joined us in numbers in the bar afterwards and there was time for a chorus of what else but “Vive L’ Amour”.
In October we had time to re-record some recent 'hits'.
A promise we had made in 2016 to make a reciprocal visit to the Dieppe Conservatoire of Early Music resulted in concerts not only chez eux but also in Rouen at the Église Jeanne D'Arc in the historic city centre. Both concerts were packed out and were shared with Choeur D'hommes de Rouen, allowing us to experiment with antiphonal effects in some sacred repertoire new to us.
Yet another visit to St. Peter’s Church, Staines, where we always receive an encouraging welcome, began our 2016 programme in April. This time we were joined by guest soprano Jennifer Coleman, whose repertoire ranged from the Bach/ Gounod “Ave Maria” to a “Song of a Nightclub Proprietress”. A cameo appearance by Russian-born pianist Maria Levandovskaya added to the variety and we were pleased to raise funds for local charity, the Penrose Club, which was celebrating 50 years supporting people with learning disabilities.
In November we made yet another trip to Hertfordshire singing to a full St. Mary’s Church in the centre of Hitchin. This time our guests were Prime Brass, a Cambridge-based ensemble who added their sonority to two of our favourite numbers: our “Gershwin Medley” and Sullivan’s “The Lost Chord”. The local press recorded a substantial sum raised for Garden House Hospice.
Gustav Holst’s atmospheric church in Thaxted was the venue for our Christmas collaboration with the Hertfordshire choir Amici Cantate, directed by our member John Tripp. Apart from our own seasonal items we had the opportunity to join in Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on Christmas Carols” and Britten’s “A Ceremony of Carols”, raising money for St. Clare Hospice.
Our Spring programme began with concerts in St. Albans (St. Saviour's again, March 28th) and Ham (St. Andrew's, April 5th) in which we joined forces with Rhein-Main Vokalisten, a mixed choir from Offenbach, Germany featuring Birgit Ahrens, an old friend from Imperial Opera days.
Our much anticipated Whitsuntide tour to Ireland culminated in concerts in St. Mary's, Killarney(23rd May) and Sneem Hotel (24th May), this latter in collaboration with the South Kerry Rosen Choir.
On June 27th a packed Romsey Abbey (Hampshire) heard us perform alongside Mountbatten, a local community choir after a pic-nic in the Abbey grounds and a record amount was raised for the Abbey's appeal.
A dozen of us descended on Rainham Hall (NT) in EssexJ on July 18th to record some sea shanties intended to provide atmospheric audio for visitors when the Hall opens fully in the autumn. Following a few tots of excellent rum we also performed to an invited audience in the gardens.
In September we returned to St. John the Evangalist in East Dulwich after a gap of over 20 years. This time our guests were a very interesting men's choir from Sierra Leone, though now based in South London, the Leoa Academic Male Voice Choir, who were just as happy singing Haydn as singing in Krio. Funds were raised for the Welbodi Partnership which supports victims of the ebola health emergency that recently struck West Africa.
This year being the 100th anniversery of the outbreak of World War I, we were keen to take part in a Rotary Club Peace Concert at the International Students House in Great Portland Street on May 11th.
Having discovered The Drive Methodist Church in Sevenoaks as a very well-equipped rehearsal venue the year before, we planned a concert on May 17th. We were delighted that Tessa Spong again joined us as soprano soloist, notably singing some Ivor Gurney songs and joining us in a medley of songs from World War I.
Tessa collaborated with us a week later as we re-visited St. Michael's Church Betchworth on May 24th.
Another visit to St. Saviours Church in St. Albans (October 4th) teamed us with Jeremy White, celebrated operatic bass and accomplished arranger who has been very helpful in extending our repertoire over the years.
On November 22nd we revisited St. Peter's Church in Staines in a collaboration with Spelthorne Young Voices, a very accomplished youth choir, and rising musical theatre star Susie Chaytow.
Carol singing this year took us to Spitalfields Market followed by a Brick Lane Curry.
- On April 20th we gave our first concert in Brighton in aid of Bagbooks, members of which group (including our own Bernard Tagliavini) gave demonstrations of the story-telling they use in therapies focused on people with severe disabilities.
- The Maltings in Alton hosted us on June 15th as we, along with his local choir Ancora and orchestra, remembered and celebrated the life of our dear member MAC Newton.
- On June 30th a special concert in Sevenoaks School (Pamoja Hall) teamed us with baritone Richard Suart in a commemoration of tenor Roger Woodward's reaching various milestones and raising money for Hospice in the Weald.
- On October 5th we performed in Oxted.
- Our much anticipated tour to St. Petersburg in late October saw us perform 3 concerts to packed audiences. In the Finnish Lutheran Church we teamed up with a group of young men 30-40 years our juniors. At the prestigious Glinka Capella we flew solo and incorporated songs from our MD and a piano showpiece from our accompanist. In the town of Gatchina we dovetailed with the local balalaika ensemble. Examples of these memorable events are to be found on Youtube. Alongside all this musical activity our guide, Marina, made sure we saw and appreciated more sights than one could reasonably expect in a week.
- Spooky Singing was the name we gave to a paid engagement in March in a grand and atmospheric former Methodist Church in Hackney. Led by Lawrence White we provided a background of Gregorian chant for a production company who were showing a rather gruesome new film called The Devil Inside to an invited audience.
