Chamber Choir Concert at the United Reformed Church, Guildford

In May the Surrey Hills Chamber Choir was invited to be a part of the Guildford United Reformed Church concert series for the first time. Our programme was supported by two fine soloists who are finding their place in the international concert arena. The expressive pianist, Dr Maureen Galea, played the technically challenging Sonata in A Major D664 by Schubert and No 3 and No 7 from 12 Rhapsodies, Op 1 by Vořišek. This characterful pianist is a joy to watch. Our other support act, the fourteen-year-old virtuoso oboist Francesca Cox, was truly magnificent, playing Introduction, Theme & Variations Op 102 by Hummel, Sonata for Oboe (1st movement) by Hindemith, and Sonata in Bb (1st and 4th movements) by Telemann. We were delighted to provide a platform for her to showcase her considerable talent. She is principal oboe of the National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain and now a member of the National Youth Orchestra, and well deserves her place in this most prestigious of young people’s ensembles.

This was an exciting concert for us for a number of reasons. Firstly we were being filmed! Sound recording engineer Ed Draycott filmed us for a publicity presentation of the choir which is shortly to go on You-tube and be used for promotional material for our entry into the Llangollen International Eisteddfod, which we are planning on entering next year.

Secondly we were able to show off our new uniforms for the first time. The chamber choir has opted for a change in the second half, to give the audience something new to mull over. We have come to the conclusion over the past few months of decision-making that nothing is more likely to break a choir than discussion over uniform. It’s a testament to the camaraderie within the chamber choir and our patient uniform committee that we managed to sort out not one but two new uniforms without losing a single member.

When we began rehearsals earlier in the day we realised we had a problem. ¨The Sounding Sea¨, which has become something of a signature piece for us over the past year, requires some dynamic foot stamping at its high-point. Unfortunately the plush carpet at the United Reformed Church made the foot-stamping inaudible. Always resourceful, we rummaged in cupboards and a collection of percussion instruments were brought in for the piece, but none of us had rehearsed with them. The effect was louder than expected and made many of us jump, although comments later indicated it was one of our best performances of the work.

The chamber choir has grown to such an extent over the past year that we are now able to split into two smaller groups to perform some of our material. This has helped in two ways it makes a contrast to the whole choir items and also helps to ease the strain of learning so much material. We sing everything from memory and often have to learn choreography as well, so the amount of learning put into each concert is considerable – enquirers please note! Half the choir sang the Thomas Morley madrigal ¨Now is the month of Maying¨ and the other half sang John Dowland’s ¨Come away, come sweet love¨. New items for the concert included the Purcell anthem ¨O God! Thou art my God!¨ with which we opened. This also requires a ¨decani¨ section and a ¨cantoris¨ section and also contains a male and female trio. Expanding the choir has opened the door to so much more exciting repertoire.

We showcased three more new songs: ¨Among the leaves so green¨, a traditional folksong collected by Cecil Sharp and arranged by John Byrt; the well-known Beatles song ¨You’ve got to hide your love away¨, arranged by Andrew Jackman; and the inspirational ¨Peacock¨, a powerful yearning song by Kodaly, to a poem by Endre Ady.

Our music director was as usual fretting over the size of the audience an hour before the concert started. However our publicity paid off. Having been invited to do a radio interview for Radio Surrey, as well as our usual publicity, we sang to a full house.