The Fleet Singers were conceived in September 2008 when the Barts Choir and its Musical Director Ivor Setterfield decided to sponsor a community choir to take part in their performance of Carmina Burana at the Albert Hall. Pam Gilby, a local resident with an extraordinary talent for making difficult things happen, facilitated the creation of an ad-hoc choir that was completely open to everyone regardless of musical talent or skill. As the piece required a small children’s choir, years 5 and 6 from Fleet Primary School were recruited. They came accompanied by a strong contingent of teachers and parents, who joined an already large number of musical and curious people. We enjoyed nine exciting and fun rehearsals and the big night was an unforgettable experience. We went on to collaborate with Barts Chamber Choir and Fleet School to put on a Christmas concert at All Hallows church a month later.
Pam clearly saw the potential of this group of enthusiastic singers and, in January 2009, funded the Fleet Singers, recruiting a musical director and an accompanist. The Fleets’ first Musical Director was James Davey, who took us on a musical journey where we explored Handel, Mendelssohn, Mahler, Faure and many other major and minor composers. We sang in a large variety of venues including the foyers of the Barbican and the Royal Festival Hall as well as various local churches (once we sang literally by candlelight due to a power cut at St Martins’ Gospel Oak) and St Pancras Station. We have sung on our own, in massed choirs and in small scale collaborations with other groups.
Perhaps our most exciting projects have been the various commissions of works composed for our choir. With funding from the Arts Council, we commissioned two concert-length pieces by Benjamin Till, Songs About the Weather: Sixty Years of Memories (2012) and The Man in the Straw Hat (2014). Our brilliant accompanist Philip Godfrey, who has been with us since 2011, wrote the delightful Ode to Living Things for us in 2013.
James moved on in December 2017 and since then the choir has started an exciting new journey with our new Musical Director, Phil Wilcox.
Aims of the Choir
We are a community choir which is open to everyone regardless of singing or music-reading ability. We employ a professional conductor and accompanist who lead us in singing four-part music of all genres. Singing together under the leadership of a conductor, we are able to take on challenging works and perform at notable venues, which is not only a lot of fun but a very empowering experience. The choir also contributes to a sense of local community and combats social isolation. Our subscriptions are kept low to ensure inclusivity.
Regular funding from Veolia allows us to put on concerts and we have occasionally received grants for special projects. We depend on our members to finance our day to day costs, such as paying our professional director and accompanist and giving occasional donations to the Methodist church that generously puts a rehearsal space at our disposal. The very reasonable price is £6 per two hour rehearsal, payable by cash or cheque in advance at the beginning of term where possible. Concessions are available.
Phil is a portfolio career artist, a uniquely versatile musician who enjoys the many opportunities of a diverse musical life. He is a choral director and appears regularly as a concert soloist, opera singer, and professional chorister throughout the UK.
Phil started directing Fleet Singers in January 2018 and relishes working weekly with such a positive and talented group of people. He is a staff director for Music in Offices, running choirs based in Stewarts, Kingsley Napley, and Trowers and Hamlins law firms. Other corporate clients include A&E Networks, Endemol, Enotria&Coe, Amnesty International UK and the Bank of England.
Phil is the Learning and Participation Manager for Leeds Lieder where he coordinates and delivers workshops in schools and the wider community to introduce new audiences to classical song. As a workshop leader, Phil has worked with the NHS Training Academy, the Leadership Foundation for HE, Hull University, Surbiton High School, Wigmore Hall and Opera North.
As an opera singer, Phil’s most notable engagements include Prince Vyazemsky (Ivan the Terrible) for Grange Park Opera; Alcindoro (La Bohème) for English Touring Opera; multiple roles at the Buxton International Festival; Major General (Pirates of Penzance) in the UK and Saudi Arabia; Sir Thomas Bertram (Mansfield Park, Dove) and Peter/Father (Hansel and Gretel) for Waterperry Opera Festival; and singing in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of King Lear at the Barbican Theatre and in New York.
Phil is a graduate of Leeds College of Music and is a Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music. During his time at the Academy, he worked on several projects with Julian West’s Open Academy alongside Hackney Empire Theatre, Wigmore Hall and Glyndebourne Opera. He also plays the piano accordion in ceilidh bands and enjoys long walks in the country.
Philip is a freelance musician living in London. He concentrates mainly on composing, but is also a pianist, organist and music teacher. His compositions – instrumental, choral, and theatre music – are tonal and accessible in style, and widely performed and published.
Philip studied music at Cambridge University, where he was an organ scholar and musical director/composer for the Footlights. He is an Associate of the Royal College of Organists.
Recent performers of his music include the Hallé Children’s Choir, New London Children’s Choir, Royal Ballet Sinfonia, and many others. His recent musicals include CASANOVA and LABYRINTH OF LIFE.
As a pianist, Philip regularly accompanies choirs, singers and instrumentalists; he also performs as a soloist, with recent engagements at the Mansion House, London, St James’ Palace, and Windsor Castle.
More information at www.philipgodfrey.co.uk
- Margaret Welbank (Treasurer)
- Oonagh Pierce
- Jacquie Hamel
- Kathy Brodbeck
- Julie Kleeman
- Beverly Orton
8th November 1938—14th May 2017
Pam was the sort of person who aims high and follows through. She led the choir firmly and imaginatively, always looking for new challenges and fun opportunities. As we have found out since she stopped being able to run the choir due to illness, this involved a great deal of hard work, which she gave freely and without fuss. With her sheer intelligence, sense of humour, communication skills, unflappability and warmth, Pam was a role model for anybody who wants to run a successful community project and a wonderful person to know. She is greatly missed.