Hailsham Choral

Singing with a great choir !

Verdi Requiem: Concert on 11th May 2024

Verdi poster outside St Saviours Church

A reminder that our big Verdi Requiem performance with Eastbourne Symphony Orchestra and singers from other choirs is coming up. Rehearsals are going very well and it is shaping up to be a great concert.

This is a great opportunity to hear Verdi’s choral masterpiece performed by a large choir and orchestra.

The concert is at 7.30pm this Saturday, 11th May, in St. Saviour’s Church, Eastbourne. Full details here

May 2024

Thank You to Hailsham Town Council

Hailsham Town Council logo

Great news. We have been awarded a £500 grant from Hailsham Town Council as part of their Grants to Voluntary Organisations scheme.

We would like to once again say a big 'Thank You' for the council’s continuing support. Running the choir and staging concerts costs us thousands of pounds each year and their help makes a big difference.

May 2024

A Donation from the Mayor of Hailsham

We are very grateful for a recent donation from the Mayor of Hailsham who is a regular supporter of our concerts:

Mayor’s Press Release

Photo of the Mayor handing over a cheque

A £100 donation from the Mayor of Hailsham has been awarded to Hailsham Choral Society, one of a number of recent grants given to local community groups and voluntary associations as a result of coming in under budget on his allocated allowance for the last financial year.

Town Mayor Cllr Paul Holbrook presented a cheque to the Society’s Chair, Milly Clark, in the town centre yesterday [10 March], funds from which will go towards organising future concerts.

In his role as mayor, Cllr Holbrook receives a yearly allowance to cover events and other costs associated with the office of Town Mayor, but in the previous financial year, he did not use all of the allowance and stated that he would donate what was remaining to local community, voluntary associations and charities, as well as other and other local initiatives.

“I’ve attended many of the Society’s concerts to date and enjoyed every single one of them. I am very grateful to the Society, their conductors and accompanists for staging such wonderful concerts, and I look forward avidly to attending future concerts.”

“The Society has a tradition of recruiting first-rate choristers and each and every member always put their heart and soul into the Society’s event performances.”

“I’m delighted to be able to support their good work by way of this small donation.”

Hailsham Choral Society is a choir of over 60 singers based locally and perform at least four main concerts during the year, with programmes featuring anything from Bach to the Beatles, Rossini to Gershwin and Rutter to Rogers and Hart.

The Society is currently looking for new members and holds regular events including music workshops, coffee mornings, and quizzes. At present, they rehearse on Thursday evenings at the Hailsham Civic Community Hall in Vicarage Lane.

Councillor Holbrook will be joining in the celebrations of the Society’s next concert, which will be a special collaboration with Eastbourne Symphony Orchestra and singers from other choirs to be held at St Saviour’s Church in Eastbourne on Saturday 11 May from 7.30pm.

The concert will feature a performance of Verdi’s Requiem, promising to be a very special occasion with some 140 singers and 70 orchestra players performing choral works together.

The programme will be conducted by Graham Jones, with Lisa Wigmore as Leader and Helen Bailey, Rebecca Hughes, Luke Price and Jozik Kotz as soloists.

Tickets cost £18 in advance/£20 on the door for adults and £9 in advance/£10 on the door) for under 18s. They are available from via wegottickets.com, from Hailsham Choral Society members and on the door.

March 2024. Photo: Hailsham Town Council

Happy Christmas!

Thank you to everyone who came to hear us sing in 2023 and to all our friends and helpers. Happy Christmas and we look forward to seeing you again next year.

A small group from HCS carol singing at the Farmers’ Market.

December 2023. Photo: Hailsham Town Council

Hailsham Choral sings Rossini - another triumph for Eastbourne audiences

Concert Review by Carol Mounter

At the end of Armistice Day, a day of reflection, Hailsham Choral Society offered a programme which began with the Anthem "For The Fallen", composed by Douglas Guest (1916 - 1996). This is a setting of the famous poem by Laurence Binyon, a gentle and spiritual piece which was simply and beautifully presented in the stunning setting of St Saviour’s Church, under the experienced leadership of their Musical Director and Conductor, Jozik Kotz. He deserves much praise for the way he brings out the blending of the voices and manages to instil energy and a feeling of teamwork that lasted throughout the evening. I believe that the mark of a good conductor is how much the choir watches them and the eyes of most of the singers remained on Jozik.

The second piece, and my personal favourite of the evening, was a work written by local composer, Tony Biggin. To my ear, evoking echoes of Butterworth’s opus, A Shropshire Lad, this beautiful composition summed up the loss of men in battle. The Day That Sussex Died, taken from a larger commissioned work, String! feature the words of Brighton based lyricist and writer, Stephen Plaice and relate the Battle of Boar’s Head at Richebourg - l’Avoué in France on 30th June, 1916. In less than five hours, the three Southdown battalions of the Royal Sussex Regiment lost 349 men and 1000 men were wounded or taken prisoner. Bass James Oldfield was the soloist for this piece and sang with sincerity and a great understanding of the lyrics. I want to hear this work again - and again!

Then to the major work of the evening, Gioachino Rossini’s last opus, the Petite Messe Solennelle, which is curiously misnamed, being neither small nor especially solemn. Rossini, (1792 -1868) enjoyed enormous prestige as the leading composer of Italian opera, in particular Opera Buffa (comic opera) plus other notable works, and had a reputation for enjoying fine foods and also for indolence, despite the huge amount of works produced. He then suddenly withdrew from composing at the age of 37 and did not reappear for twenty years, although he wrote several little piano pieces and songs during this time, which he referred to as his Péchés de Vieillesse (Sins of my Old Age); the final work being the Petite Messe Solennelle.

The opening ostinato, played by pianist Colin Hughes (a musician friend who attended this concert described his playing as skimming stones) - drawing us in to the initial Kyrie Eleison, the choir observing the balance of loud and soft . An excellent beginning. The Gloria introduced us to the soloists: Noa Lachman, soprano; Rebecca Hughes, alto; Andrew Wicks, tenor; and James Oldfield, already heard in the previous piece. This was followed by a trio for alto, tenor and bass, then the tenor solo, Domine Deus, a movement full of syncopation, dotted rhythms and leaps, all accomplished by Andrew Wicks on top form with a silky smooth technique and dynamic leaps. This movement had me smiling as it contained a definite element of opera buffa. Noa Lachman and Rebecca Hughes blended well in the duet Qui Tollis. And then the bass adagio solo, Quoniam tu solus - I really liked the velvety tone of James Oldfield’s voice. Cum Sancto brought together again the soloists and choir in a rousing finale to the first part. How many ‘Amens’ can you score in one movement...well, dozens and dozens, if you are Rossini!

The second part started with the Credo, followed by Crucifixus, with the soprano Noa Lachman showing her command of breath control and lyric phrasing. Et Resurrexit, announced by the sopranos, joined by other voices leading into a fugue which expands the text and resolves to an operatic plethora of ‘Amens’, sung by all the soloists.

We were then treated to a Preludio Religioso, beginning with a short piano introduction, followed by a long, solemn, modulating rhythmic movement, expertly played on the harmonium by Andrew Wilson. Salutaris Hostia, added by Rossini when he finally orchestrated his work, was sung with dulcet tones and lyricism by Noa Lachman, and then to the finale, the Agnus Dei, which the choir accomplished with enthusiasm and energy, plus the soaring voice of Rebecca Hughes, beautifully resonant above the choir, culminating into an impassioned Dona Nobis Pacem, so appropriate in today’s turbulent world. This was wonderfully performed and the highlight of this work.

Hailsham Choral Society is blossoming under the steady hand of Jozik Kotz and is a choir to take notice of. I look forward to many more evenings of delight.

Another triumph for Eastbourne audiences!

Carol Mounter, November 2023; Photos by John Feakins

Choral singing strikes a positive note

EADCA logoHailsham Choral is a member of the Eastbourne and District Choirs Association (EADCA) and we are very pleased to reproduce the EADCA article below. The photo was taken at our summer concert in June

Singing together brings physical, mental and communal benefits,

writes local choir member Alison Sprigg

Singing has long been recognised as an activity which promotes a sense of personal well-being, with significant benefits to physical and mental health.

As an aerobic activity, singing improves both circulation and posture by encouraging an increase in lung capacity - an effective antidote to our increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Equally important, though, are the benefits of singing to mental health; research has shown that singing as part of a group releases hormones specifically responsible for the feel-good factor which is so important in counteracting stress. Added to which, the sociable bond of singing together is a powerful and relaxing experience in itself, as well as being quite simply good fun!

Summer concert photo

In our local area, the various choirs celebrate their inclusivity in bringing music to the community; not only in keeping classical music joyfully and powerfully alive, but in offering a wide range of musical styles and performances, ranging from classical to rock and pop. Choirs involve professional musicians such as bands, orchestras and soloists whenever possible, in seeking to maximise the fun of rehearsing together and the thrill of singing in live concerts.

Local choirs are always keen to welcome new members, whether experienced or new singers, or those who may have sung previously and are now thinking of returning. Everyone is catered for, whether or not they read music. There is now a wealth of online assistance tracks which can be used as necessary to supplement the regular choir rehearsals - where help is always offered in any case.

Our choirs pride themselves on their friendliness, social activities and community links, and uphold the belief that cost should not be a barrier to participation.

The Eastbourne and District Choirs Association website, www.eadca.uk/choirs, lists many of our local choirs. So please do visit; a warm welcome awaits you at your local choir!

October 2023

A Donation from the Mayor

We are very pleased to report that we have received a £100 donation from the Mayor of Hailsham, Cllr Paul Holbrook.

Photo of the Mayor handing over a cheque

From the Mayor’s Press Release:

In his role as mayor, Cllr Holbrook receives a yearly allowance to cover events and other costs associated with the office of Town Mayor, but in the previous financial year, he did not use all of the allowance and stated that he would donate what was remaining to local community, voluntary associations and charities, as well as other and other local initiatives.

“I’ve attended many of the Society’s concerts to date and enjoyed every single one of them. I am very grateful to the Society, their conductors and accompanists for staging such wonderful concerts, and I look forward avidly to attending future concerts.”

“The Society has a tradition of recruiting first-rate choristers and each and every member always put their heart and soul into the Society’s event performances.”

“I’m delighted to be able to support their good work by way of this small donation.”

We would like to thank the Mayor for this generous donation and his continuing support. See here for the full Press Release

June 2023

Free singing workshop


As part of the 2023 Hailsham Festival, Hailsham Choral is holding a free Open Workshop on Saturday 2nd September 2023, led by our inspirational musical director, Jozik Kotz. Come and join us to get a taste of what we do. See here for more details.

Video of the finale of Samson

Here is a video of the final movement of our recent performance of Samson: Let their celestial concerts all unite. We are very grateful to one of our audience members for sending it to us.

See below for a concert review.

April 2023

Hailsham Choral Society’s thrilling Samson

Concert Review by Robert Milnes

Three cheers for Hailsham Choral Society for presenting a Handel masterpiece in Eastbourne other than Messiah. Their performance of Samson on April 1st under their conductor Jozik Kotz was a triumph which thrilled the large and appreciative audience at All Saints Church.

Handel wrote Samson in 1741 immediately after finishing Messiah. Its first performance at Covent Garden received a rapturous reception and it became the most popular of Handel’s Oratorios during his lifetime. After hearing this performance it is easy to understand why, because Samson contains some of his most dramatic and expressive music.

The choir gave their all to the wonderful variety of choruses, from the wild celebration of the Philistines to the intense grief of the Israelites, with an impressive range of dynamics, clarity of diction and excellent tone.

In the title role the young tenor Ben Hancox-Lachman was simply superb, singing with a musicality and confidence far beyond his twenty one years and capturing all the dramatic aspects of the role.

Soprano Helen Bailey brought the house down with a breathtaking rendition of the showpiece aria “Let the bright seraphim”, ably assisted by the brilliant trumpet playing of Andrew Baxter.

Alto Rebecca Hughes showed again why she is in such demand as a soloist with her beautiful performance as Samson’s friend Micah.

Baritone Jim Clements sang with great style and feeling as Samson’s father Manoah and Bass Andrew Tipple was a commanding presence as the Philistine giant Harapha.

Smaller roles were well taken by members of the choir, two of whom also stepped out to play flute and recorder in the Dead March in Act three.

Handel left a rich legacy of great music for choral and solo singers, most of it now rarely heard, so it would be wonderful if the great success of Hailsham Choral Society’s Samson could lead to more of his masterpieces being performed locally. The enthusiastic response of Saturday’s audience gives me hope that Eastbourne is ready to explore Handel.

(Review by Robert Milnes: April 2023; Photos by John Feakins)

Hailsham FM interviews our Musical Director, Jozik Kotz

Click here to listen to Jozik talking to Hailsham FM’s Simon Herbert about the choir and our upcoming performance of Samson on Saturday April 1st 2023.

In Handel's lifetime Samson was as popular as Messiah and many experts think that in some ways it is a superior piece. It's got real drama to it....It's fantastic music.

For music lovers who have never heard Samson live, this may be a rare opportunity to do that.

March 2023

Fundraising success

Thank you to everyone who came to our Christmas concert or supported us in 2022.

We are very pleased to announce that our audience donated over £362 for Target Ovarian Cancer at our Christmas concert. What a fantastic result! Thank you all for your generosity.

January 2023

Hailsham Choral: Musical Triumph at All Saints

Concert Review by Robert Milnes

How appropriate that Hailsham Choral Society, under their inspiring conductor Jozik Kotz, should choose to perform Haydn’s great “Mass in the time of fear” (also known as the “Nelson” Mass) at this particular moment in time. The mass is in the dark key of D minor and conveys a growing sense of tension and disturbance, reflecting the widespread feeling of fear throughout Europe caused by the seemingly unstoppable advance of Napoleon, a feeling all too familiar during these times of political and economic turmoil.

Another topical choice in the programme was Purcell’s music for the funeral of Queen Mary in 1695, followed by Handel’s coronation anthem Zadok the Priest, thus mirroring a past and new monarch. The concert also included Purcell’s celebratory Te Deum and Jubilate and an organ solo by Bach, played by Colin Hughes.

An unusual feature of the concert was the instrumental ensemble of strings, trumpets, timpani and organ, which gave a wonderful sheen to the tone of the choir. Jozik Kotz obtained beautiful sounds from his singers in quiet, loud and very loud music.

The soloists Helen Bailey, Clarissa Meek, Ben Hancox-Lachman and Tim Dawkins gave splendid accounts of their parts and a member of the choir, Mr Ian Fry, provided his usual exemplary programme notes.

