Summer Term 2022
Following our successful 3rd April performance of Howard Goodall’s Eternal Light Requiem and a short Easter break, our 10 week summer term runs from 25th April to 11th July (except 2/5 and 30/5).
We’ll be working towards a summer concert performing some of the pieces we spent time on in lockdown including “Making Poems” which was commissioned from our accompanist Philip with words from Fleet Singers alto Cicely Herbert who co-founded Poems on the Underground.
We will also be revising another piece composed by Philip Godfrey, Day by Day, a setting the words of the Prayer of St Richard of Chichester which we recorded during lockdown https://youtu.be/pJrtGqNjFfo. And we’ll be learning some of Vaughan Williams 5 Folk Songs, A Prayer for Ukraine and a fun upbeat African number called Shosholoza.
We continue to meet for rehearsals at the Gospel Oak Methodist Church, with Covid precautions. The rehearsals are hybrid, so members can attend on Zoom if they prefer. We are welcoming new members – contact us by email and come along for a FREE trial session.
Pictures are of a Zoom rehearsal in June 2021 when weather sent us indoors following an in-person rehearsal in St Saviour’s Church garden and the 1st rehearsal back in Gospel Oak Methodist Church September 2021 – with Anthony Harris standing in for Phil Wilcox.
Howard Goodall’s Eternal Light: A Requiem
In the Fleet Singers’ Remembrance Concert on 10th November 2019, we sang the beautiful and moving Lachrymosa – based around the poem “Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep” – from Howard Goodall’s Eternal Light – a Requiem. We loved it and decided to perform the whole piece. The performance was scheduled for the end of March 2020. We had a final run through on the Monday before Lockdown, hopeful we might be able to perform it around Remembrance Sunday. Two years on we performed the piece on Sunday 3rd April 2022.
Howard Goodall was commissioned by London Musici (Artistic Director: Mark Stephenson) to write a modern Requiem to celebrate its 20th anniversary, to be both a choral-orchestral-dance piece for London Musici, The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, and Rambert Dance Company (Artistic Director: Mark Baldwin) and a choral-orchestral work. The première was at The Lowry in Salford on the 25th September 2008.
Howard Goodall wrote – Most requiems are based on the medieval church’s Mass for the Dead. Although the traditional requiem text calls for ‘eternal peace, rest and light’ for those who have died, it also emphasises judgement and everlasting damnation for anyone who transgresses the Roman Catholic Church’s code of behaviour, as seen from the perspective of the Middle Ages. I did not feel at ease with this approach to the appalling pain of loss and grief, so in an attempt to provide some solace for the living that mourn, I stripped down the old Latin texts to a few phrases in each movement and laid beside them words from English poems from across the last 500 years, some sacred, some secular, to shed new light on the various requiem concepts: peace, everlasting light, grief, comfort, and, most controversial of all, faith in an afterlife … a recognition that the departed do live on in the minds, hearts and memories of others, that the love that existed between them and others is unbroken by death, and that the little we do know from those who have experienced near-death is that light is a powerful and universal sensation. … A view of death as a passage towards light … is what all those who have lost a loved one want to feel.
Following the performance, our Director Phil Wilcox wrote: “Musically, this was without doubt the most fulfilling concert I think we’ve done together and it was lovely to see and meet so many family members, friends, past choir members and locals who came to share in this wonderful piece.”
An audience member wrote: “I really enjoyed the Eternal Light: A Requiem tonight – it was beautiful and very moving and I will listen to a recording again. I thought it was interesting and very sensitively and imaginatively created.”
We continued meeting on Zoom, singing lighter pieces from musicals and folk songs to keep our spirits up. We produced two virtual choir performances, and commissioned Philip to produce a setting of a poem by Cicely Herbert, one of our members: ”Making Poems” which we spent some time on learning and it was wonderful to finally sing it in person when we started meeting again at the Gospel Oak Methodist Church in September.
