CONCERT ST PETER'S CHURCH SUDBURY NOVEMBER 2017
It’s been a long time since we sat in the audience and really appreciated the quality of the voices in SEMVC. We usually drag our children, Natasha and Ben along to brass music concerts, so tonight was about expanding their musical appreciation, to include the world of the male voice choir. It was also a treat for them to see their Grandad, Tony Farr, singing alongside other members of the Kedington mafia! Loaded with sweets and snacks, we squeezed in amongst a near capacity audience at St Peter’s church, Sudbury in anticipation.
Leigh’s first half programme began with the very impressively sung Welsh hymn ‘Gwahoddiad’, and lead onto ‘You raise me up’ where they were joined by Vanessa Cozens. It was a shame that we didn’t hear more of Vanessa. Unfortunately, she became a little swamped by the powerful male voices in the last verse. Leigh then went on to entertaining us with a medley from South Pacific. We particularly enjoyed the costume additions to ‘There is nothing like a dame’. Natasha thought Elvis was very cool!
SEMVC then took the stage. Now usually, your Chairman (being vertically challenged – genes he passed to his son...) is hidden from view, and is rarely seen. But not tonight! The grandchildren had direct line of sight, and we were absorbed by the quality and control of the singing. The much-anticipated Cantique de Jean Racine resonated in the fine acoustics, but didn’t quite reach the level of performance we were hoping for (this is a particular favourite of ours and so I guess we critiqued this a little more than the others). Tempo and tuning issues just took the shine off what otherwise was a great performance. However, this was more than made up for with the rest of the first half which concluded with a toe-tapping, finger-clicking performance of Amen, this one definitely got the audience jigging in their seats!
A really impressive performance from joint choirs of Rhythm of Life concluded the first half, how did you all manage to get your teeth around those words so precisely? A bunch of grown men looking very smart and serious, singing ‘Doo Bee Doos’ was a real treat. We partook in the lovely spread of refreshments that were offered to us at the interval – we particularly liked the Cathedral City cheese bites – Thank you J.
A beautiful rendition of Bridge over troubled water opened the second half. SEMVC controlled the dynamics throughout and showed total concentration from the whole choir. Wait, was that a guitar we heard? We’d forgotten that Simon ‘the Schirminator’ was accompanying tonight, and that is not meant as a negative comment. His subtle accompanying skills, along with those of Calvin on the keys, provided the perfect foundation from which the choir could express themselves. And express they did with a couple of Burt Bacharach pieces – which had just the right amount of cheese, and would have made Cilla proud. Their programme finished with Kings of Swing, a nice medley for the audience to hum and sway along to.
Leigh’s second half programme opened with some very Magnificent men entertaining us in their flying machines (and one with a pair of goggles). They concluded their programme with a selection of songs from the sixties, taking Billie back to being a young lass, listening to her mum singing her heart out to these songs whilst dusting and hoovering!
All too soon the finale was upon us. Some poignant words by Mark Jefferson reminded us all why we were there, and the concert concluded with An American Trilogy, a very moving tribute to those who have lost their lives in battle.
Congratulations to both choirs, their conductors and accompanists for a very entertaining yet moving concert. Both of our children were enthralled throughout, enjoying the livelier numbers, and appreciating the quieter ones. In fact, Ben found parts of the concert so relaxing he fell asleep towards the end!We promise not to leave it so long next time …
Paul, Billie, Natasha & Ben Farr, November 2017.
SEMVC in concert with Leigh Orpheus Male Voice Choir, Saturday 18 November 2017
CONCERT AT STRATFORD ST MARY SEPTEMBER 2017
As a choir member of late ‘more in the breach than in observance’, and having heard tell of some recent developments in performances, I was looking forward to seeing the results when I attended St Edmundsbury Male Voice Choir’s concert in Stratford St Mary on 30 September 2017.
The first half of the concert started on what to me was happy and familiar ground: some well-remembered Welsh hymns and standards, including a fluid performance of Eric Whitaker’s ‘Seal Lullaby’ (a personal favourite) and an ever-dramatic Morte Criste.
The ringing in of the changes came in the second half, which introduced an expanded accompaniment, with electric guitar and bass joining the choir’s piano instrumentals. The piece ‘An American Trilogy’ was well chosen to introduce the new sound, and, played with sensitivity, this blended very well with the choir and piano accompaniment.