Altogether a wonderful evening, supported by an enthusiastic audience and the generous sponsorship of Crane’s Estate Agents.

We look forward to Hailsham Choral’s next concert in Eastbourne, Handel’s dramatic oratorio Samson, on April 1st next year. With the rising young tenor Ben Hancox-Lachman in the title role and the superb soprano Helen Bailey singing “Let the bright seraphim” that is definitely a date for your diaries.

(Review by Robert Milnes : November 2022; Photos by John Feakins)

Bursary scheme announcement

Hailsham Choral Society is pleased to announce a new bursary scheme with a range of benefits including free annual membership, starting in September 2022.

Applications are open to those aged 18 to 25, students in full or part-time education or people of any age experiencing financial hardship. For more information about the scheme please see here.

In addition, if you are under 30 years old the first year of membership of the choir is free and there is no need to apply for a bursary for your first year.

August 2022

Successful Summer Concert

Summer 2022 Concert Poster Although a late surge in Covid-19 meant that several choir members had to drop out of our Summer Concert celebrating the Platinum Jubilee, everything else came together nicely. We were delighted to welcome organist Andrew Wilson alongside our regular accompanist William Hancox.

The first half of the programme featured music sung at the Queen’s Coronation, with a large overhead screen showing colour film of the events of June 1953 while the choir sang; and the second half included lighter music, with something from every decade of the Queen's seventy year reign.

If you would like to read the Programme Notes for the concert, which contain a lot of interesting information about the composers and works featured, they are highly recommended.

Help from Hailsham Town Council

Hailsham Town Council logo

We are very pleased to report that we have received a generous £500 grant from Hailsham Town Council. This will be very useful to help us with the growth and renewal of the choir following the Coronavirus pandemic.

We would like to say a big 'Thank You' for the council’s continuing support.

June 2022

Superb “Messiah” from Hailsham Choral Society

Concert Review by Andrew Lumb

Lucky were those who were part of the capacity audience for Hailsham Choral Society’s 60th anniversary performance of Handel’s Messiah on Saturday March 26th at All Saints Church. This was their return to large scale concert giving after two years of lockdowns, and it proved to be an emotionally affecting as well as musically uplifting experience for the choir and the large audience. The evening was further enhanced by a stirring rendition of the Ukrainian National Anthem which brought the audience to their feet with cheering and enthusiastic applause, and a collection for the DEC Ukraine appeal which raised over £1100.

With the Mayors

I wonder whether many in the audience understand the impact that the covid pandemic has had on music making generally, and this choral society in particular. A two year interruption must have had a damaging effect, with some members losing interest in “zoom rehearsals” and voices losing their stamina. All credit then must be given to the society’s conductor Jozik Kotz, who has clearly worked hard to bring the choir back to their former high standard.

Rebecca Hughes But on the day of the concert itself covid struck again. Jozik had to find a replacement soprano (the excellent Lisa Swayne) as well as two members of the orchestra. Despite all this the conductor, choir, orchestra and soloists should be proud of the spirited and involving performance which they gave. The baritone Greg Skidmore was new to the audience but Rebecca Hughes and Andrew Mackenzie Wicks are both well known local singers.

After two years of no live choral music it was magical to hear the first words of Messiah float over us - “Comfort ye my people”. In fact the whole concert gave comfort and joy, helped by Ian Fry’s illustrated and very informative programme to guide us through this masterpiece.

I look forward to hearing again the wonderful sound Hailsham Choral Society makes when they return to All Saints Church on the 12th of November to perform Haydn’s wonderful Nelson Mass.

(Review by Andrew Lumb : March 2022; Photos by Neil Hartop)

An interview with Jozik

The Sussex Express has an interview with our Musical Director Jozik Kotz about our next concert on March 26th. The concert will start with the Ukrainian National Anthem as an act of solidarity with the people of the Ukraine. The main item is a performance of Handel's Messiah:

I really want to bring out the drama of the piece with the choir being very much part of that drama, showing it in their faces in a way that they would not usually do in an oratorio performance. I want to have that real sense of connection with the audience.

There will be a retiring collection for the British Red Cross in aid of the victims of the war.

Messiah workshop

Jozik leading the workshop

On Saturday 26th February the choir held a whole-day workshop to prepare for our upcoming Messiah concert on 26th March, led by our inspirational musical director Jozik Kotz (photo) with Will Hancox at the piano.

The choir met in Arlington Village Hall, starting with some work on voice production and rebuilding our stamina for singing, followed by a detailed look at some of the trickier Messiah choruses.

We usually manage to hold two Saturday workshops a year but this was the first time it has been possible since Coronavirus struck. The workshops are always very popular and it was lovely to be back. To round things off, the sun shone all day.

February 2022

Sussex Express article

January 2022

There is an item about us in the Arts and Entertainment section of the Sussex Express.

Exciting news for our 60th anniversary

January 2022

Crane & Co logoWe are delighted to announce that we have been sponsored by Crane & Co, the well-known Hailsham-based Estate Agents.

We would like to say a big thank you for their generous support.

Press Release 14/01/22

Hailsham Choral Society has achieved its fundraising goal within a week thanks to sponsorship from Hailsham based Estate Agents, Crane & Co. A longer term relationship has also been agreed which is fantastic news for the Choir.

The choir celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2021 and hopes to mark it in style with a sell-out performance of Handel's Messiah on Saturday 26th March at All Saints Church in Eastbourne. The Choral Society has a proud tradition of regular performances in Hailsham and the local area. After such a difficult time during the past two years financial help was needed to ensure the success of the anniversary concert.

Concert photo
Photo credit: Peter Clark

The performance of Messiah, with full orchestra and soloists from the area will provide vital support to some of the many local professional freelance musicians who have lost their livelihood during the Covid restrictions. But it cannot be funded by ticket sales alone, which makes the generous donation from Crane & Co so important to Hailsham Choral Society.

In addition, the choir would also like to welcome new members. Since the end of lockdown the choir has attracted a number of keen new members. More are always welcome. The choir rehearses on Thursdays, at 7.30pm at the Hailsham Community Hall, Vicarage Lane, Hailsham, BN27 2AX. Further details can be found on the choir's website here.

All change at the top

November 2021

We are sorry to announce that our current Musical Director Rosie Howarth is leaving us to take up a new appointment with a large choir in South London. We would like to thank Rosie for all her work with Hailsham Choral, particularly in keeping us together as a choir during lockdown. We wish her all the best in her new role.

We are absolutely thrilled that Jozik Kotz, our much-loved former MD, has agreed to return to HCS, following Rosie's departure. He will be singing with us for our Christmas concert, which our Assistant MD, Barbara Edwards, is conducting, and will take over the reins again on 1st January, to prepare for our 60th Anniversary concert on 26th March 2022.

We're back!

September 2021

Hailsham Choral are back to holding live rehearsals on Thursday evenings at 7.30pm and we are currently welcoming new members. You can read more about joining the choir here.

We have started work on choruses from Handel's Messiah which we plan to sing in Spring 2022 as part of the choir's 60th anniversary celebrations. We will also be starting to learn some new Christmas music in a few weeks ready for our concert on December 16th.

We are following a few simple Covid rules at rehearsals which you can read about here.

Future plans

Ducks stop rehearsal

July 2021

Finally some good news!

After months of only being able to rehearse together online at our weekly Zoom meetings, some of the choir were able to meet for an open air rehearsal at the end of June. The rehearsal was briefly interrupted by this family of ducks crossing the lawn to reach the water.

We are currently preparing music for the Lord Mayor's Concert as part of the Hailsham Festival. We hope the concert will take place on Saturday 4th September 2021 if Coronavirus restrictions allow. See here for details.

On Thursday September 16th we are hoping to hold an Open Rehearsal for anyone who is interested in singing with Hailsham Choral. It should be a great opportunity to come and try us out. We won't be doing a major concert this autumn because of the difficulty in planning anything at the moment, so this is an ideal time to join the choir. More details here.

A Donation from the Mayor

May 2021

We would like to say a warm thank you to the Mayor of Hailsham, Councillor Paul Holbrook, who has donated £100 to the choir. The Mayor receives a yearly allowance to cover costs like attending events, and this year he is donating over £1000 from his unspent allowance to local charities including Hailsham Choral. There is an article about this in the Hailsham News.

During the pandemic the choir has continued to rehearse on-line through weekly Zoom sessions but we are really looking forward to being able to meet up again. It is looking hopeful that our first performance will be singing in the Mayor's Concert as part of the 2021 Hailsham Festival on 11th 4th September. We will let you know when we have more details.

Samson concert cancelled

Summer 2020

Because of the spread of Coronavirus we have taken the difficult decision to cancel concerts until further notice. This means our performance of Handel's Samson, which we had hoped to reschedule for September 2020, will no longer take place.

You may be still be interested to read the programme notes.

Our new accompanist: William Hancox

William Hancox, our new MD

January 2020

We are very excited to announce that William Hancox has agreed to become the choir's accompanist. He is a superb musician and we're really lucky to have him.

William has performed as a soloist, chamber musician and accompanist throughout the UK and internationally. He has played in many major venues, broadcast for Classic FM and the BBC and made a number of CD recordings. He has held staff pianist positions at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Trinity College of Music and the Britten-Pears School in Aldeburgh.

He has also worked extensively as a vocal coach, both at home and abroad, with many students now pursuing successful singing careers.

William lives in East Sussex and is active in many local musical projects.

An Exciting New Chapter for Hailsham Choral

Rosie Howarth, our new MD

January 2020

Hailsham Choral is delighted to welcome our new Musical Director, Rosie Howarth.

Rosie is a very talented and experienced choral conductor, as well as an accomplished singer.

She studied music and German at the Freie Universität in Berlin and Cardiff University, where she received a scholarship from the Worshipful Company of Musicians.

For the past four years Rosie has worked as a freelance conductor in South Wales; as Musical Director of Cor Bro Ogwr in Bridgend, Caerphilly Community Chorus and Songbirds LGBT Choir. In 2019 she was the Festival Chorus Director for the Hand in Hand Festival, the biggest national LGBT Choir Festival in the U.K. For two years she has also been the Musical director of Cardiff Operatic Society.

Rosie is also an accomplished and experienced soprano. As a choral singer she has sung with the BBC National Chorus of Wales for over ten years. With the Chorus she has performed regularly at the Royal Albert Hall for the Proms. She has also appeared on BBC television and radio. As a soloist she has sung soprano solos in several oratorios in a number of venues nationwide. Most recently Rosie can be seen singing in Netflix’s drama series, Sex Education.

The choir is thrilled to welcome Rosie; her range of experience and enthusiasm promise to take Hailsham Choral into an exciting future. Rosie will be leading the choir in performing Handel’s Samson on 28th March 2020 at 7.30pm at All Saints Church, Eastbourne together with the Hailsham Symphonia and soloists Helen Bailey, Rebecca Anstey, Jozik Kotz and Andrew Wicks.

Farewell to Jozik

Jozik and Farewell cake

December 2019

We are very sorry to say farewell to our inspirational Musical Director, Jozik Kotz, who is leaving us after 13 years. Fortunately we'll be seeing him again soon as one of the soloists for our forthcoming performance of Samson on March 28th.

We'd like to express our deep appreciation for all that Jozik has done for us over the years. Under his direction the choir has gone from strength to strength and we've all benefited hugely from his talent and experience.

Jozik's departure was marked by the presentation of a specially commissioned oil painting of him conducting the choir, and a special cake. There are some photos of the event here.

Eastbourne thrilled by Hailsham Choral’s Remembrance Concert

Concert Review by Robin Gregory

Despite pouring rain, All Saints Church was well-filled on November 9th. We were all confident that Hailsham Choral Society would not merely be well turned-out in red and black, but would sing like angels under their Director and Conductor Jozik Kotz. Their performance certainly did not disappoint, despite the news that Jozik is standing down after thirteen years.

With the Mayors of Eastbourne and Hailsham

Their usual well-printed and well-written programme notes announced that Vivaldi’s Gloria in D was to be the first work. On this occasion all the accompaniments were to be provided by pianist Kevin Atkin : no orchestra and no organ! To my surprise I found the clarity this provided actually increased my pleasure in the Gloria because the Latin text became unusually audible, and the soprano soloists Rachel Chilton and Fiona Mansfield could really shine in the Laudamus Te, the Domine and the Qui Sedes.

Haydn’s Te Deum for Empress Marie Therese followed. Despite its dedication it is particularly associated with a visit to Eisenstadt in 1800 by Admiral Nelson, celebrating the defeat of Napoleon’s forces at the Battle of the Nile. Once again the admirable choral forces were accompanied by pianist Kevin Atkin. It was a thrilling account of a work by one of music’s greatest composers, and it sent us enthusiastically to the drinks table for the interval.

After the break we stood in silence for Douglas Guest’s setting of Laurence Binyon’s 1914 poem “For the Fallen”, and then we arrived at Fauré’s Requiem, which dates from the end of the nineteenth century. Many versions of this now much-loved work exist. My own favourite recording is a Decca LP with Ansermet conducting the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, and two outstanding soloists: baritone Gerard Souzay and soprano Suzanne Danco. It was interesting to hear the work with piano accompaniment, though in all conscience I must say I missed the magical sound of a good orchestra. Jozik Kotz himself sang the baritone parts, and Rachel Chilton the soprano. Both were so melifluous I was in seventh heaven when they were singing. Rachel’s Pie Jesu seemed to float heavenwards, and Jozik’s Libera Me perfectly prepared us for the closing In Paradisum: “eternal rest” indeed, and totally matching Fauré’s setting. The chorus was impeccable.

(Review by Robin Gregory : November 2019)

Hailsham Festival 2019

Meeting the Mayor

We were very happy to be invited to take part in the Mayor’s concert last Saturday as part of the 2019 Hailsham Festival. It was great to see the Parish Church full for an enjoyable programme which also featured professional soprano Abbie Marsden and organist Roger Tipping.

The choir sang a programme of classical music and folk songs, as well as performing Domine Fili unigenite from Vivaldi’s Gloria as taster for our upcoming concert in November.

Evensong in Chichester Cathedral

Photo from the Organ Loft

It was a first for nearly all of us - singing choral evensong in a cathedral, and a Sussex cathedral at that. Saturday 31 August 2019 saw 26 singers plus family and friends heading off to Chichester for this uplifting service. We had what might be called a ‘dry run’ at the end of June in the Eastbourne Old Town parish church of St Mary, and this was invaluable. Many of our members, although regular churchgoers, do not attend C.of E. services, so were not familiar with the formal singing of psalms, prayers and responses.