At Christmas we recorded carols to feature in the St Anne’s Church virtual Nativity Service, and sang carols at Ash Court Care Home in Kentish Town.
Eternal Light: A Requiem
This concert was postponed due to Covid and has been re-scheduled for 2022.
Sunday 10th November 4.30pm at St Anne’s Highgate, foot of Highgate West Hill, N6 6AP
A selection of music on the theme of peace and remembrance. The varied programme includes a Maori love song, Hebrew Al Shlosha and a Gaelic blessing, For the Fallen, Greater love hath no man and Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep, Pipes of Peace and Imagine. We’re also singing the Greenham Common section of Benjamin Till’s Songs about the Weather which the choir commissioned for the Queens Diamond Jubilee in 2012. And the audience will be invited to join the choir in singing two hymns and a medley of songs from the First World War.
We are also singing The Good Friday Agreement set to music for this occasion by C.P.Salters. We will be Tweeting part of our rehearsal of these pieces around 3pm.
The Fleet Singers took part in the Christ Church Summer Concert Sunday 7 July 5-7pm along with the Belsize Community Choir, Christ Church School Choir and the Heath Street Baptist Church Minister. Individual members of the Fleet Singers also appeared with a recorder solo and in an excerpt from a play written by one of the altos. Our varied programme included three Rutter pieces, the German Wanderers Nachtlied which we didn’t have time to perform at the Armistice event, Amazing Grace, two contrasting Zulu songs, Pastime with Good Company once attributed to Henry VIII, Barbara Ann and Bring Me Sunshine. The concert was preceded by a Fair 2-4.30pm which included a Traidcraft stall run by the provider of Fairtrade treats for our Monday rehearsals.
Feel The Sprit
This spring term the Fleet Singers have been focusing on John Rutter’s Feel the Spirit, a fun, moving and challenging set of spirituals, which we’ll perform in a concert Sunday 31st March. The choir has really enjoyed working on some of the piece’s more challenging rhythms and harmonies under the guidance of our conductor Phil Wilcox and with the support of our brilliant pianist Philip Godfrey. In Phil’s absence, a couple of weeks before the concert, “Antoine DingDong” helped us clarify and energise the rhythms of Jericho, I got a Robe and When All the Saints. Rehearsals can be fun as well as hard work and we always have a sociable break with Fairtrade cuppa and biscuit or occasional celebratory cake.
Thanks to our Armistice Day programme, we didn’t start rehearsing Christmas music until 12 November. Rather than prepare a full concert programme for the end of term, we worked on arrangements of Christmas Carols which we sang in the Carol Service at Gospel Oak Methodist Church Sunday 16 December and the next day at East Finchley station. The station carol-singing had been organised by the charity Health Poverty Action under their Choirs for Change programme and we raised a fantastic £264.43 for our hour’s singing.
Armistice 100 November 2018
We were delighted to take part in the nationwide celebrations on Armistice Day, Sunday 11th November, for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1. Many choir members attended the Remembrance Day service at St Anne’s Highgate which included a procession to the war memorial on the grass in front of the church for the act of remembrance and 2-minute silence. The Last Post was played on the bugle. After the service, a little later than the planned 12 noon, we sang a varied selection of music on the theme of peace. We had to cut our programme short as it had to finish promptly at 12.30 but we were able to sing Al Shlosha in Hebrew, 2 short rounds in Italian and Latin, Siyahamba in Zulu, the Irish Danny Boy, John Lennon’s Imagine and Paul McCartney’s Pipes of Peace. The St Anne’s Tower Bell Ringers were taking part in the nationwide Ringing Remembers campaign, ringing from 12.30 to remember the 1,400 bell ringers killed in World War I. Wonderful to hear the bells as we sipped a drink in front of the church.