St Edmundsbury Male Voice Choir is fortunate to be supported by the combination of quality musicianship and sense of fun which is brought by director Mark Jefferson and accompanist Calvin Goymer. This was well in evidence in the performance of ‘Rhythm of live’, performed by the choir with enthusiasm but not lacking care and clarity despite the conductor taking a seat at the piano, while Mark and Calvin entertained with an ebullient accompaniment.
Another introduction new to my ears was a selection of songs from Burt Bacharach and Hal David. It is not easy for a choir to achieve the relaxed-sounding approach to rhythm and timing which this style demands, and fight against the temptation to revert to rigid ‘march time’, but SEMVC have clearly made strides; and again the smooth guitar accompaniment complementing the choir well and helping to set an easy feel. I particularly enjoyed ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart,’ which hit all the right notes.
Credit must also go to violin soloist Elena Lyutserina, ably accompanied by Steve Cook, whose selection of pieces brought a pleasant contrast of mood between the choral performances. The combination of violin and ukulele was a surprise but worked very well – in the Russian pieces, I wondered if I could hear the strains of a balalaika through the uke.
My thanks go to Mark and the choir for an enjoyable evening and for making an ‘occasional member welcome. Also to Tony Farr – for his patience while I collected my thoughts.
CONCERT AT LITTLE WALDINGFIELD NOVEMBER 2016
On a chilly Saturday evening in November we were treated to some warming singing by the choir. The concert started with one of my personal favourites, Every Time I Feel the Spirit, always a jolly opening to any concert. A traditional mix of lullabies and songs typically associated with Male Voice Choirs followed.
The first half concluded with another of my favourites, African Trilogy. I think this song has been a big success for the choir over the last few years, quite a departure from usual choir repertoire. It is always lovely to hear the solo voice of David Sadler coming over the top of the other voices.
In the second half we heard some new music, a collection of well known Burt Bacharach songs, which I am sure will become a mainstay of the choir’s repertoire in the future. It was the first time I had heard another new piece for the choir, Up Town Funk, and although I was not expecting to like this, it turned out to be one of my favourites for the evening! You never know what SEMVC will serve up next!
The evening was more than ably complemented by ‘Classic Femme’, a ladies quartet of the highest standard, singing in perfect harmony and joining the men in some joint numbers.
I am absolutely delighted that the proceeds from the brilliant concert come to £1,567.25, a fantastic result. Sincere thanks of LWHS trustees go to John Sparkes, whose idea it was to hold a fund raising concert, and who very kindly sponsored the Choir. It was such a superb performance, which was most favourably commented upon by everyone I spoke with.
Andy Sheppard, LWHS
CHARITY CONCERT WITH LAURA WRIGHT FEBRUARY 2016
What an evening! Those of us fortunate enough to be at this event enjoyed a wonderful evening of music presented by SEMVC together with Laura Wright and the Downham Prep School Choir.
The Choir gave us a beautifully balanced programme which included powerful pieces such as Amen and Do You Hear The People Sing, the poignant Bring Him Home, the soft and gentle in Autumn Leaves and Embraceable You. The second half included Mustang Sally, and the audience was both amazed and delighted by the very 'spirited' performance of one Ross Van de Zande who gave it his all and a bit more.
It was a real pleasure to see and hear the Downham Prep School Choir. The children sang songs by Elton John and Bob Dylan and also joined with the SEMVC for four other pieces which included Anthem from Chess and Angels. Their singing was lovely, clear and strong and sung with enjoyment. It is perhaps a measure of their commitment that one little girl appeared wearing a temporary plaster cast having broken her ankle that morning but insisting that she must be at the concert.
The icing on the cake was of course Laura Wright. This lovely young lady, with such a beautiful voice, was accompanied by the talented Andrew Moore and gave us a taste of the range of her repertoire performing classical pieces by a number of composers, traditional pieces including The Last Rose of Summer, for her grandmother who was in the audience, and more modern pieces such as The Girl From Ipanema. She also joined with SEMVC to sing the Sanctus from the St Cecilia Mass by Gounod.
Laura, who is an Ambassador for the Nordoff Robbins charity, presented a short video of the work carried out by Nordoff Robbins and finished the evening by joining the SEMVC to sing The Rose.
A lovely concert and a wonderful evening which raised £1,500 for the charity.
CONCERT FOR THE RAF BENEVOLENT FUND NOVEMBER 2015
Having missed several rehearsals due to holidays, it was delightful to have a good reason to relax as part of the audience at our joint concert with the Suffolk Constabulary MVC at St Gregory’s Church, Sudbury.
