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.
Pam Gilby ( 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.
Phil is a choral director and professional singer. He started directing the Fleet Singers in January 2018 and has really enjoyed his first term working with the wonderful people in the choir. Alongside directing choirs, Phil leads workshops for Music in Offices.
As a singer, Phil’s most recent engagements include playing Count Almaviva in Merry Opera’s production of The Marriage of Figaro; singing in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of King Lear at the Barbican Theatre; and recitals for Leeds Lieder, Oxford Lieder and Wigmore Hall. Phil has appeared regularly as an oratorio soloist, recitalist and professional chorister across the country. He also plays the piano accordion in ceilidh bands and enjoys long walks in the country.
Philip is a freelance musician living in West Hampstead. He concentrates mainly on composing but is also a pianist, organist and teacher. His compositions—instrumental, choral and theatre music—are widely performed and published. Philip’s musical Casanova was produced recently on the London fringe.
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 and accompanist for the Fleet Singers.
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.