Fleet Singers Nautical Concert: Songs of the Fleet
For their last concert at the end of July, the Fleet Singers abandoned their usual black with a dash of blue and donned stripey tops and sailor hats for a nautical concert. In addition to the main work, Stanford’s Songs of the Fleet, there were some solos, some Purcell and G&S, one of the altos wandered round playing appropriate jigs on her violin and conductor Phil Wilcox engaged the audience in jolly communal singing of sea shanties. Refreshments and a supportive audience of family and friends old and new further contributed to another enjoyable evening at St Martin’s Gospel Oak.
Fleet Singers Summer Term
Following a successful concert before Easter, the first with our new professional conductor Phil Wilcox, the Fleet Singers summer term will have a nautical theme. The main work in the concert at the end of July will be Stanford’s Songs of the Fleet. New singers welcome – especially basses – free introductory rehearsal.
New Year, New Musical Director
Sad as we were to hear James Davey would be leaving us after the December 2017 concert, we were delighted to learn that Phil Wilcox would taking over as Musical Director in the New Year. We’d already experienced Phil’s conducting and coaching in a couple of rehearsals of the Stainer and three of the Britten and look forward to discovering new music with him in the months to come.
Fleet Singers Autumn Term
During the first few weeks of the autumn term we put considerable work into learning the multi-lingual South African National Anthem for Pam Gilby’s Memorial Service at Gospel Oak Methodist Church 8th October. The rest of the term we focused on Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols for a performance on Saturday 2nd December at St Martin’s NW5. The Ceremony of Carols is one of Britten’s best-known and most-performed works. Written in 1942 for 3-part children’s choir, the work is often heard sung by boy trebles but we sang a 4-part version for adult choir. Originally conceived as a series of unrelated songs, it was later unified into one piece with a framing chant based on the Gregorian Antiphon “Hodie Christus natus est”, heard at the beginning and the end. We filled the 2nd half of the concert with vocal and instrumental solos, readings and sing-along carols. During the interval we enjoyed mulled wine and mince pies and people were able to buy Fair Trade treats from the Traidcraft stall. This was our last concert with James Davey who’s been music director for the choir’s first 9 years but has now moved out of London and is pursuing other career developments. We were pleased to be able to say our goodbyes over a successful festive concert.
The Crucifixion by Sir John Stainer
This term we are working on The Crucifixion by Sir John Stainer.
Stainer was the organist and choirmaster at St Paul’s Cathedral from 1872-1888. He wrote several hymn tunes which are still well-known today, for example “Lead, kindly light” and the standard arrangements of some Christmas carols, including “Good King Wenceslas”. The Crucifixion is one of the most popular English choral works. The concert, where we will be accompanied by two professional soloists, will be on Sunday 2nd April at St Martin’s Vicars Road NW5 (time tbc).
We held a concert on December 2nd at the Gospel Oak Methodist Church with an interesting mixture of musical styles including Te Kaiwhakaora, a Maori chant with words that we found quite challenging to learn. There were carols for all, including James’ favourite “Good King Wenceslas”, and mulled wine and mince pies afterwards.
The Man in the Straw Hat
At 6.30pm Sunday 22nd March 2015 the church bells of St Anne’s Church, Highgate West Hill, rang out heralding a concert, The Man in the Straw Hat, under the auspices of the Fleet Singers, a local community choir. The concert was very well received!
The Fleet Singers commissioned a piece of music, Songs About the Weather, to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – it was performed in the old Hampstead Town Hall to a capacity audience. The composer was Benjamin Till, an English composer, director and film maker who works in the field of through composed musical documentary where contributors often tell their stories through the medium of specially written song. His works include Oranges and Lemons on the theme of London church bells which had in-depth coverage from BBC London, he has directed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and composed Hampstead Heath: The Musical which was nominated for a Royal Television Society award.
Benjamin has just completed a new composition for the choir based on the years John Betjeman spent in the Hampstead/Highgate area – it will be performed in St Anne’s Church, Highgate West Hill, the church where Betjeman was christened and in fact he lived as a child just opposite the church.