Knowing our repertoire very well, I had expected to find listening to these sections of the programme rather frustrating due to not being part of the action. How wrong I was. Being able to hear all parts equally in the lovely acoustic of the Church was a wonderful experience and gave me a much better understanding of the music we perform. Even items that I have previously found 'less inspiring’ to rehearse and perform suddenly sprang to life. Fully appreciating the voices alongside ‘Uncle’ John’s beautiful sensitive playing were a real treat.
Noting from the programme that the Suffolk Constabulary were performing some numbers that we include in our own concerts, once again it was great to hear how their voices blended so well despite the small number. The arrangement of Nothing Like a Dame differed from ours, both in lyrics and musical arrangement, added additional enjoyment.
Given that the concert marked the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, ending with communal singing of a medley of wartime songs formed an ideal conclusion to the evening – although I was slightly distracted by the amazing accompaniments improvised by Calvin.
Paul Davis (Bass)
EURO TOUR 2015
It was an invitation our German friends of the Mannergesangverein 1865 Werdorf e.V to celebrate their 150 anniversary that was the impetus behind our Euro Tour. Whilst on tour the Choir sang in St Quentin’s Cathedral, Hasselt; the Marienbasilika, Kevelaer; Dreifaligkeitskirche, Mar; the Menin Gate Ypres and the Suffolk Regiment memorial at le Cateau. At the Menin Gate and at le Cateau we sang an arrangement of Rupert Brooke’s poem The Soldier by Ben Mason.
Here is an abridged version of Diane Partridge’s report:
At 5.30pm on this very warm Saturday evening we all set off in the coach, the choir resplendent in white shirts black trousers and gold ties and waistcoats, it being far too hot for jackets. On arrival the wives and partners were asked to take their seats in a very crowded and warm hall to listen to choirs of every age perform, whilst SEMVC went for a final practice. We were given a very warm welcome from the stage as we took our seats. The choirs made very enthusiastic and cheerful sounds, and we sat and waited for our turn in the second half.
At last SEMVC went on stage and went straight into Mustang Sally which enlivened the evening’s atmosphere and which was greeted by just as enthusiastic applause. Sure on this Shining Night was followed by You Raise Me Up. The latter must have been the favourite of the evening, and in fact of the whole tour as it transpired, as it was greeted by thunderous applause from the 500 strong audience.
During Rhythm of Life several choirs from the audience joined in flying way up high with arms flapping wildly. E’en as a Lovely Flower quietened the audience, and again the appreciation was quite overwhelming, perhaps especially so, as it was sung in German.
When two of the choirs joined for the finale there was still yet to come as they insisted on closing the evening by joining together with SEMVC in another sing of You Raise Me Up.
THE MELODY GIRLS SEPTEMBER 2015
Just to say I thought last Saturday’s concert was wonderful, and my guest, who had never attended a choir concert of any description before, was equally impressed. I think it was perhaps the third time I’ve heard SEMVC sing since I left a couple of years back, and it was by far the best. I thought your sound was nicely balanced, good diction and dynamics, no stray voices and, hey, even a few smiling faces!!!! Even more impressive when you consider how early in the new season this was (just two or three rehearsals?). Very special congratulations to the ‘guest’ soloists, Ross and David, who I gather had very little notice before the concert. What a lovely sound they made with the girls’ accompaniment. I really liked the new stuff which brought a good range to the repertoire for the evening.
And weren’t the Melody Girls lovely? I really enjoyed their repertoire, I loved the arrangements and some really tuneful singing. What an INSPIRED idea to have cello and sax accompaniment to the songs, I really thought that added a new dimension to the performances. I do hope the two choirs keep in contact. Boys, if you get an invite back to Kiev, grab it with both hands… it’s a beautiful city, there are some great places to sing and currently, no visas required! I looked back on the original correspondence I had with the Melody Girls in May 2013, just after they started following my shop’s Twitter feed. They were a much bigger choir then, about 30 singers and a male conductor. I’m glad that the committee at the time followed up the contact after I’d made the initial introduction. Given the problems with the Ukrainian economy just now, this trip won’t have been easy for the girls to organise and fund, but I’m sure they will have been delighted by the whole experience.
Thanks also for the afterglow, which demonstrated that SEMVC have not forgotten how to party. I was delighted to be allowed to join in the singing (and even remembered most of the words). I can’t remember the last time I was still singing at midnight!