Arriving in Chichester around midday, we had some time to ourselves to wander, and have a snack lunch. Then came an afternoon rehearsal to get accustomed to the seating arrangements, the sound of the organ, and the sheer spaciousness which gives such an astonishing resonance to singing. We also had to arrange processing in and out so we arrived in the choir pews in the correct voice placings. As a choir, we are used to processing in to our places for a concert so we didn’t think it would be that hard, but add in the requirement for two-choir setting in places, and referencing Noah entering two-by-two, it took some getting right! Luckily the catheral staff are old hands and got us sorted out.

Colin Hughes playing the organ

A welcome tea-break followed, then we climbed a million-step spiral staircase to the Song Room, which the regular cathedral choir uses for practice. An hour of fine-tuning (both literally and in broader terms) was followed by another break, then we were off, or rather on, in our formal crocodile to the choir pews.

Up in the organ loft we heard Colin playing the introit and somehow that just seemed to put everything into place. We managed to follow the unfamiliar order of the service, singing our parts where they should be, Jozik giving us all the leads and confidence to get it right. It was surprisingly hard not to get lost in the wondrous accoustic which was almost overwhelming. At the end of the service we processed out and completed the dismissal, and it was all over. What an experience. Many of us have attended choral evensong in cathedrals of places where we have been on holiday, but being on the inside was different, never-to-be-forgotten is not too strong a description.

As is always the case, we want to stay with the group as we come back to the everyday after the high we get from any singing. On this occasion we all had dinner together on the way home, which made the pleasure of a shared and uplifting part of our lives last just a little longer.

(See here for more photos of the day).

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne : August 2019)

Welcome to our new Accompanist

Kevin Atkin photo We would like to welcome our new accompanist, Kevin Atkin, who joins us in September. Kevin is originally from Dartford, Kent. He studied at the Royal College of Music and is a well known soloist and accompanist. He also teaches piano at both Ardingly College and Worth School.

This means, of course, that we are saying goodbye to Colin Hughes, our current accompanist. Many of you will know Colin for his wonderful playing at our concerts and we’d like to thank him for his enormous contribution over the years.

Colin is taking up a new post as Organist and Director of Music at the church of St Mary the Virgin in Eastbourne Old Town and we wish him all the best.

All Saints Church set alight by Haydn’s Creation

Concert Review by Robin Gregory

Josef Haydn was the most prolific of composers. Symphonies and quartets simply poured from his quill, and of his giant masterworks “The Creation” is arguably the greatest of all his compositions, the equal (at least) of Mozart’s Requiem or Elgar’s Gerontius. It exists with both English and German texts, and its many recordings have found the most eminent critics arguing about which performance is to be recommended above all others. Great demands are made on the soloists, and the very finest are needed to bring out the majesty of the vocal writing. Fritz Wunderlich, unquestionably in the very top rank of tenors, was in the middle of one distinguished recording when he died while taking a break at his hunting-lodge, and this event came to my mind when I was told that at the very last moment Hailsham Choral Society had to find a replacement for their soprano, who was unwell. Helen Bailey, who “stood in”, proved the perfect replacement, well able to produce both the power and the beauty of her demanding role.

Haydn Creation concert poster How fortunate is Eastbourne in that Jozik Kotz, Hailsham’s conductor and musical director, brought “The Creation” to All Saints Church on March 23rd. Everything proclaimed this a most satisfying performance of the work, with not a weak link, and with the choir, soloists and orchestra navigating every note with appropriate light and shade.

The audience certainly noticed that the choir was beautifully dressed for the occasion: the ladies in matching red jackets, the men in evening gear. And the programmes contained a mass of information about the work’s history, as well as a thorough biography of each soloist (except the soprano, of course). The orchestra’s leader, Lisa Wigmore, was identified, and all the musicians were named. Most importantly, so were all thirty-four sections of the music.

Within this huge work a few solos stand out : great singers occasionally sing them on solo recordings, for example. So how did our performers in All Saints compare? Helen Bailey soared effortlessly in “With Verdure Clad”, with fine orchestral backing, especially from the clarinet. “In Native Worth” showed Paul Austin Kelly producing “the goods”. Many delicate solos stood out in the orchestral playing, notably from flutes and timpani. The string sound and the brass were exemplary. And throughout, Eastbourne College’s Director of Music Daniel Jordan easily met the demands of a role which is sometimes in bass territory, sometimes baritone.

But the most important comments came from the audience, as they clapped until their hands ached, and sometimes beyond. This was music-making of the highest order, and if Haydn was hovering above he would have been well satisfied. A huge work, a fine performance throughout, a welcoming church, appreciative listeners. What more could one ask for?

(Review by Robin Gregory : March 2019)

What Can I Join?

What Can I Join poster On Saturday 26th January 2019, Hailsham Choral are taking part in a ‘What Can I Join?’ event which brings together many local clubs and societies to showcase things you can join in Hailsham. There will be a chance to talk to members of the choir and find out more about us, and a small group from the choir are hoping to do an informal performance at around 12.45-1.15pm.

The whole event is taking place in Hailsham Parish Church from 10.00am to 2.00pm and it would be great to see you. For more information about joining the choir, see here.

For more details about the day on Facebook, see here.

Hailsham Choral Society in Top Form

Concert Review by Robin Gregory

Hailsham Choral’s concert at All Saints Church in Eastbourne on 10th November was arguably the most demanding selection of choral masterpieces I have ever had the pleasure of reviewing. There were relatively short items by Palestrina, Victoria, Guerrero, Viadana, Gabrielli, Mozart, Haydn, Reinberger, Franck and Fauré. In addition they performed five of Parry’s Songs of Farewell and gave the world premiere of The Whispering Mass by Marcus Haddow. As if that list of delights was not enough, their brilliant accompanist Colin Hughes played a Bach Siciliana and an Elegy in memory of G.H.Knight by Martin How.

Choral Masterpieces concert poster That rather terrifying programme would be beyond the reach of many splendid choirs, but a number of easily-overlooked facts made this an evening of sheer magic. First Jozik Kotz, their Director and Conductor is himself a distinguished singer, ever sensitive to the nuance which lifts each phrase and permits words to be heard. In addition, Colin Hughes is far more than an accompanist: he is a musician in depth -- a fine organist (and violinist if needs be). Within the choir are singers of exceptional musical insight: Ian Fry (bass), for example, had compiled a 20-page printed programme which presented facts about each composer’s life in such a way that one could scarce wait to hear each item. And prominent among the tenors was the composer of The Whispering Mass, which achieved the seemingly impossible task of combining the Latin Mass and modern pop music. Soprano Rachel Chilton’s solo in Marcus’s Mass showed how deep is the choir’s quality.

It may not be widely known, but the All Saints organ which purred and thundered under Colin’s hands and feet is an outstanding example of the work of Arthur Harrison, better known for the organs in Westminster Abbey and the Albert Hall. On a weekend in which we remember the Armistice of 1918, could one imagine a better place locally to hear so relevant a works as Parry’s Songs of Farewell? Parry (unlike so much of Elgar) knew how to let words shine through his music, and the performance was perhaps joint high-spot with the Whispering Mass. Yet ultimately it was the evening as-a-whole which mesmerised the audience. Hailsham Choral’s next evening in Eastbourne will be on March 23rd 2019, when they present Haydn’s Creation. Not to be missed!

(Review by Robin Gregory : November 2018)

Korean Festival of Food, Music and Dance - 7th July 2018

Hailsham Choral Society written in Korean script A couple of months ago the London Korean Choral Society contacted us to ask if we would like to participate in a festival in Eastbourne which would involve singing both in English and in Korean. Always up for a challenge, we said yes!

Since the event was only one week after our own summer concert, rehearsal time was rather limited, so for our own contribution we chose some pieces from that programme. There were also three opera favourites which the visitors knew. The Korean music was mainly their own folk songs, an extract from a John Rutter work, and one, Arirang, which seems to have the status of a national song. The Eastbourne Festival Orchestra provided the accompaniment.

A buffet of wonderful Korean food was included in the price of the ticket, and free to us singers, the hall had displays of crafts, and some brightly-coloured performance costumes were also hung up on show. At the entrance where tickets were collected, a calligrapher was writing people’s names on an A4 sheet of paper, then presenting them free of charge in a plastic folder. Besides the singers, the London Korean Dancing Society and the London Korean Traditional Music Society were all stunningly represented.

Korean fan dancers

It was an amazing evening, some wonderful English soloists for the opera pieces, and Korean soloists in their own songs. I fear our Korean pronunciation was far from perfect, but the visitors made it intelligible to the Koreans in the audience, of whom there were many. The very hot weather made everything a challenge, but the whole event was a tremendous success, and we hope to have the opportunity to do it again in the future.

For more photos of the event, see here.

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne : July 2018)

Korean Festival in Eastbourne: Saturday 7th July

We are delighted to have been invited to take part in the Korean Festival of Food, Music and Dance 2018. We will be joining with the London Korean Choral Society for a concert on Saturday 7th July at 6.00pm in Eastbourne Town Hall.

It should be a memorable evening and we are looking forward to making new friends and singing together. Plus it’s a chance for us to learn to sing in Korean for the first time!

The choral items will be a diverse mixture of western music (opera choruses, Elgar, Rutter) and traditional Korean songs, and the concert also includes dancing and Korean stringed instruments.

Poster for Korean Festival

Hailsham Choral Society brings fine St John Passion to Eastbourne

Concert Review by Robin Gregory

Eastbourne and district is well-provided with choral societies, and most achieve very high standards. One such, which never disappoints, is technically from Hailsham, but many of its members live in the town. Their Secretary, for example, dwells within a stone’s-throw of the the welcoming church (All Saints) chosen as the venue for their performance of Bach’s St John Passion on Saturday 17th March 2018.

End of concert photo

This masterpiece is, without question, one of the most challenging choral works in the repertoire. First one must decide whether to use an English translation or the German original. Then one must decide what “accompaniment” to provide: large orchestra, small orchestra (preferably baroque in stye), or organ? The director/conductor must find six soloists who are capable of bringing-off their demanding parts.

It all came together most excitingly in this Hailsham/Eastbourne presentation. Jozik Kotz opted for the original German, and provided a printed English translation in addition to a fine “normal” programme giving historical background, details of the soloists, and so on. The relatively small baroque orchestra, though un-named, proved to be superb, under their Leader Julia Bishop. The flutes, for example, when accompanying soprano Bethany Partridge in the aria “Ich folge” (“I follow you with joyful steps”), provided a perfect rippling cushion for this young soloist’s exquisite performance.

Bach concert poster Seldom have I been so impressed with the overall standard of solo singing. (And I speak as one who has written and presented some fifty programmes about great singers on Radio Two.) The crucial performance of Jesus, for example, found John Hancorn stepping from his usual role as conductor/director, and thus reminding us just what a fine baritone he is. Equally in command of his part was baritone Daniel Jordan, whose day-job is Director of Music at Eastbourne College. Mezzo-soprano Rebecca Leggett is already well established having won the Elisabeth Schumann Lieder Competition in 2016, and it was thrilling to see and hear a fine career blossoming before one’s eyes and ears.

The wonder-of-wonders among the soloists, however, was tenor Nick Pritchard, who sang the Evangelist part with insight and command, without need of an open score. Owing to the indisposition of lyric tenor Paul Austin Kelly, Nick readily sang both parts, wisely distinguishing which part he was singing on each occasion by moving from his “onstage” position to an alternative “in among the onlookers” stance when he was no longer Evangelist. It was a fine example of professional generosity.

All this would have meant little had the members of the choir (or the conductor) not been up to their tasks. They certainly were, however, from the quiet opening orchestral music, and from the singers’ dramatic first entry on “Herr, unser Herrscher”. And that command never flagged. They looked good in their red and black, and the choir even provided four additional soloists in Rachel Chilton (soprano, as the maid), Marcus Haddow and Robert Wicks (tenors, as servants), and Graham Keeley (bass, as Peter who denied Christ thrice). This “strength in depth” was further illustrated by the presence at the chamber organ of Colin Hughes, their regular pianist at rehearsals. Colin is one of those musicians every conductor needs to know. He plays several instruments, and I even espied him carrying a violin during the evening: though I never spotted why.

So that was a 100% success. The undoubted hard work paid off in confident, accurate and moving music-making. Yet, behind it all, the horror of Christ’s death on the cross was made manifest in Bach’s great music. An evening to remember, for sure.

(Review by Robin Gregory : March 2018)

Hailsham Choral Society brings Brahms to Eastbourne

Concert Review by Robin Gregory

For those who, like me, love good singing and drama, Eastbourne has been well-served recently. One evening brought EODS to the Devonshire Park in an excellent production of My Fair Lady, and less than 24 hours later (on Saturday November 11th) I was at All Saints Church for Brahms’s moving German Requiem.

Choir seated at start of concert


Hailsham Choral’s conductor and director of music Jozik Kotz is a master when it comes to planning a programme which fits a particular date, and on this occasion he linked the 99th anniversary of the Armistice (which ended the Great War) with a remembrance of Brian Maskell, one of the choir’s stalwarts who died in July. He made the brave decision to do the Requiem in Brahms’s own arrangement for two pianos, and I was interested to see if this master-work was as masterful when deprived of the composer’s string-writing. In the event the loss of strings was proved to be balanced by an extra clarity which enabled the choir itself to become the focus of attention.

From the moment the choir appeared, to sing Douglas Guest’s short “For the Fallen”, the singers caught the eye by their admirable turn-out: men in D.J’s with red bow-ties, ladies in black with matching red jackets. And they sang wonderfully, from the quietest pianissimo to a blazing forte.

Pianists Will Hancox and Colin Hughes have well-deserved reputations way beyond Sussex, and delivered the goods with both panache and reverence. Before they embarked on the main work of the evening, they gave us Rachmaninov’s Romance from his Suite for Two Pianos, which seemed to gain from the subtle difference in sound between Will’s Grand and Colin’s electronic instrument.

The two soloists in the Requiem were ideal choices for their parts. Noa Lachman now lives locally, but came with an established reputation as a lyric soprano, while baritone Andrew Rupp has even been a soloist at the Last Night of the Proms. Not surprisingly they could soar above the choir as needs be.