- At the Queen Elizabeth Hall on March 25th we joined forces with Chelsea Opera Group, conductor Robin Newton and some leading soloists for a concert performance of Verdi's opera la Forza Del Destino.
- On April 14th at St George's Church, Beckenham along with members of Imperial Opera, the Joyful Company of Singers and The Purcell Singers, we celebrated the life of baritone Alan Doherty who had sadly died in November 2011.
- On 30th June a concert was given at St. Michael's Church Betchworth with guest soprano Tessa Spong.
- In August the choir sang The Lost Chord and Steal Away at the funeral of tenor and dear friend MAC Newton in Alresford, Hampshire.
- In early October we joined forces with Hertfordshire County Youth Choir for a concert in St Albans - reviews and audience comments.
- We sang at Howard of Effingham School in November to raise money for a group of pupils planning an educational visit to Indonesia.
- Carol singing at Canary Wharf shopping centre raised over £600.
- In early May we joined forces with the RAFA President's Band in St. Peter's Church Staines to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the local Rotary Club. The concert featured songs of World War II and a last Night of the Proms style finale with Debbie in her union-jack dress.
- For the late May bank holiday weekend we based ourselves in Dinard on the Brittany- Normandy border. On the Saturday a concert was given in the Anglican church of St Bartholomew and on the Sunday in the Abbaye St. Magloire in Léhon where we achieved the ambitions of singing "The Agincourt Song" to the French (in a great acoustic) and performing "In a Monastery Garden" accompanied by L'orchestre d'harmonie de Dinan complete with electronic bird calls. Our soloist was Tessa Spong.
- Our final spring concert took place in Shalford, Surrey to celebrate the refurbishment of St Mary the Virgin Church. "In a Monastery Garden" featured again as we were very close to the garden in neighbouring Chilworth where Ketèlby had conceived the piece 100 years previously. Soprano Tessa Spong was joined by her trumpeter friend Phil Bysh.
- In October the choir turned out in good numbers for the funeral of our great friend and kindred spirit Ian Woods in St. John's East Dulwich. Memories of 3 great tours to Switzerland were rekindled as we sang Steal Away and Ian's arrangement of Nearer My God To Thee accompanied by his wife Carolyn. Our condolences go to Ian and Carolyn's choir L'Helvétienne de Gorgier and we hope to meet up with them again in the future.
- Real Men Sing was the title of a workshop for boys (and more mature males) organised in Hatfield by our tenor member Neil Bell, who in his real life is lead singing teacher for Herts. Music Service. Though we were able to support the youngsters with our decibels, the need to memorise unfamiliar material for an impromptu performance at the end of the day took some of us beyond our comfort zones.
- Following the decision of Cecily Nicholls, our accompanist for 35 years, to step down in 2012, we organised some "audition rehearsals" for budding repetiteurs and we were delighted to appoint Leanne Singh-Levett to take up the challenge.
- Carol singing in Canary Wharf organised by John and Jo Tripp with various friends and work colleagues raised over £500 in just an hour of singing.
- Our annual weekend away (Pilgrim Hall, Uckfield) in January was notable for the rare opportunity to try out our Bartok on the hotel staff, who were almost all Hungarian. They seemed most amused and professed to understand the lyrics!
- Very sadly, in February, we learnt of the death, after a brave battle with cancer, of Delinne Isaacs; a wonderful former ENO soprano who had recorded with us and shared a concert in Staines in 2008. We were honoured to have performed with her and also, by her family's request, to sing Shallow Brown (her favourite) at her funeral.
- In April we performed a concert in Alton with a ladies choir (Ancora) in aid of Homestart Weywater.
- In May a number of the choir returned 'to their roots' and went off to Budleigh Salterton for the weekend to sing in 'Iolanthe' (a semi staged version) put on by Imperial Productions.
- Our second concert with Wantage Youth Band took place on a very warm evening in early June in Wantage and was much enjoyed by the large audience at Wantage Parish Church.
- A request to provide music for an August wedding ceremony at Cliveden House, a prestigious venue in Berkshire, resulted in the choir being handsomely rewarded for singing a rousing hymn and adaptations of songs by Louis Armstrong and Cat Stevens!
- Our August tour to Switzerland was a great success; we sang two concerts (In Stadtkirche Thun and Temple de St Aubin (NE)), jointly with two Swiss choirs, l'Helvétienne and Männerchor Thun. We also held a shorter concert on our own in Grindelwald (BE) Dorfkirche.
- We also sang during morning church services in Thun and St Aubin.
- The autumn was spent rehearsing and recording for our new CD which was duly released in Spring 2011
- Carol singing was this year in Covent Garden. Despite a good attendance the bitterly cold weather contributed to lower takings (c. £150) for The Children's Society, though drinks in The Globe afterwards were some compensation.
- The year started with a concert in Epsom in March in memory of Edna Tripp, the dear late wife of one of our members. This raised around £3,300 for the charity 'Love Me, Love my Mind'.
- This was followed by an exciting concert in Oxfordshire with Wantage Youth Brass, part of Wantage Silver Band.
- A return to Uckfield to round off the Uckfield Festival in a 'Last Night' with the Mid Sussex Sinfonia.
- In the early autumn we performed some a capella pieces in the courtyard of Hatchlands House in Surrey.
- In October we joined forces with the celebrated Hertfordshire youth choir Cantate in All Saints Church Hockerill.
- Carol singing in Waterloo Station in December raised a goodly sum from the snow-bound commuters.