The lyrics of the composition are composed of poems written by local people at a poetry-writing workshop led by John Hegley – these poems follow the themes of some of Betjeman’s poems – the solo parts will be extracts from some of Betjeman’s own poems.
There will be an exhibition illustrating places mentioned in Betjeman’s poems on local places as well as extracts from the poems, both Betjeman’s and those written by local people.
“Deeply I loved thee, 31 West Hill”, wrote Sir John Betjeman about his childhood home. He was born in Lissenden Mansions and baptised in St Anne’s, and later vividly and wittily evoked North London in his poems. More than a century later, he and North London are celebrated in a new cantata: The Man in the Straw Hat, written on the 30th anniversary of his death, and performed in the same church.
Fleet Singers have commissioned this delightful piece with the support of an Arts Council grant. Local composer Benjamin Till, recipient of numerous awards in music and film, has set to music a selection of Betjeman’s best-loved poems about North London, as well as poems composed by choir members and local residents, including the well-known poets John Hegley and Cicely Herbert. Many of these were inspired by a poetry workshop at St Anne’s itself. The four-part cantata interweaves different musical styles that echo the themes of the chosen poems, through evocation of place (Parliament Hill, St Pancras) or mood (times past, lost love, the outsider).
The Man in the Straw Hat will bring together the choir with soloist Nathan Taylor and a string quintet, conducted by James Davey. A special art installation created by local artist Nathalie Frost and reflecting the poetry of John Betjeman will enhance the performance. And at 6.30 pm, the church bells, rarely heard nowadays, will be rung as a prelude to the performance and in memory of the man who was “summoned by bells”.
In the first half of the concert, Diana Aubrey and Roy Batt will read additional Betjeman poems, and Camden Youth Choir, conducted by Rosamond Savournin and Naomi Roper, will perform a selection of pieces, before joining in the premiere of this unique work.
The event is ticketless, but donations will be taken at the end towards the choir’s production costs.
Fleet Singers gratefully thank the Estate of John Betjeman for permission to use his poems, and Hampstead Wells and Campden Trust for their support for the art installation.
Poetry writing Workshop
Prequel to a new composition written by Benjamin Till about the life of John Betjeman – Betjeman spent his formative years in the Highgate/Hampstead area, he lived in Highgate West Hill opposite St Anne’sChurch (where he was baptised) as a child – this composition will celebrate his life, particularly his north London connections – some of Betjeman’s poems will be sung as solos but the remaining lyrics will be based on poems written by choir members and members of the public around the places Betjeman wrote about.
It will be led by John Hegley and Cicely Herbert, both accomplished workshop leaders – it will take place at St Anne’s Church, Highgate West Hill on Friday 11 July at 7.30pm, refreshments at 7pm. You think you can’t write poems, you would be surprised what you can do – come and have fun learning to do it.
Faure’s Requiem Sunday
The choir performed at St Anne’s Highgate West Hill. A well attended and acclaimed concert.
Revival of Songs About the Weather
A revival of Songs About the Weather, our commissioned work to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, attracted about 150 people and all the comments were very complimentary. We were joined by the Belsize Community Choir for part of the performance which meant that we were a large choir in St Anne’s Church, Highgate West Hill. It was an unmitigated success and tribute must be paid to Benjamin Till, the composer, who supported us throughout the rehearsals and as ever to James Davey, our talented director, who has made us what we are. Also to Philip Godfrey our faithful and accomplished accompanist.
Ode to Living Things
On Monday May 6th the choir gave a pre-premiere outing at the Southbank to Ode to Living Things, a cantata composed by the choir’s accompanist, Philip Godfrey, a well-known composer. We were assisted by the Camden Young Singers who sang from their own repertoire in the first half of the concert.
There were estimated to be not far short of 200 people in the audience and it received an enthusiastic ovation. There was an excellent review in the Ham & High.
As a community choir it was good to be able to include the Camden Young Singers, a young people’s choir run by the borough of Camden.