Congratulations are due to whoever compiled the detailed and informative illustrated 16‑page Programme which reminded us that the Hailsham Choral Society will be back at All Saints on March 17th with Bach’s St John Passion, and a baroque orchestra.

(Review by Robin Gregory : November 2017)

Choral singing strikes a healthy note

Hailsham Choral is a member of the Eastbourne and District Choirs Association (EADCA), an umbrella organisation for local amateur choirs. We were very interested in the following EADCA article about the health benefits of singing (reprinted with permission):

Singing together benefits both mind and body,
writes local choir member Alison Sprigg

Singing has long been recognised as an activity which promotes a sense of personal well-being. Whether it’s starting the day with a favourite tune in the shower, or relieving stress with a rousing chorus in the car, most people find pleasure in singing at some time, often without even thinking about it.

Cartoon singers2

But singing doesn’t need to be solitary. Choral singing has become hugely popular during the last few years, and not only because of the popularity of Gareth Malone, dubbed ‘the nation’s favourite choirmaster’. His various TV shows, and the choirs and personalities featured, have undoubtedly helped by publicising the joys - and benefits - of choral singing.

In fact, more than 2 million people in the UK are now involved in over 40,000 choirs, with a wide diversity of styles covering everything from classical and gospel to folk and pop. The recent increase in the popularity of choral singing is due largely to awareness of the feel-good factor which comes from singing as part of a group. This in itself has been shown to have significant physical and mental benefits.

The most obvious benefit of singing is that being an aerobic activity, it improves circulation by drawing more oxygen into the bloodstream: a particularly important element in singing, where controlled and deep breathing is essential to good technique. Alongside the physical benefits of increased blood flow, singing releases hormones which are specifically responsible for that feel-good factor. Good singing technique also improves posture, to enable correct function of the lungs - an effective antidote to any sedentary lifestyle!

A recent study, carried out by the Royal College of Music and Imperial College London, found that choral singing boosts the body’s immune system, and triggers the release of hormones which reduce stress. Elsewhere, early results from the British Lung Foundation’s Singing for Lung Health programme indicate that group singing is beneficial to asthma and other respiratory conditions.

So choral singing can become a significant part of a general physical fitness programme. In addition, its sociable and mutually supportive nature is a powerful and relaxing experience in itself, with all the benefits for mind and body which that involves.

All this, of course, merely serves to confirm what any choral singer knows instinctively: singing together is good for you! In addition to the fun and satisfaction of an activity shared with like-minded people, joining a choir provides the chance to develop skills, not only in broadening musical knowledge, but also in concentration, memory and mental agility. Working towards a performance brings a focus on achievable goals, while the performance itself can boost individual confidence and encourage social bonding. This naturally results in friendships; one recent study found that choir members tend to feel closer to each other than people taking part in other group activities, while many choral groups organise members’ social activities such as quiz evenings and suppers.

Choirs are also ideally placed to support their local communities, by singing in aid of charities and taking their music-making into residential care homes and hospices. The joy which this brings to their listeners - and to themselves - is immeasurable.

That’s certainly the case here in Eastbourne and the surrounding area, where local choirs pride themselves on their friendliness, their social activities, and their community links. There is a range of choirs across our district, with many of them listed on the website of the Eastbourne and District Choirs Association, at www.eadca.uk. So please do visit us; a warm welcome awaits you at your local choir!

(Alison Sprigg November 2017)

La France encore

In October this year a party from Hailsham Choral visited our twin town of Gournay-en-Bray, Normandy, for a joint concert with Les Chœurs du Pays-de-Bray in the beautiful 12th century La collégiale Saint-Hildevert. We all had a lovely weekend and were struck by the warmth of the reception, both from our hosts and from the audience who gave us a standing ovation.

Photo with some of the French choir

We would like to say a huge thank you to our French friends for making us so welcome and we look forward to seeing them next time in Hailsham.

More photos of the weekend are on our gallery page, including a trip to the 15th century Château de Martainville.

Singing in Saint-Hildevert

(Simon Marsden October 2017)

Brian Maskell 1944 - 2017

Father, friend, scientist and singer. Archers Addict, canal boat enthusiast, eater of cheese, drinker of wine, lover of life and bringer of mirth.

Photo of Brian

It is with great sadness that we have to report the death of Brian Maskell (7th July 1944 - 14th July 2017), a much-loved member of the choir and one of the original writers of this web site. We will all miss him greatly.

Rosalind Taylor-Byrne writes:

“I chiefly remember Brian as a quiet presence - I don't mean in rehearsals with his fine bass voice, but in the pub with the drinking crowd afterwards. He was often content to sit and listen to the various conversations going on around the table, but at the same time always ready to give an opinion if asked, or argue his corner if needed.

However, I shall remember him especially with grateful thanks for the work he put in with the Noteworthy software, which has helped me enormously to rehearse on my own, not being able to play a keyboard. Noteworthy files may be available elsewhere, but I think it was Brian who went to the trouble of adding the words to make our lives easier. I liked the program so much that I bought a copy, and he was always ready to come back with an answer if I mailed him because I couldn't find out how to do something particular with it.

The other quiet skill he didn't broadcast to the world was his brilliant way with a monologue. He performed them once or twice at lighter concerts, but my top favourite is ‘Have you got any news of the iceberg?’, the sad plaint of a polar bear whose family is not anywhere on the list of survivors of the Titanic. A dark sense of humour perhaps? I don't really think so, though at the time it would have been the height of insensitivity, at nearly a hundred years later it's permissable to chuckle I think.

The last time I saw him was on Easter Monday when I had invited any HCS friends not otherwise occupied to come for coffee and a hot cross bun. I was amazed and absolutely delighted when he turned up on the doorstep with his oxygen tank on a trolley, what an effort it must have been, and I was so pleased to see him. I wish I could be there at his funeral to say goodbye, but I'm just too far away, so I must content myself with adding my thoughts to the event from afar, and hoping that afterwards these written ones will tell his family how much he was appreciated.”

(September 2017)

Mozart again

Rosalind has some interesting comments about a Mozart concert in France (NB: not Hailsham Choral!):

I had to go back through the archives to find it, but back in 2011 I wrote about a Mozart concert I'd been to in Vézelay. Called 'Unfinished', the two works were the Requiem and the 'Great Mass' which HCS had sung the year before. On Saturday 8 July this year, I went to a concert in Beaune, part of their International Festival of Baroque Opera which runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday concerts all through July. The names of performers are international too, Andreas Scholl for one, and I've always gone to the William Christie ones if I could.

So, the 'Great Mass' again, and I was really looking forward to it, the orchestra was the Insula, and the chorus Accentus, neither of which was familiar to me, the conductor Laurence Equilbey. The partnered work was 'Meistermusik' which was new to me, apparently written for a ceremony at the Vienna Masons' Lodge. I found it pleasant but not especially memorable.

Then the main work, and to my surprise I found myself looking at my watch after twenty minutes or so. It was nothing I could put my finger on, the choir sang well, the orchestra played well, the soloists were good, what could be wrong? At the end of the performance we dutifully started appplauding, and as I turned to the friend sitting beside me, she shook her head and made what would once have been called a 'moue' of disappointment. The other friend nodded in agreement. Many of the audience continued their applause which always eventually gets to synchronised clapping, indicating they want an encore or 'bis', but some had already started to leave. The performers did indeed repeat the last chorus, and were applauded, but more people started to drift out, including us.

Walking back to the car we discussed it, and we all felt just the same, as it seems did other members of the audience, it's rare for people to start leaving almost immediately. We decided it was all too loud, too brash, not enough contrast and no sensitivity. It sounds a bit nebulous, and many of the choruses in the work should be loud and forceful, but all three of us, frequent concert-goers and two of us singers, agreed on the qualities of the performance. The two friends admittedly had been to a concert in the same venue the evening before which had apparently been stunning, and maybe my own recall of the very memorable one in Vézelay had coloured our judgement, who knows.

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne July 2017)

Co-op Local Community Fund

Co-op logo

We're happy to report that we've been successful in applying for assistance from the Co-op Local Community Fund.

We originally put in an application to help fund our free singing workshop, held as part of last year's Hailsham Festival. After an initial mix-up between Hailsham and Halstead, the Co-op have been superb in their support and we'd like to say a big thank you for their generous assistance.

For some photos of the workshop, see our gallery page.

(Simon Marsden : May 2017)

Handel, Hailsham Choral, and All Saints, Eastbourne

Concert Review by Robin Gregory

Jozik Kotz (pronounce that Yewjik, approximately) has been Musical Director of Hailsham Choral Society for more than a decade. His choir is, by now, undoubtedly one of the finest in this area; and a double-dose of Handel at All Saints Church on March 25th certainly bore out this judgment.

Painting of Handel

One of the works performed (Messiah) is well-known, though there are very many alternative ways of playing it. The other (Dettingham Te Deum) is seldom heard, so it was well-judged to describe the work's background in a nicely-produced 12-page programme. Wise, too, to place Dettingham before the interval, thus enabling the audience to go home with the Hallelujah Chorus ringing in their ears.

Handel planned this Te Deum as a grand celebration of a British victory over the French in July 1743. Unfortunately its first performance was five months delayed, and took place in the tiny Chapel Royal of St James's Palace. We were privileged to hear it in the relatively spacious acoustic of All Saints Church. Choir, orchestra and soloists showed throughout that they had assimilated the composer's grand intentions. The strings, led by Brian Knights, seemed to relish a work which was probably new to most of them, and there was some fine solo trumpet in “Thou art the King of Glory”, “Day by Day” and “In Thee have I Trusted”. The substantial solos for bass voice were commandingly delivered by Daniel Jordan, who never seemed to suffer the problems of a baritone singing a bass role. Rebecca Anstey (mezzo-soprano, but singing contralto) brought great beauty of tone to the concluding section of a work we should hear more often.

Messiah Part Two showed the performers on home territory. The choir was responsive to every nuance of Jozik's conducting, with the balance between male and female voices perfect. There were a few surprises: for example “He was cut off” and the following “But thou didst not leave” were shown on the programme as to be sung by the soprano, but in fact were projected by the magnificent tenor voice of Stephen Rooke. Catrin Woodruff was, however, able to display her high, bright soprano voice in “Thou art gone up” and “How beautiful are the feet”. The exquisite aria “He was despised” enabled Rebecca to produce her most tender tone with real feeling: something rare in big oratorios. Stephen's fine tenor-sound (more Pavarotti than Heddle Nash) was heard again in “Thy Rebuke” and “Behold and See”.

Evenings like this don't happen by chance. They need ample focussed rehearsal, and no doubt their rehearsal pianist Colin Hughes had contributed his musical skills on many occasions. He played keyboard continuo at the performance.

The choir will be singing Stainer's Crucifixion on April 14th at Hailsham Parish Church, and Rutter's Magnificat in the Civic Community Hall on July 1st. We eagerly look forward to their next appearance in Eastbourne.

(Review by Robin Gregory : March 2017)


Not hooray that the festive season is over, but hooray that we are going back to our weekly rehearsal schedule. Most of us have of course been singing both before and since our own Christmas concert on December 16th, when Barbara, our deputy conductor, arranged a programme of round-the-world carols. It should be noted however, that, contrary to a report in the local press, this was called ‘Travel for a Carol’, and not ‘Travel for a Camel’, though these were presumed to be in attendance with the Three Kings.

Carol singing at Lime Cross Nursery

Carol Singing at Lime Cross Nursery

Now preparing for our spring concert, we are looking forward to seeing Jozik up front, once again telling us that of course we can sing whatever tricky bit is currently under the microscope. The programme features choral works by Handel: his Dettingen Te Deum, and the Easter section from Messiah. Probably no-one in the choir knows the first piece, but despite the fact that Messiah is well-known and sung by all of us, don't think that half our rehearsals will be a doddle! It's very easy to settle into an ‘I know this’ frame of mind and not pay attention to the quality of the words or the singing, but that is never allowed. We shall just have to come to both works as completely new, and hope that comes over to our audience when the concert arrives. Really looking forward to that!

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne January 2017)

Concert Review : “Ambition pays off for All Saints Choral Concert”


On November 12th 2016, Hailsham Choral Society presented, at All Saints Church, arguably the most ambitious concert in Eastbourne for many years. Under the title “Glories of European Church Music” we had items from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. Bach, Handel, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky and Vaughan Williams are household names; but in addition we heard Gabrieli, Lotti, Monteverdi, Handl (also known as Gallus), Lassus, Buxtehude and Bruckner. Mercifully the superb 16-page printed programme was a mine of well-written information, compiled by choir-member Ian Fry.

The concert was dedicated to Caroline Hunt, who died in June. She sang with the Society almost literally to her dying day. And there could have been no greater tribute to her than the evening‘s magical performance.

Conductor Jozik Kotz, and organist Colin Hughes, drew magnificent singing from every part of the choir. Whether the demand was for a whispered pianissimo or a blazing forte, it was forthcoming. Whether the text was in German, Russian or English, everything was clear, audible and balanced.

The baritone soloist in Vaughan Williams‘s Five Mystical Songs, Bach‘s Quia Fecit and Buxtehude‘s Magnificat was Daniel Jordan, Director of Music at Eastbourne College. He impressed with his evenness over the entire baritone range, and his immersion in the music. He will be a fine addition to the soloists available in the Eastbourne area. Equally impressive was the fact that several solo parts were taken most ably by members of the choir.

During the interval I ran into Colin Tarn, a former conductor of the same Choral Society. Colin‘s musical background was vast, ranging from musical direction of several London shows, to sparkling jazz pianism, and a sense of musical humour that was even more persuasive than Victor Borge. His generous comment on the evening of music-making we were enjoying was, “If I could have got even a tenth of that quality when I was conducting the Society I‘d have been well-satisfied”. So don‘t take my personal glowing report as “gospel”. A real expert was even more admiring.

(Review by Robin Gregory : Nov 2016)

Free singing workshop a big success

Hailsham Festival has always been a bit of a problem for us because of the timing. It’s something that we’re very keen to support, but it comes just after the long summer holiday when the choir doesn’t rehearse so it is hard for us to put on a concert during the Festival.

This year we decided to try something new, a free singing workshop open to everyone, no previous experience or ability to read music necessary!

We were very pleased with just how well it went, with over fifty people coming together for a morning of singing, including a lot of new faces. Many thanks to our musical director, Jozik Kotz, for leading us in a day of laughter and music making.

If you would like to be put on our mailing list for future events please sign up on our Friends page.

Free singing workshop

(Simon Marsden November 2016)

Not Singing in the Rain!