So, congratulations and thanks to all who were involved in the evening in any capacity. It was a great advert for choral singing. Mark said the Melody Girls had made a lot of old men very happy. Well, both choirs together made an audience very happy, too!
Well done one and all.
(formerly first tenor section)
ST EDMUNDSBURY CATHEDRAL SEPTEMBER 2013
On Saturday 7 September a memorial concert was held at St Edmundsbury Cathedral for Robert Davies. His parents, Neil and Nettie, are working to ensure that only good emerges from his tragic suicide, a year ago. Sir Mark Waller and Sir Eldon Griffiths were among the audience, which packed the cathedral’s nave. The concert was introduced by the author Kevin Crossley-Holland and included a wide variety of music performed by the St Edmundsbury Male Voice Choir conducted by Mark Jefferson, the organist Mark Blatchly, the harp and flute duo ‘Antara’ and the Cathedral’s Lay Clerks.
The audience reaction to the variety and quality of music has quite overwhelmed Rob’s parents, with many people saying, ‘The concert was just amazing… a wonderful evening… beautiful and deeply moving… a privilege to be there.’ Neil added, ‘We hope that continued exposure of the silent killer will encourage more people to be vigilant and get help earlier in life, before the cycle of depression can bite too deeply.’
£5000 was raised for the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, a charity focussing on depression in young people. All the takings and donations from the concert have gone directly to the trust, but if readers of the Bury Free Press would like to add to this they can do so by visiting the website,cwmt.org.uk, click on Fundraising/How You Can Help/Donate or call 01635 869754.
Neil and Nettie Davies
WERDORF MAY 2013
The Church of Christ the King in Asslar, Germany offered a modern setting for the joint concert with Werdorf choirs ‘Allegro’ and ‘MGV 1865’. With a superb contemporary mural of Christ on the cross behind the choirs, excellent acoustics due to the high ceiling and a full house we were set for an excellent evening of song.
After the welcome speeches in German and English followed by the first two songs from Werdorf MGV, their Musical Director, Reiner Genz, was presented with an award for a long list of musical achievements. Werdorf closed with ‘Ave Maria’ – very apt for a Catholic church and SEMVC took to the stage. Musical Director, Mark Jefferson, introduced each song in German (albeit with a West Midlands accent!) The first set included ‘Rachie’, ‘Anthem’ from ‘Chess’ and ‘Mulligan Musketeers’, the highlight being ‘Shall we Gather at the River’ as the last verse builds to a mighty crescendo. Before the last notes died away the crowd were cheering their appreciation. The two choirs then joined together to sing a harmonious version of Psalm 23 (The Lord is my Shepherd) before the interval.
The second half began with ‘Allegro’ – the mixed Werdorf choir – who sang three numbers including ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen. SEMVC followed with ‘Aberystwyth’, ‘What Would I do Without my Music’ and ‘American Trilogy’ – there were a few tears shed due to the power and emotion expressed by the massed voices. The final song was ‘Rhythm of Life’ which everyone enjoyed so much that an encore was requested. MD and accompanist John Ottley switched places and the choir sang ‘Mustang Sally’ conducted by a very animated John, to the delight of the audience who clapped along with the music and gave a standing ovation. After a second encore of the sweet, lilting Gershwin’s ‘Embraceable You’, the two male voice choirs joined together again for ‘Softly as I Leave You’, gently bringing the audience back down to earth. The concert closed with presentations to Mark and John Ottley from SEMVC and Reiner from Werdforf MGV.
At the beginning of the concert it was said ‘music knows no borders’ which was certainly true as we enjoyed this feast of song together, followed by a fantastic feast of food and drink prepared by our hosts. Roll on October for the return visit!
ELY CATHEDRAL OCTOBER 2012
I know I’m biased having been a chorister at Ely Cathedral for over 4 years in the 1960s but the building has to be one of the most magnificent in the country and it’s setting – you can see it for miles around – is superb. So the chance to sing there in October as part of Huntingdon Male Voice Choir’s 50th anniversary was something that I was really looking forward to. With nearly 300 men singing it did not disappoint, what an acoustic!
Some of the many pieces we had to sing weren’t particularly inspiring but Shall we Gather at the River? and Let all Men Sing were good fun. I also thoroughly enjoyed listening to Prime Brass. I also always enjoy meeting members of other choirs – a new audience for some old yarns! Saturday 20 October 2012 was a day to remember.