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
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
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
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”
Review by ROBIN GREGORY
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.
(Simon Marsden November 2016)
Not Singing in the Rain!
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
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.
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)
No 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!
(Rosalind Taylor-Byrne October 2015)
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.)
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.
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 parexcellence 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.
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.
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)
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)
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)
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,
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.
These 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)
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.