Singing in the town centre

On Saturday 10th September a small group from Hailsham Choral entertained shoppers at the Hailsham Street Market, led by our assistant MD Barbara Edwards, in an event to publicise our singing workshop.

We were really lucky with the weather as the rain held off just long enough for us to finish performing and get the electric piano safely packed away!

Thank you to Barbara and everyone who took part.

(Simon Marsden September 2016)

Hailsham Choral take part in world premiere

Pevensey poster
Recently Hailsham Choral were delighted to take part in a fund raising concert for St Nicolas Church, Pevensey, which celebrates its 800th anniversary this year.

The main event of the evening was the first performance of a brand new composition The True St Nicolas written by local composers Ruth Kenward and Martin Neill and also featuring a choir of children from Pevensey and Westham Primary School. The children’s choir was formed specially for the occasion and sang superbly.

For a review of the concert see here.

(Simon Marsden July 2016)

Haydn and Mozart impress : Full house at All Saints

ROBIN GREGORY reviews Hailsham Choral Society’s performance of two great works

Haydn (1732 - 1809) was a generation older than Mozart, yet he outlived the younger composer by some eighteen years. Hailsham Choral Society’s decision to perform Haydn’s St Nicholas Mass of 1772 immediately before Mozart’s Requiem, which was left incomplete at the composer’s death in 1791, was a masterstroke. Their printed Programme contained superb essays dealing with the composers’ friendship and mutual admiration.

Hailsham Choral Society, under their conductor for ten years Jozik Kotz, brought passion, conviction and musical insight to both works. All Saints, Eastbourne proved an ideal venue for the Haydn Mass: welcoming, full, and acoustically appropriate. From the very start Eastbourne’s Mayor, Janet Coles, enjoyed a performance that did full justice to this half-hour of incomparable choral music. The 30-piece orchestra (led by Lisa Wigmore) was in great form, the choir had clearly been brought to perfection at just the right moment, and the four soloists could not have been better chosen. Lyric soprano Noa Lachman and mezzo Rebecca Anstey used their very different voices to great effect, blending when required, each with individual beauty in solo passages. Tenor Stephen Rooke displayed both power and delicacy as required: a voice that has been honed in the opera-house without ever losing its bloom. Riccardo Simonetti (baritone) showed that winning the Anne Ziegler Award (mis-spelled in the programme) while still at college was no accident.

Mozart’s Requiem was completed by Sussmayr, and the printed programme described the stressful process that brought this about. Though it is often said that he was not the equal of Mozart, the fact is that in a performance as convincing as that given on the 19th of March at All Saints we are forever in his debt. This masterwork duly received an extended ovation, well-deserved by choir, orchestra and the same four soloists.

Hailsham’s fine Choral Society can be heard in Pevensey’s 800 year-old St Nicholas Church at 7 pm on June 11th. They give a Summer Concert in Hailsham’s Community Hall at 3 pm on July 3rd, and are back at Eastbourne’s All Saints on November 12th.

(Review by Robin Gregory : Mar 2016)

Bringing Rossini to Eastbourne

Arriving early for the concert at All Saints Church on November 7 (in the hope of avoiding Eastbourne’s parking difficulties) I had time to study the printed programme. Four illustrated pages contained a superb account by choir member Ian Fry of Rossini’s life.

This placed the night’s single work in the context of the composer’s brilliant career. In addition I was able to read biographies of the four soloists: an impressive line-up indeed. Noa Lachman has recently established herself as one of the best lyric sopranos hereabouts; Rebecca Anstey is a mezzo with the tone and range to sing as a contralto when required; tenor Stephen Rooke is equally at home in opera as in oratorio (an essential in the Petite Messe Solennelle, the night’s undertaking); and Riccardo Simonetti is a widely experienced baritone.

Rossini’s Messe is by no means Petite. This remarkable setting of the Latin Mass was his last major work, and all his vast operatic experience is therein. It was an inspiration on the part of conductor Jozik Kotz to give us a performance with the composer’s original accompaniment of piano and harmonium, though of course the latter was electronically activated. Colin Hughes (who can turn his hand to organ, piano and violin with equal facility) and John Ross (distinguished organist joining the Hailsham forces for the first time) were the two keyboard rocks on which Jozik built his superb musical edifice.

Throughout, the Hailsham Choral Society was beyond any criticism. The quiet passages never lost balance, the tone was round and smooth, and the climaxes (as in the great Amen which ends the Resurrexit) were spine-tingling. Some of the solo items deserve special mention too: the thrilling power of Stephen Rooke’s Domine Deus; the ethereal beauty of Noa Lachman’s O salutaris; the manner in which harmonium merged into the wonderfully-played piano’s Preludio Religioso; the combination of power with spirituality in Rebecca Anstey’s closing Agnus Dei.

The Hailsham Choral Society is back in Eastbourne with Mozart and Haydn on March 19 next year. Unmissable!

(Review by Robin Gregory : Nov 2015)

Entente cordiale

Gournay rehearsalNo matter if relations in the political world between France and UK are at times a little frosty, down at ground level, at least in East Sussex, they are flourishing. Both Hailsham and its twin town Gournay-en-Bray have choirs, and the last weekend in September our French compatriots were welcomed here. It was a short visit as they arrived on Saturday and left on Sunday afternoon, but it was packed with good things.

Having met the visitors at Hailsham, they were welcomed into the homes of various members of our own choir and given lunch, then everyone returned to Hailsham for an afternoon rehearsal in Hailsham Parish Church. The music was varied, with French traditional songs, extracts from Fauré's Requiem, English traditional songs and church Anthems. In the evening concert, each choir sang half the programme, then both choirs sang together, with both conductors taking a turn. The evening was rounded off with the joyous Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah.

On Sunday the English hosts were left free to entertain their guests in whatever way they fancied, but all aimed to give their guests a taste of something local. Some enjoyed walks on the Downs or by the sea, some had lunch in one of our many local country pubs, and quite a few enjoyed a meal at the Beach Deck reataurant in Eastbourne, right on the seafront which was a treat for people who live a long way from the sea in France.

Leaving from Hailsham was full of hugs and thank you's and here's to the next time. We're pretty certain there will be one!

Gournay farewell

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne October 2015)

Noteworthy Composer

If you're thinking about joining Hailsham Choral you may be interested in a new page on this website which describes Noteworthy Composer (NWC), a Windows program that helps you to learn the music. Many of the works we sing are available in NWC format and it's a very useful tool for mastering your part. To learn more about Noteworthy Composer, click here. (Opens in a fresh window.)

Easter 2015

My goodness, our main concert has suddenly appeared in front of us, not just on the horizon.

Besides the works already decided for the programme, we now also have some more beautiful Purcell, the Funeral Sentences for Queen Mary. That sounds rather downbeat admittedly, and though a very different view of death existed in the 17th Century, the words are still found today in the funeral service in the Book of Common Prayer. From the fascinating details Ian Fry (our regular, brilliant, programme creator) has supplied, it seems modern scholarship shows that of the three ‘sentences’ we are singing, only one of them was actually written for the Queen’s funeral, the original, earlier, one by another composer having been lost. For us in this century, however, this is not important, and provides three wonderful solemn pieces, quite different from anything we have sung before. In bright contrast, the joyful nature of Purcell’s Te Deum and Jubilate are more than enough to cheer anyone up!

With these pieces followed by Haydn’s ‘Nelson’ Mass, we have been enjoined by Jozik to ‘sing every day to build up stamina’, which is certainly needed. Not easy for everyone to fit in perhaps, but any extra singing helps, so we hope to stay the course in full voice and do justice to these great works.

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne March 2015)

Happy New Year

And HAPPY NEW YEAR to all our readers – if any there are! A new year, a new set of music to learn or re-learn, depending on what the music happens to be, but very different from that of the previous month. We did a lot of carol singing in December, not only our own concert in the Community Hall, some of us also sang with Bede’s School’s candlelight service in St. Saviour’s, Eastbourne, round the Christmas tree in Hailsham on the late shopping evening, and in Chapter 12 in Hailsham, where we were joined by the voices of many enthustiastic customers!

Something a little more serious now, Haydn and Purcell. Haydn’s ‘Nelson Mass’ is a favourite both with singers and with audiences, and a lot of us have sung it before. However, it’s very interesting to discover that, though you might have sung it, the bits you sing to yourself around the house from time to time are not necessarily accurate. Going back to the copy is something of a salutary experience. The two Purcell pieces, his Te Deum and Jubilate are new to most of us, so our first January rehearsal was for many a sight-reading one. It isn’t especially tricky, but because the music interweaves with a solo quartet, you have to keep your wits about you, not to sing in the solo bits – and to come in at the right moment when you should.

We have one other work to rehearse and perform. Every other year at Easter we sing a sacred work in the Hailsham parish church on Good Friday, and this year it’s Maunder’s Olivet to Calvary. It’s less familiar to some than Stainer’s Crucifixion, so some of us will have a fair bit to work at in our personal practice time.

We had several potential new singers at the first rehearsal, and new blood is always welcome, so we are all looking forward to increasing our membership in the near future.

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne January 2015)

Choir turns problem into triumph

Eastbourne is a town where lovers of choral singing can enjoy performances by an abundance of good choirs. A “Concert for the Eve of Remembrance Sunday” at All Saints Church showed the talented Hailsham Choral Society in fine form. Yet conductor Jozik Kotz had been obliged to concoct an entirely new programme with only a few weeks’ notice when circumstances forced the abandonment of the work already in preparation.

In the event, those who braved a stormy night were rewarded with some fine singing and playing. And what a range of music we heard: Haydn, Mozart, Bruckner, Parry, Handel, Bernstein, Guest and Neal. Furthermore, a remarkable line-up of soloists was added to the unfailing beauty of tone which Jozik drew from his choir. Twenty-three year old soprano Nia Coleman filled the church with golden sound in Mozart’s Laudate Dominum and Dona nobis pacem, and in Handel’s How beautiful are the feet and Let the bright seraphim. Hers is a lyric voice already under complete control: she will go far.

Soloists Ben Hancox-Lachman joined Nia as soloist in Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. He is just thirteen, the son of pianist William Hancox and soprano Noa Lachman. Soon he will face the moment when his present liquid treble will “break”, but his musically-gifted parents will give him sound advice. In the unlikely event of his singing voice “vanishing” he is already no mean cellist!

The solo harp in the Psalms was none other than Jane Lister, who had recorded the part with the composer conducting. Fabian Edwards was percussionist par excellence in this noble work: no surprise, as he had earlier in the programme played Gorymdaith (Procession), a five-minute display of varied (sometimes remorseless) percussionism by Alex Neal (born in Colchester, 1971).

Other items included Motets by Bruckner, Blest Pair of Sirens and Songs of Farewell by Parry, and For the Fallen by Douglas Guest. Throughout, the organ or keyboard was played to perfection by Colin Hughes. Jozik proved once again that he is an all-round musician (his baritone singing and his conducting skills are well known) by playing the oboe in Let the Bright Seraphim. From within the choir Pam Russell, Marcus Haddow and GrahamKeeley sang their solo passages with assurance.

This is a choir with depth. Bass Ian Fry, I learn, compiled the thorough, informative and readable printed programme. Their carol concert is on Dec 18th in Hailsham, and then on March 21st they are back at All Saints with Haydn’s Nelson Mass.

(Robin Gregory)

Hailsham Twinning Visit - September 2014

It’s a long time since any news has appeared on the ‘News’ page of our website, but don’t think we have been idling our time away or have disappeared from the face of the earth. None of us is very sure where the first eight months of 2014 have gone, we have rehearsed each week, sung two of our four annual concerts, and are amazed to find ourselves rehearsing for the third, taking place on November 8, a wonderful collection of mostly sacred music from (among others) Bernstein, Bruckner and Parry.

But most fresh in our minds is the wonderful weekend we have just spent in Hailsham’s twin-town, Gournay-en-Bray in Normandy. The Hailsham & District Twinning Association (http://www.hailsham-tc.gov.uk/twinning.html) invited us to participate, and twenty-two of our choir members joined Hailsham residents on the trip. We were to sing in a joint concert with the choir of the host town, and a comfortably un-full coach left Eastbourne with the first pick-up at 6 a.m. on Friday 21st September. The route was then Hailsham – Dover for the ferry – Rouen, where we met some of the Gournay twinning committee. We had a couple of hours there, with an optional guided tour to some of the highlights of the city, and time for thirst-quenching drink at a café near the Cathedral precinct. (This could be considered to have been a major influence in our decision to go on the visit!) The coach then continued to Gournay where we met the generous people who were hosting the visitors.

What a melée, but thanks to the efficiency of Wai Lin, the Gournay Twinning organiser, our own choir secretary Jan, and Pauline, Secretary of Hailsham Twinning, we all knew who we were looking for. So with each half looking for the other half, it got sorted pretty quickly. And what lovely people they were. Not all of them spoke any English, and not all of us spoke any French, but it’s amazing what you can do with goodwill, a determination to be understood, and dictionary. We were taken off to our respective homes for the next two nights and fed royally there.

Gournay had pulled out all the stops (please note the musical allusion) to entertain us. Saturday morning was a visit to a local historic village, Gerberoy, classed among the most beautiful villages in France. It has abundant early 17th century properties, and a particulary beautiful garden created by an artist associated with the Impressionists, Henri le Sidaner. We spent an hour there, wandering about the different ‘coloured’ gardens, the sun shone and we took loads of photographs, many of which you can see on our ‘Gallery’ page. It still attracts artists today, and there are exhibitions of their work both in their workshops and in the Tourist Office. After returning to Gournay we were treated to a sumptuous lunch provided by members of the local twinning association and the Gournay choir. Both choir presidents spoke a few words in the other’s language, with our Pam doing brilliantly in spite of nerves!

After lunch another trip, this time to a Chateau Fort, the site of what we call a ‘Motte and Bailey’, or a high mound where a wooden fort once stood, which played an important part in the war against England when Jeanne d’Arc entered the history books. Back home with stormclouds overhead to a rehearsal in the church, more food (mostly left after the generous lunch!) and changing into our choir uniforms for the concert.

