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Year Review 2015-16

The Chamber Choir year started in a predictable fashion with a condensed period of highly competitive auditions with over 150 applicants for just 22 spaces in the new choir. The then incoming management team of Thomas Brooke (Conductor), Fiona Brindle (Manager) and Rachel Newell (Assistant Manager) oversaw the process and before too long a new choir emerged.

The choir could not be formed soon enough as the demands of the new university year took their toll on rehearsal time, attendance and concentration levels! Nevertheless, the choir performed their first concert of the year: “Star of Gold”, to great aplomb in the surrounds of the chapel of the College of St Hild and St Bede that seemed to take the sound and spin it into celestial waves with very little encouragement.

When it came to repertoire for the Easter Term concert, Tom (our conductor) had wanted to conduct Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil since he had first heard the piece performed. In addition to his ambition, the piece notoriously requires at least one bass voice that can sing down to notes well below standard range (at one point reaching the B flat below “bottom C”).

The concert in the Chapter House of Durham Cathedral was a great success with the choir selling out the venue and performing what is one of the iconic works of the choral repertoire (in the original Russian). We were very lucky to have Daniel Ludford-Thomas make the long journey both up from London and back in time to his undergraduate days as a student at Durham as he gave a brilliant masterclass which was instrumental in the successful final performance of the work.

As the choir moved into its third term rehearsals, the pressure from university exams became a serious factor for the conductor to consider when scheduling his rehearsals. Being the sensitive chap that he is, Tom was careful to work in short, closely focused rehearsals until the exam period was over. In the intensive period of rehearsals during the University Festival of the Arts (in which the choir was scheduled to perform in 3 separate events) the members greatly benefited from a masterclass given by The Sixteen’s Eamonn Dougan. Eamonn’s effect was immediately evident, and he acted as both a fresh pair of ears for ideas and as a choral trainer, sharing the conducting with Tom. We are in his debt (as we were to Dan in the Easter Term) for the resulting concert, this time in the Cathedral’s Nave.

The choir recently toured Amsterdam to round off what has been an incredibly successful and harmonious year (in all senses). They were received with warmth and had an amazing time exploring the city. As the year draws to a close, a huge debt of thanks is owed to the outgoing executive team for bringing together what has been a landmark year in terms of concert attendance. The choir gives enormous thanks to Tom, Fi and Rachel for all their hard work this year in managing the choir and producing a series of professional concerts. Other thanks must go to Meg Griffiths (incoming manager) for organising a wonderful tour, to our accompanists over the year Jonny Allsopp and Josh Ridley, to Dan Ludford-Thomas, Eamonn Dougan and to Hector Sequera for enabling their visits.

What has been incredibly noticeable this year has been the sheer warmth of feeling that has made the choir such an enjoyable ensemble with which to rehearse and perform. I wish them all the best of success for the future.

Matt Asquith

Publicity Officer 2015-16.

10. viii. 16

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