No concert anywhere in France ever seems to start at the stated time (8 o’clock in this case), but people were arriving by 7.15 – they had over an hour to wait, but I can assure you it was worth it! The Gournay choir sang pieces by Palestrina, Vivaldi, Saint-Sa”ns and Fauré, (among other things his Cantique de Jean Racine,which we were invited unexpectedly to sing with them, which we did entirely without copies). After a Bach entr’acte played by one of the hosts, Anne-Claire Huet, on the magnificent 18th century organ, we took over with a programme which illustrated the range of the music we sing. ‘Domini Fili’ from Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria’ a Bruckner gradual, two King’s Singers numbers, Parry, and Gibbs’ ‘The Soldier’, finishing with the 1st World War medley from our summer concert. Perhaps the proudest moment ot our lives – a standing ovation and a call for an encore! ‘Mairi’s Wedding’ had been a huge hit, so we sang it again. Finally the Gournay choir joined us on the platform for Mozart’s ‘Ave Verum’, the Cantique, and Verdi’s Hebrew Slaves’ chorus from Nabucco. These also were greeted with great enthusiasm, leading to another encore with the Verdi.

A return to the Parish hall for pancakes and drinks wound up a hugely successful day. We were leaving at 11 o’clock the next morning, so spent the last night with our hosts and left in the morning for what turned out to be a long day with some delays along the way, but nothing could really spoil what had been a fantastic weekend, and one which we hope can be repeated in the future.

Many thanks to everyone in the Twinning Associations in Gournay and Hailsham, especially to Wai Lin in Gournay and Pauline in Hailsham, who invited us, organised us, and made us feel so welcome.

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne September 2014)

Local school shines at choral concert - All Saints, April 5th

Fauré was a nineteen year old student when he wrote the prize-winning “Cantique de Jean Racine”. In it is the unmistakeable sound that will make him one of France’s favourite composers, and within its five minute span one can judge the quality of any choir which sings it. Conductor Jozik Kotz drew a magically spiritual sound from the Hailsham Choral Society, admirably accompanied on All Saints Church’s fine organ by Colin Hughes, who is now well-established as Director of Music at Bede’s School.

Duruflé’s Requiem was composed between 1941 and 47, but there is nothing “modern” about it. It looks back to Fauré’s Requiem. Indeed, much of its inspiration derives from far-earlier Plainsong. It is establishing itself as a popular choice by choirs who can enter its other-worldliness without losing the musical impetus. Jozik is himself a fine singer with an established career, and I suspect he spent a lot of time at rehearsal drawing the necessary subtlety from his performers. The result was a rendering that seemed to integrate every thread into a magic calm. Colin Hughes (organ) and soloists Nia Coleman and James Proctor were part of this magic.

There’s nothing “modern” about John Rutter’s “Mass of the Children” either, even though its first performance was in New York a mere eleven years ago, conducted by the composer. It’s a big challenge, with children performing alongside an adult choir. The score is unfailingly tuneful, but it bristles with moments when musical discipline can fail, and not all conductors can integrate their resources for this forty-minute show-piece. On this occasion we were treated to a marvellous example of how it should be done. The Bede’s Choir had clearly been taught to sing properly by Colin Hughes. The same soloists (Nia and James) were an integral part of the whole rather than being spot-lit celebrities. The Hailsham Choral Society was on fine form. No wonder the former Head of Bede’s (bravely nursing a serious ski injury) had a smile on his face. There was one on mine too.

(Robin Gregory)

How to put on a great choral concert....

Imagine you are the conductor of a large choral society. You know your singers well - their strengths and their limitations.
You choose to stretch them to the limit, confident they will rise to the occasion.
Next book a venue and a date - Saturday, November 9 and All Saints Church in Eastbourne. There you can be sure church manager, 'Andie' Anderson, will welcome you with a smile and a warm building.
You decide to present a complete performance of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas as Part One, and that requires several soloists. They don't come cheap, so you begin by thinking carefully about choir members with the ability to carry a solo part.
You decide Fiona and Marcus Haddow, Rachel Chilton and Christina Lynn will make fine Witches, Spirits and a Sailor, but you'd better be sure the role of Dido and her handmaid Belinda are in very gifted hands.
And here's where local knowledge pays off, because you know Bede's School has a fine mezzo who teaches there, and that an outstanding lyric soprano lives in Herstmonceux.
You book Rebecca Anstey and Noa Lachman. Oops, almost forgot the tenor. Give Richard Ogden a buzz. He has Eastbourne connections (College), and sings with the Oxford Clerks. Relief - he's available.
Job done? Oh dear, no! You need an orchestra. Choose a leader - vastly experienced Lisa Wigmore says she can be there. Somehow, you put together a large band of experienced musicians. Just as well, for the demands on them will be considerable.
Nothing much to do now except rehearse, encourage, inspire, think of transport, study scores, arrange for a useful and informative printed programme, arrange drinks for the interval...
Lucky the man in charge, conductor and musical director Jozik Kotz, has sung at Glyndebourne, Paris, Vienna, Zurich, Madrid .................
So how did they all do? Wonderfully.
Hailsham Choral Society has made a 'home' at All Saints, and there's a big audience, including the Mayors of Eastbourne and Hailsham. The opening opera goes well. The ex-choir soloists give confident, characterful performances and Noa Lachman's exquisite lyric soprano sits perfectly on the playing of the orchestra.
Rebecca Anstey not only covers the range demanded of a Dido, but doubles as the Sorceress, where she wears a fetching silver mask to add a touch of menace.
Richard Ogden sings musically, conveying the dilemma facing Aeneas. A good first half indeed!
Part Two is, if anything, even more amazing. Choir, orchestra and Noa waft many a gentle breeze in Idomeneo. This is the best of Mozart, and he must have been smiling to hear such ravishing sounds.
Change of mood. The Polovtsian Dances from Borodin's Prince Igor. Jozik wields the whip, demands a swift tempo, and gets it. Choir and orchestra respond, and the boom-ta-ra, boom-ta-ra section almost topples the church steeple.
We are relieved (once the applause dies away) to hear both Noa and Rebecca safely outside the "Cav" Church, joining the choir in Mascagni's Easter Hymn.
This beautiful interlude in what is now thought of as the first verismo opera was followed by another mood-change: Rebecca is now Bizet's Carmen in the Habanera: not too sexy (this is a church, after all), but secure and foot-tapping over the entire vocal range.
The concert ends with three of Verdi's hits. Unbelievably he was born 200 years ago, but the excerpts from Traviata, Nabucco and Aida sound as fresh as ever.
By now chorus and orchestra are in full flight, and there's some stunning brass to be heard above the soaring strings.
This was, surely, the best ten-quid's worth in town - an evening to make even the wind and rain bearable!

(Robin Gregory: Taken from Eastbourne Herald - 22nd November 2013)

Change Gear!

The 2013 summer concert in Hailsham’s Civic Community Hall was something rather different, featuring songs from musicals by Rogers and Hammerstein and others, and was a somewhat informal affair, for which the choir’s regular uniform seemed rather, well, formal! Instead of evening dress with red bow ties for the men, and fitted red blouses with black skirts for the ladies, only the black lower half was constant. Above that, you could say anything goes, as long as it had some red in it. The resultant mix was just right for singing Cockney songs from Oliver! and cowboy songs from Oklahoma, all of which the singers tackled with spirit and great success (if some though not all were a bit glued to their music) under the batons of Jozik Kotz and Barbara Edwards.

When presenting a programme of music from many different sources, it isn’t always easy to achieve either a balance of content or a balance of choir against solo voices, but it all worked well in the event. The first half featured numbers not only from Oliver!, but My Fair Lady and Les Misérables (with an unexpected but always welcome bonus solo from Jozik). The plaintive ‘All I want is a room somewhere’ from Hilary Hartley was soft and expressive, while ‘On my own’ from Jo Firth (from Les Misérables) was really moving.

In the second half we moved on to classic American musicals South Pacific and Oklahoma. Both these shows feature complicated plots, and the thread of connection to make the numbers make sense was ably and amusingly presented by Wendy Pengelly. The songs themselves had everyone in the audience tapping their feet, and Marcus and Fiona Haddow scored a real hit with ‘People will say we’re in love’, not just singing the notes but acting the parts too. The other number which really brought the house down featured Brian Maskell and Simon Marsden, (as the hero Curley and anti-hero Judd from Oklahoma) singing ‘Poor Judd is dead’.

Good harmony singing, excellent solo singing, strong leads from both conductors ensuring everyone came in or out at the right moment, with a social break with wine and soft drinks in the interval – what a great way to spend an evening.

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne June 29th 2013)

Report of Concert from Wendy Pengelly

As a member of HCS I rarely have the opportunity of listening to the choir at a concert but a hectic house move in April led to my pulling out of the Swiss concert so we had a family outing to the concert comprising myself, my Mum and my 2 daughters. It was a great mixed selection of music which had something for all of us. Laura and Alex recognised the Hallelujah Chorus while Zadok has always been a favourite of Mum’s since HCS sang it at our wedding, back in 1997! For me the three Bruckner pieces were wonderful and really showed off the choir at its best. It showed how hard all the MDs had been working to achieve that standard with 2 groups of singers who only came together 2 nights previously.

(Wendy Pengelly - May 2013)

Switzerland and Hailsham in Eastbourne

The place to be on May 11th was All Saints Church, Eastbourne. Not only was there no entry charge, but the Hailsham Choral Society was joined by a choir from Rütihof, a small Swiss township some 20 miles from Zurich. The printed programme revealed that there were to be four soloists and an orchestra led by Lisa Wigmore.

Jozik Kotz conducted the first two items: one by Monteverdi, one by Handel (Zadok the Priest). Pius Jeck (of Rütihof) was in charge for Mozart’s Ave Verum. It was immediately apparent that the two choirs blended perfectly. Then Noa Lachman, with orchestra and choir, sang Mozart’s ravishing Laudate Dominum. Her limpid tone, perfect phrasing and effortless range are qualities that are fast making her known as one of the finest lyric sopranos in the area.

Thereafter we were offered delight after delight. First, accompanied solely by the orchestra’s fine keyboard-player [Colin Hughes], each soloist gave us a Mozart operatic aria. Tenor Richard Ogden sang one of Mozart’s most difficult: Il Mio Tesoro (from Giovanni), displaying an easy upward range and splendid breath control, but perhaps missing the operatic anger which provides the motivation for all those notes. Mezzo Rebecca Anstey was in full command of the varied facets of her item from Clemenza. Noa Lachman delivered an appropriately liquid Porgi Amor from Figaro.

The feast was not over! We had more Mozart, including the four-movement Eine Kleine Nachtmusik to which the small orchestra was ideally suited. Pius Jeck conducted the choirs, the orchestra and four soloists (Jozik had left the podium to sing bass) in Gounod’s Messe Br‘ve. Jozik took charge of some magical unaccompanied singing in Bruckner’s deceptively modern-seeming Anthems. (Can Bruckner really have been born well before Brahms?) And the evening ended with the Halleujah Chorus from Messiah, with great brass-playing, and both choirs climbing higher and higher into the heavens. An evening that will stay in the memory!

(Robin Gregory - May 13th 2013)

Hailsham International!

After months of planning, we have enjoyed a wonderful weekend of music and socialising with our friends from the St Cäcila choir from Rütihof in Switzerland. Most of the group arrived at Gatwick on Thursday 9 May, a few early arrivals had come the day before, and they were extending their UK visit for a week or more for a full holiday. The coach from Gatwick to Eastbourne had a scheduled stop at the Halland Forge, and that was the first of several shared meals over the weekend. It then went on to the Pier Hotel on Eastbourne seafront, a treat for visitors from a country with no marine boundaries.

We started the singing part of the activities that evening in a joint rehearsal of the concert programme, getting the feel of singing with unfamiliar voices, and not necessarily next to the usual neighbour. This can be unsettling for some people, but it’s all good for forcing us out of the comfort zones we usually inhabit. Jozik, ever eager to push boundaries, had brought extra copies of the two Bruckner pieces which we first sang eighteen months ago, so that any of our Swiss visitors who wanted to could join in, and bravely, most of them did. The pieces are very challenging and not the easiest to tackle on only two rehearsals, but they managed it. Naturally quite a lot of people from both choirs went back to the hotel for refreshment after such arduous singing.

Friday was free for the HCS members, when everyone from Rütihof went on a coach to Brighton for a guided tour (in German) round the Royal Pavilion, and a day of sightseeing in the town. The evening was reserved for a buffet party held in The Brasserie in the Enterprise Centre, which was full of the English trying their very few (in some cases) words of German, and our visitors mostly managing very happily in English! Saturday followed with the traditional afternoon rehearsal with orchestra and soloists (who were all excellent), and the evening concert with quite a large and very appreciative audience. The evening rounded off with more socialising, this time with aperitifs and snacks and more attempts at cross-language conversation in the beautiful hall attached to All Saints church. Almost at at end, on Sunday nearly everyone got together for the last time (this visit) for lunch at the Beach Deck, finishing in time for the coach to leave for Gatwick at 3pm, with hugs and thanks all round. If you, dear reader, have managed to reach the end of this report, let me only emphasise two truths expressed by many people this weekend: what a joy it is to share music, and how unnecessary it is to worry about not sharing the same language.

Will we do it again? What a silly question.

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne May 13th 2013)

Spring rehearsals

It takes a while after the excesses of Christmas to get back into our weekly sing, voices croaky with too much alcohol and not enough practice perhaps! The weather is sometimes against us, but we’ve been lucky so far, cold evenings, yes, wet evening, yes, but fortunately no snow-covered roads.

We have a lot of pieces of music to work on in preparation for the visit of our Swiss friends in May. The timing has meant a re-arrangement of our normal concert schedule, as what would have been our pre-Easter concert is on Saturday 11 May and will be shared with the singers from the Swiss choir. As an extra we are giving Stainer’s ‘Crucifixion’ in the Hailsham Parish Church on Good Friday, a work with which many of us are very familiar, so we can perform it without having to use too many rehearsals stolen from the May programme.

As ever Jozik is trying to improve our technique, and has pointed out that we’d produce an even better sound with fifteen minutes or so of proper singing every day. Humming along to a recording or using the website to rehearse is fine, but doesn’t really give the voice the workout it needs. We all know it’s true, but it’s a bit like knowing we should do a half-hour walk at least three times a week, but not doing it. Self-discipline is so hard, if only someone would invent an equivalent of Weight Watchers so we could meet others who are struggling and offer each other support. Not sure what would take the place of the weekly weigh-in though – all suggestions welcome!

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne January 2013)

Concert for the Eve of Rememberance Day

ROBIN GREGORY reviews Vaughan Williams and Puccini at All Saints’ Church, Eastbourne.

Golden Rules for Choral Societies to ensure a great evening: first, choose a warm, welcoming venue; second, offer music that is a little out of the ordinary but which is packed with tunes; third, provide an informative programme booklet; and fourth, Work! Work! Work! On November 10th everything came right for the visit to Eastbourne of immensely talented conductor Jozik Kotz with the Hailsham Choral Society. Not only were the “rules” carried out to the letter, but the choir, soloists and orchestra were in great form.

Dona Nobis Pacem by Ralph Vaughan Williams is a demanding work mainly composed in 1936 but using a composition from 1911 as one of its six movements. The orchestra (un-named, but led by well-known Lisa Wigmore) numbered some three dozen instrumentalists, and their playing under the conductor’s clear beat was well up to the great demands made on it. The Hailsham Choral Society gave a thoroughly committed account of a masterpiece which sets words by Walt Whitman, passages from the Bible, the Latin Mass, and a speech dating from the days of the Crimean War. Inevitably some of the words were drowned by RVW’s orchestration at times, which is why a clearly-printed programme that offers listeners the texts is so important.

This account of one of the less-heard triumphs of the English choral tradition had three secret weapons: soloists of exceptional quality. Noa Lachman lives locally and is as good a lyric soprano as one could hope to hear anywhere. Her floated pianissimos and her unfailing musicality would have delighted the composer, who would have been equally enthusiastic about the bass-baritone Edward Price. This duo’s tonal beauty, power and insight were an irresistible combination.

The other work was by Puccini: a Mass usually billed as Messa di Gloria, though the title was incorrectly chosen by a publisher as late as 1951. (A true Messa di Gloria has only a Kyrie and a Gloria, whereas Puccini’s work has in addition a Credo, a Sanctus, and an Agnus Dei.) Again, fine singing and playing, with Welsh tenor Stephen Rooke’s ringing Nessun Dorma-like voice in evidence, and Edward Price ably singing both baritone and bass parts. The orchestra and choir, refreshed after the interval, were (shall we say) “gentler” than in the RVW work, but that is just as it should be. We were delighted to have had such a fine evening which gave us all the opportunity to become familiar with two works that deserve more exposure than they have had hitherto.

(Robin Gregory 12th Nov 2012)


We’ve recently moved back into the Hailsham Community Hall after its re-furbishment, and after over a year of rehearsing in very cramped conditions, it’s a relief to get back to a venue where we can spread out and talk to friends more easily in our break. The acoustic seems to be a bit different, maybe because the ceiling is lower than it was, but it’s light and bright. Even better to report, we have a large cupboard on the premises where we can keep our electronic piano, music stand, notice board, and all the bits and pieces which noble volunteers have been bringing in every week for years.

We have been working hard on the challenging music for the spring concert, Puccini and Vaughan Williams, and everyone seems to have followed Jozik’s request to put a lot of work in for themselves before general rehearsals started in September. It’s hard, but it is coming together (we hope Jozik thinks so too!). Our concert workshop was a few weeks ago, it’s a very valuable day, giving us a chance to build on the practice as the day progresses. It also gives a chance for some extra socialising, both in tea and coffee breaks, and at lunch in the pub.

After our fantastic 50th anniversary year, we are now looking ahead to May 2013 when our Swiss friends are coming to share a concert weekend with us. We had such a great weekend when we visited them in 2009, even the weather was wonderful. Shame we can’t guarantee that, but the hospitality and the music-making we can match.

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne November 2012)

50 Years Young.

Fifty years sounds a long time, and if you say half a century, it sounds even longer! Nevertheless, that’s what we’ve been celebrating this past year, Hailsham Choral Society was founded in 1961. We’ve had some great events during the past twelve months, all designed to celebrate our enjoyment of music, singing and great friends.

Our first golden event was Messiah in November 2011, a work which perhaps many may view as just an ‘old favourite’. Of course it is that, but such a glorious piece, it seems the ideal oratorio for celebrations, quite apart from which we sang it for our 30th and 40th (just a little early) in 2000 for the Millennium. The unusual feature was that it was a free concert, though with a retiring collection, and it was a joy to have St Saviour’s and St Peter’s Church straining at the seams. More and more chairs had to be fetched out from the hall so people could be seated. Even more unusual was the fact that, instead of each voice part sitting in its own section, we were all mixed up with just two or three voice parts together in any seats. A challenge for all of us with the safety belts unattached! From the audience point of view, or rather, point of hearing, the sound is apparently very balanced so it was a great success. Apart from Brian Blackmar, the original conductor, almost all other MDs were present.

Musical DirectorsThese were welcomed again when we had our anniversary lunch in May at the Boship Hotel. Almost all choir members were there to enjoy champagne and a three-course lunch, and a feature which attracted a lot of interest, the choir archives. These large scrap books contain press cuttings, programmes and photographs from the very beginning, and make fascinating reading, not to mention a great many trips down memory lane. The photos show many social occasions; coffee mornings, walks, Christmas parties and holidays, all testifying to the sociable nature of HCS members.

You might almost say we are continuing to celebrate, as our autumn concert this year includes Puccini’s youthful Messa di Gloria. Why not, I say, because music, singing and friends can never be celebrated too often.

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne 21st July 2012)

29 March - nearly concert time

Apart from the one tomorrow afternoon before the concert, our last rehearsal was held yesterday evening at the venue, always a useful exercise as it gives us a chance to get the feel of the acoustics. Our noble concert manager Alec had organised getting the staging in, so everyone was in a good positiion to see the conductor.

We sang all through every work, complete with soloists, but before that we had a surprise for our conductor. It is his birthday today, so we made a special arrangement with our accompanist. When we had all stood up ready to begin, Jozik raise his baton and gave the downbeat to start, but we all burst into ‘Happy Birthday’! The look on his face was an absolute picture, I’m sure we all wished we’d had a camera to record it. He took it in good part, and we then started properly.

As always with a variety of composers, the music is quite a demanding sing, requiring different styles in each piece, but as a singer himself, Jozik knows how to get us to produce the sound he wants. Whether we all achieve it may well be in question, but we do our best, and at least to us, the sound last night was good.

So, we hope for a good audience tomorrow night, we shall be regaling audience and singers with wine in the interval, which makes the concert an excellent social event too. No doubt we shall all be exhausted by the end of it, but singing such wonderful music makes it all worth it.

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne 30th March 2012)

New rehearsals

You may well be asking where 2011 went, most of us have asked ourselves the question, but are getting on with 2012 anyway. Our Christmas Concert now seems long gone, but everyone felt it was a huge success, a happy mix of sacred and secular, fairly divided into two halves. The first half included bible readings to go with some of the carols, and the second half had more carols and other secular spoken items. It is unlikely anyone will forget Brian’s ‘sermon’ from the pulpit, the set of field-mice (with ears) caused lot of amusement, and jingle bells (with bells) was a big hit. In the interval everyone was generous at the wine and mince pies table, at the’Hand made’ stall, and in buying raffle tickets. Even after this everyone dug deep for our charity for the season, which was generously supported in the retiring collection. A very big thank you is due to everyone who came and supported us.

We started back at rehearsals on 5 January, welcoming each other with ‘Happy New Year’ to all those we hadn’t seen since December, which was most of us. Then into a thorough warm-up, more essential than usual after a couple of weeks with not much demanding voice-work, (I cannot of course speak for those who had large numbers of children with them on Christmas Day). There were plenty of copies of Mozart’s Coronation Mass, quite a lot of copies of Bruckner’s motets, two of which are in the concert, and a fair number of Vivaldi’s Gloria, (belonging to those who have their own copy and remembered to bring it along). Although quite a few of us have sung the Mozart before, it was back in 2000, though it must be said it felt a lot longer. We might recognise Mozart’s music when we hear it, but it is far from an easy ride to sing, and I think everyone was determined to do some work on it before next week to try and persuade our memories to give up their secrets.

Bruckner was something else again! We have one of his Motets, Locus Iste, in our choir bag of music, and could probably manage to sing it with only occasional glances at the music, but I certainly don’t remember the time when I had to learn it, so Thursday came as a bit of a shock. The two we shall be singing are Os Justi and Christus Factus Est, perhaps two of the very best, but sight-reading certainly roused the little grey cells to unaccustomed activity. What’s more, they are marked to be sung ‘A capella’ so we shan’t even have our dear accompanist Marion to help us out!

After that, it was a relief to sing a couple of sections from the Gloria, a work we have sung more often and more recently, so a big thank you to our wonderful Jozik for not sending us home in despair! For further developments, watch this space!

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne 11th January 2012)

Mozart’s ‘Great Mass’

Some of our readers may remember our performance of this magnificent work in the autumn of last year. It was brought sharply to mind for me this year as I’ve been at my house in France when all sorts of wonderful musical events happen throughout the summer. One of the week-long events takes place in August in Vézelay, which is a fair way from where I am, but the concerts mostly take place in the cathedral which is right at the top of the hill overlooking a wide area of countryside. You don’t see that during the concert of course, but in spite of a long drive, the arrival is worth the effort.

The concert which had caught my attention was called ‘Mozart Inachevé’, in other words, ‘Unfinished’, so naturally his Requiem was part of the programme. As my French friend Nicole had shown me the leaflet back in May and had taken it away with her, I had no recollection as to what else was in the programme. On the night, I discovered that with the Requiem was the ‘Great Mass’ in C, which I hadn’t thought of as incomplete. However, sitting there mentally singing my part, the thought came into my head that I remembered most of it, bit not the ‘Agnus Dei’. Why? Because there isn’t one!

The programme notes (where I discovered that the ‘Credo’ is incomplete) were excellent, while the choir (Arsys Bourgogne) and orchestra (Camerata Salzburg under Pierre Cao) were outstanding. Of the soloists, the tenor was the weakest, though probably in other company would not have seemed so. The beautiful soprano voice lacked confidence only in the very top register, though of course some of the leaps she’s required to make to reach them must be daunting. The contralto was a delight, and the bass solid and supportive. What was particularly interesting was that the concert was recorded, I caught it on France Musique a few weeks later, and the comments I’ve just made about the soloists were born out quite strongly, Nicole making the same remark.

What a treat, the Great Mass twice in such a short time, with the bonus of bringing back a lot of very happy memories with HCS.

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne 5th October 2011)

Summer concert

No-one can accuse HCS of refusing a challenge! The current programme in rehearsal is a wide-ranging mixture of four-part songs from a variety of sources, and because the styles vary so widely, they require quite a variety of vocal styles. As usual with our summer concert, the choice of pieces, rehearsal time and conducting are shared between Jozik and Barbara, both of whom are hugely helpful in their respective approaches.

So, down to the nitty-gritty! We have folk-songs from the USA, in one of which we need to imitate banjo strings some of the time, plink-ing and bom-ing in the lower voice parts. The other side of the pond also provides us with some ‘crooner’ songs from the late 40’s, well-known to most radio listeners as they are still ‘standards’ today, a couple of more recent ‘pop’ songs, and excerpts from that great Hollywood musical, ‘South Pacific’. From our own musical heritage we have traditional songs in settings both old and new, some of which, if you are over a ‘certain’ age, you may well have learned in school.

Full choir and solo numbers give variety, which make this musical evening more enjoyable both for singers and audience. As our regular venue (Hailsham’s Community Hall) is currently undergoing refurbishment, this summer we are performing in the Parish Church, on Thursday 30 June at 7.30 pm. Hope to see you there!

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne 5th June 2011)


Oh dear, checking the so-called ‘Latest News’ page, you may see your correspondent has been sadly idle since January. There’s really no excuse, suffice it to say we’ve spent the last few months rehearsing for our spring concert which happened on Saturday 9 April. In spite of fears that it might fall apart, our brilliant MD exhausted himself holding it together and we had a successful evening.

So, what actual news do we have? Well, with one rehearsal after the concert, (Easter being so late), we made a start on our summer programme of traditional and folk songs, ‘Roving in the Dew’ to ‘Yarmouth Fair’, smooching our way through ‘Begin the Beguine’ and snoozing through ‘All Through the Night’. These are just a part of the programme, SOME of them have been sung by SOME of the choir members SOME time ago, so the first results were a little shaky, but after Barbara had patiently helped us along, they weren’t too bad. We’re back after Easter, so by 30 June they will all be fully polished.

Our 50th anniversary year starts in the autumn, and our celebration plans are gradually taking shape. We have already had a special leaflet printed, which is being distributed around the area, so we hope to encourage more audience to our concerts. We had hoped that the Swiss choir whom we visited two years ago might be able to come to Hailsham this year, but sadly this has not proved possible, though we hope it will happen in the future.

Our rehearsal venue, the Community Hall in Hailsham, is to be renoveted as part of major changes to the site, so our summer concert and possibly our Christmas one, which usually take place there have to be staged at a different venue. Watch this space! (Breaking news, it will be at Hailsham Parish Church.)

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne 15th April 2011)

Carol Singing at The Grenadier

Having had the disappointment of a cancelled Christmas Concert this year, we were particularly pleased when a group of us were invited by The Grenadier in Hailsham to sing for their customers on Wednesday, 22 December. Marcus, our Publicity Officer, put together an excellent and varied programme of old favorites, including some of the traditional carols that everyone was able to sing with us, and we were made very welcome by Malcolm, the pub's owner, and his customers.

We were also allowed to take a collection for Rachael's House (see http://www.rachaelshouse.org.uk/) which had been our chosen charity this Christmas and were very pleased to be able to send them a very generous £125. Our thanks to everyone who so kindly donated towards this.

With the snow lying outside, The Grenadier was at it's most welcoming with decorations up, mulled wine on offer, and carols from us: it was a good start to Christmas. At least the Choral Society was able to sing some carols for Hailsham this year. Thank you all at The Grenadier.

(Jan Boyes)

Bad weather strikes

Alas, along with several other local choirs, our Christmas concert on Saturday 18th December had to be cancelled due to weather conditions. If all our choir members as well as all our audience lived in Hailsham, it would have been less of a problem, but conditions in outlying areas, not to mention the main road between Eastbourne and Hailsham, left much to be desired. The general feeling was that getting there at 6pm to set out the hall was probably manageable, but who knew what conditions would be like later in the evening with probable freezing of already icy roads.

We were all very sorry, not only because the Christmas concert is a lovely occasion which we all enjoy very much, but Barbara, our deputy conductor had put in such a lot of work, we had all done our bit having missed one rehearsal anyway due to the weather, and perhaps worst of all, we had no charity collection to support for this season. What feels like freakish weather this year has a lot to answer for in many areas it seems.

However, no point in dwelling on past history, and we are all geared up for the new year when we meet again on January 6th to start rehearsals for our spring concert. Rutter is in the programme this year, his Requiem which is a work many of us have sung before, very different from earlier composers’ versions. It is interesting in that its format varies the usual movements, and it includes a version of the 23rd psalm which appeared earlier that the Requiem itself as a separate anthem. Also in the programme will be anthems from the mighty tome of one hundred anthems, which requires some serious work on the biceps before performance! We always say that singing is good exercise.

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne)

From the audience perspective

Well it’s Sunday 14th November 2010 and the sound of last night’s Mozart concert by Hailsham Choral Society is still sounding in my head. Am not sure who puts these concerts together but they are amazing; and I know, having attended most of them with my friend. If you saw the weather forecast for the evening you would have stayed at home toasting your crumpets by the fire, but for those of us with more mettle, we braved the rain and strong winds and headed for the magnificent St Saviour & St Peter’s Church in South Street, Eastbourne.

After the warm welcome we took to our seats; we like to sit at the front as one of us is partially deaf and wears hearing aids, and anyway we like to see all the faces of the choir and orchestra. OK we got there at least 20 mins before the start – well we have to assemble our sweets, look out for anyone we know in the audience and study the programme before the start. I particularly like focusing on an instrument in the orchestra – and as we sit on the right-hand side of the pews, that happens to be the cellos, double bass, clarinets or trombones. After getting to grips with that part of it and admiring your highly talented conductor, we then focus on the choir itself. Actually we don’t see an awful lot of Jozik, the conductor – only his back – but last night he had to turn round and sing the bass section of the Mass! It’s a sea of red blouses and black skirts for the ladies and black suits and ties for the men and we try to work out who is singing which part i.e. sopranos, altos, tenors and basses but some of the works are so complicated that you have to take in the WHOLE choir and just listen.

There were hundreds there last night; I felt we had 3 concerts in 1 really, culminating in the Great C Minor Mass which was unbelievably beautiful – special praise to the soloists but I would do anything to play an instrument in the orchestra or sing in the choir but sadly my talents don’t stretch to that and in any case you have to have an audience so that’s where we intend to stay and appreciate all the talented people.

When we left the rain and wind had stopped and we certainly had a wonderful evening. We treated ourselves to cocktails as it didn’t seem right to rush off home; we wanted to savour the experience and got home eventually after midnight. Thank you everyone.

(Mary Saunders)

Upcoming Concert

Only one more rehearsal to go before our Mozart concert on November 13. Jojik’s rehearsals are an absolute inspiration, and I hope he feels we are approaching the quality in the detail which he’s looking for in the magnificent Great Mass. After each rehearsal we all agree that it’s been hard work but so worthwhile.

We’ll be rehearsing this coming Thursday in the lovely St. Saviour & St. Peter’s church where we shall be for the concert. This is so useful because it gives us a chance to get a feel for the different sound from our rehearsal venue. The acoustic is good, so you get that wonderful re-echo with held final notes (always hoping that your breath will hold out as long as required to reach the silence!) Although the Community Hall in Hailsham where we rehearse each week also has a good acoustic, the church is so much bigger, and the other voices around us sound a little different, so it’s good to have an opportunity to get used to that before the big day.

Technically speaking, we do have one more rehearsal on the day. The afternoon of Saturday is spent with the orchestra and soloists, but this is more for getting the ensemble sound right, and ‘topping and tailing’ the parts where the choir interact with the soloists. It’s always a joy to hear the work finally getting to the last stages of completion, and we look forward to the evening performance when all our weeks of rehearsal finally come to what we hope will be a grand conclusion.

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne)

September 2010

September slowly brings the full complement of choir members back to rehearsals as we return from holidays and visits to families in other places. It’s always good to get back to the great circle of friends which exists in our choir.

Rehearsals are well under way for the demanding Mozart ‘Great’ Mass which is the principal work in our autumn concert. A couple of the rehearsals between the summer concert and the summer break provided an overview and brief introduction to the work, as we bravely sang through some of the movements – perhaps ‘sang’ is putting it rather kindly! However, having now been back at our weekly meetings since the first Thursday in September, and having had valuable separate rehearsals for the two-choir sections of the work, things are beginning to come together.

As always, Jozik works on the drama and interpretation of the words, and gives endless useful tips on how to achieve the results he is looking for. It’s always hard for amateurs to remember all the elements which should go together to sing well, and keeping them in mind right up to performance is not easy, but our conductor shows endless patience and good humour, so maybe we are doing some things right!

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne)

July 2010

Well it’s about time we updated our news as lots has happened these last few months.

In March we performed a splendid concert at All Saints’ Church in Eastbourne. The first half consisted of the most melodic, and actually quite difficult to perform, Magnificat by John Rutter. He stated that his intention was to write a Magnificat ‘redolent of Mediterranean sunshine and celebration, evoking the spirit of the many exuberant festivals held throughout Europe in honour of the Virgin Mary’. This was followed by A Little Jazz Mass by Bob Chilcott. It was interesting to see our audience sit up and take note as the Jazz Trio started to play this very exciting piece. They had only met for the first time at the afternoon’s rehearsal but their absolute mastery of their instruments and their obvious enjoyment gave the choir exactly what they needed to give a rousing performance! We hope Peter Nickalls (piano), Tom Fry (double bass and, incidentally the son of two of our members Ian and Barbara!) and Simon Whittaker (drums) will join us again one day.

After the interval came that old favourite Faure’s Requiem – always such a beautiful piece to sing and hopefully listen to. Helen Rowe was our soloist that evening and we always enjoy having her with us.

After a little break for Easter it was on with the show and rehearsals for our Summer Concert – a cornucopia for choral delights from Elizabethan times to the 20th Century. We galloped through the ages with wonderful encouragement from Jozik and Barbara, as well as Marion playing for all she was worth. And to add to everyone’s delight the charming Swiss soloists whom we had met in Baden last summer - Suzanne and Rudolf – performed duets from Mozart and Mendelssohn.

Now we are coming to the end of rehearsals for this summer ‘term’ and taking a short break before we return at the beginning of September. We have started rehearsing for November’s concert when we will be performing Mozart’s Mass in C Minor. Details of the date and venue are on the Concert part of this website – we hope to welcome a large audience! Our last rehearsal this week will also be a social gathering to celebrate the 70th birthdays of 6 choir members..

We enjoy the social side of our choir as well as the singing! A ‘hard core’ regularly pay a visit to the pub after Thursday rehearsals to lubricate our vocal chords and wind down. In May a crowd of us, including various spouses and partners, had a marvellous week in Brittany staying in a complex of gites right in the middle of the French countryside. We played boules, visited the local sights including the seaside, and enjoyed plenty of French cuisine and wine together. We are wondering how soon we can repeat the experience!

We are now approaching our fiftieth year and our hard-working committee are making plans for a series of celebrations so keep in touch and we hope you will join us for all or some of them.

(Nicola Williams)

March 2010

Concert date is rapidly approaching, and after a rather less-than-satisfactory rehearsal at the last one in February, that on 4th March restored some confidence to our long-suffering conductor. We are now running the works through, on the basis that note-bashing has no place this late in the day (thank goodness we’ve all been working hard on our own practice time). This week (11th March) we are lucky enough to have our rehearsal actually in the church where the performance takes place, always a useful exercise.

Everyone is really enjoying the music, the Rutter Magnificat has proved quite a challenge even though many people had sung it before, and the Chilcott Little Jazz Mass, which seemed really tricky to start with, is now settled in as we get to feel the rhythms rather than counting the bars. We always look forward to performances, (sometimes with trepidation!) and this one is no exception, it’s really good to be doing something so different from our usual style of music.

New Music

Well, our first rehearsal was cancelled due to the snow, but luckily we have a fantastic ring-round system for such occasions – once the decision is made, the secretary and chairman each ring half of the committee members, who each phone a designated number of singers, thus covering all members without anyone having to do too many. So, we finally got together on Thursday 14 January, all thoroughly delighted to renew our friendships after the Christmas break. Then we started! A sing-through the Fauré Requiem offered a nice, gentle beginning, it being a work many of us have sung frequently, though it was harder on three potential new members, not all of whom were familiar with it. The Rutter Magnificat took up most of the rest of the evening, also sung before by many (though fewer than the Fauré), but not too demanding for the most part. Then this week (with another two potential new members) we tackled Bob Chicott’s Little Jazz Mass for the first time. Wow - what a shock to the system! All cross-rhythms and awkward little rests where you don’t expect them, you just have to feel it rather than count the bars. The first rehearsal of any new work is frequently a bit tricky, but this was a real challenge for many of us - great but definitely challenging. We’ve had an unexpected disappointment, our Swiss contact choir, who we had hoped to welcome for a return visit in our 50th anniversary year starting in 2011, are not now able to join us. It will probably happen in 2013, though it’s hard to be thinking that far ahead, maybe we should try to see if our Belgian choir contact might like to come!

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne)

January 2010

Well, here we are into yet another year, and we are starting back at rehearsals on Thursday 7 January with an interesting mix for our spring concert on March 20th. It’s always good to have a variety of pieces combining known favourites with something which not all members of the choir know, and we’ve certainly achieved that both with composers and music. The Fauré Requiem is a favourite with both choirs and singers, but how many non-singers know that, besides all those popular carols, John Rutter also wrote a delightful Magnificat? To complete our programme, we have Bob Chilcott’s Little Jazz Mass, which few of our members have sung before, but those who have were delighted to hear it was being included. Something old, something new then, and enough to keep all our brains from furring up this spring!

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne)

HCS celebrate Christmas

The Hailsham community Hall, which is our regular rehearsal venue, was once again packed out with an enthusiastic audience for our seasonal offering. On one of the few fine evenings of recent weeks, mainly local people flocked to fill every available seat, to listen to the choir’s offerings and to join in with old favourites. By opening with the choir among the audience for ‘The Boars Head’ carol, everyone was instantly involved – if possibly almost deafened by the proximity of around fifty singers in full choral mode! Although it can be hard to find new material to present, Barbara Edwards, our deputy conductor, always comes up with a really varied and enjoyable programme, covering carols from all over the world. Some were new arrangements of familiar tunes, others completely new, and being interspersed with the audience carols, both the old and the new received an airing. Our Christmas concert always supports a local charity, and this year the Quicken Trust, which works with the inhabitants of an African village to improve their lives, was the recipient of a generous retiring collection. There was also (of course!) a raffle and a ‘hand-made’ stall, this last offered an amazing range of goods from patchwork items (made by Barbara mentioned above, a multi-talented lady indeed) to cakes and sweets. People bought generously, and when the first raffle winner was drawn and turned out to be the choir’s retiring chairman, there were good-natured cries of ‘fix!’ all round. We really appreciate the local following which is building up for our concerts in our ‘home’ venue, and will be there again in the summer to welcome all comers.

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne)

Autumn Concert 14 November 2009

Well, no-one ever suggested we weren’t prepared to try something new, and this concert, while the music is anything but new (Haydn’s, in honour of his death 200 years ago), “The Seasons” is seldom performed or heard. I knew only one person who had sung it and only two who had been to a performance. As one singer in the audience asked afterwards, ‘Why aren’t we singing this?’

Of course, Haydn’s ‘Creation’ is his best-known and loved choral work, and most choirs have sung it at some time, as we have ourselves, but ‘The Seasons’, though even more popular at the time it was written, has unjustly faded from view. It follows the seasons of the year, with choruses and solos celebrating the events of each in turn. While some might regard the high-minded ‘From thee, oh industry, springs every good’ with cynicism, or argue with the rollicking deer-hunting chorus, surely no-one could complain at that in praise of wine, successively referred to as “old age’s friend” and “of pain and grief the cure”! Admittedly, in the current politically-correct climate this could be misinterpreted as binge drinking, but for those of us who go for a harmless pint or its equivalent after rehearsals it undoubtedly rang a chord.

The weather over the whole weekend was atrocious, with gales and torrential rain (which appropriately came at some relevant seasonal moments). However, our relatively small but select audience were enthusiastic, loud in praise not only for our terrific soloists, but also for the excellent orchestra, and indeed the choir’s performance under our conductor Jozik. We certainly enjoyed it, and look forward to greater exposure in the future of this thoroughly enjoyable work.

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne)

September 2009

Now approaching our 49th year, everything just seems to get better and better! Making music in company with a group of like-minded people has to be one of the best therapies in the world. However we may feel when arriving at rehearsal on a Thursday evening, by the time we finish we are all feeling in tune with the world, (and sometimes with the piano too).

After our highly successful Christmas 2008 concert in the Hailsham Community Hall, our 2009 spring concert of 'Cathedral Classics' at St. Saviour and St Peter's in Eastbourne was very demanding, (both for choir and listeners!) with a range of music from the 16th to the 20th centuries, but was very well received by our audience. In complete contrast, we brought Gilbert and Sullivan to the Hailsham Community Hall in June, with extracts from 'The Pirates of Penzance' and 'Iolanthe', followed by a concert performance of 'Trial by Jury'. The highlight here was definitely our conductor Jozik singing (and acting) the part of the Judge. Complete with gown and wig, he took the hall, and the plaintiff, by storm. There's no doubt about it, it is very satisfying to sing such a wide variety of music.

We are just back from our fantastic trip to Switzerland, to visit the Kirchenchor Cäcilia in Rütihof near Baden. The weekend included a fascinating town tour with two of the Baden Tourist official guides, both of whom were excellent and entertaining, and since it included a climb to the top of the ruined castle above the town, we all got our full quota of exercise on Saturday morning. Our hosts gave us a wonderful social evening in their home village, where we sang a short 'cabaret' for them, greatly enhanced, not only by the alcohol, but by Jozik also singing several songs, thereby starting up his very own fan club in Switzerland. On Sunday afternoon we sang a concert jointly with our host choir in the church in Baden, (Vivaldi, Mozart and Handel) to about 800 people, after which aperitifs were served in the square in front of the church. The day finished with a riotous meal in an Italian restaurant in Rütihof, everyone sang, and unbelievably the evening ended with the Hokey Cokey! Some of us may have cringed, but, believe it or not, we were asked to supply the words for them, so no doubt we shall be singing it again when their return visit comes up in 2011 - already in the forward planning stage. A crowd of us are planning a week in Brittany next May, and I bet we shall sing there too!

Singing is obviously a major part of our lives, have you tried it recently? If you used to sing and currently only do so in the bath, why not come along and meet us? We are always glad to welcome new singers, especially if they aren't afraid of enjoying themselves.

(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne)

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