The official premiere is on Saturday 18 May at St Anne’s Church, bottom of Highgate West Hill, at 7pm. The Camden Young Singers and Camden Senior Singers, part of the 70-strong Camden Youth Choir will perform with us and will also perform several items from their own repertoire as well as several solo items.
The work is based partly on poems by Arthur Guiterman, Gerard Manley-Hopkins, Walter de la Mare and E E Cummings.
It is free but donations will be received for the Camden Music Service.
Diamond Jubilee Celebration
Songs about the weather reviews!
The Fleet Singers Diamond Jubilee concert on 16th June received glowing reviews in the local press.
Benjamin Till, the well-known composer, is writing a piece especially for the choir to celebrate the Jubilee – it is based on memories of the last 60 years from the choir as well as weather phenomena in the area in each of the six decades.
If you would like to learn a couple of pieces from it to sing with the choir in the evening come and join in.
11.30-13.00 : a workshop for beginners or less confident singers
14.00-15.30 : a practice for more seasoned singers
16.00-18.00 : dress rehearsal with full choir and accompaniment
19.00 : Jubilee event (£4 entry)
During the day it will be possible to create small pieces of artwork to add to the panels created by Fleet School in advance.
Get those vocal chords working!
Make those creative talents active!
Marie Curie Fundraiser at St Pancras International
The choir sang at St Pancras International for the Marie Curie hospice. It attracted quite a passing and standing audience and over £400 was collected in one hour!
South End Green Festival
A community festival was held at South End Green on Saturday 26 June 2011. The whole area was closed to traffic for the day. The choir sang as part of the entertainment during the afternoon presenting a mixed programme of folk songs.
Not an April Fool, the choir sang at St Pancras Church – we joined with other choirs conducted by our director, James Davey, to sing excerpts from the Messiah. A great tribute to us was that James Davey said our choir would be and was the best there and we sang several parts by ourselves – a very moving work which we enjoyed.
Camden’s Unsung Heroes Award
The Fleet Singers were nominated, and have been awarded Camden’s Unsung Heroes Award. The award ceremony is at the Roundhouse on Monday 28th March.
The Fleet Singers held their Christmas concert at Gospel Oak Methodist Church on Sunday afternoon, 12 December. There was a varied programme of Christmas pieces and there was audience participation in a number of well-known carols. It was attended by a good representation from the local community.
The choir travelled to Ealing on 15th May to sing at the annual Sangerstevne which draws choirs from all over Europe as well as Britain – we had a 20 minute slot but it was also an experience to hear such a variety of other choirs.
On 9th May 2010 the choir joined Voicelab, a feature of the Southbank, which brings together various choirs from all over London, to give an evening performance, usually of a well-known piece of vocal classical music, following an afternoon of rehearsals. This was the choir’s first experience of this and it was an inspiring event which gave a taste of singing as part of a very large choir to a large audience.
Fundraiser for Marie Curie hospice
At Oriel Place, Hampstead on 13th March 2010
BBC Hallelujia Project
On 29th November the choir participated in the Hallelujia Project which was set up by the BBC; they sang Handel’s Hallelujia Chorus from the Messiah at the ecumenical carol service at St Martin’s Lismore Circus, Gospel Oak, just before Christmas.
BBC Radio 3 Mendelssohn Weekend
BBC Radio 3 featured a weekend on Mendelssohn to celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth. As part of that weekend they invited choirs throughout the country to register to sing Hear My Prayer my Mendelssohn
The Fleet Singers took part and were recorded by BBC Radio 3 and featured in a broadcast on the afternoon of May 11th.
About 24 members of the choir took part in a Learn Something New weekend at the Barbican over the weekend of 7th and 8th of March.
We joined with the Bell Boys (Les Grooms) a group from Paris who have a very innovative programme to bring classical music within the reach and understanding of ordinary people – they also perform lighter music. The group we were with had a brass band.
On Saturday we promenaded round streets very local to the Barbican with a considerable following. We sang a negro spiritual outside Waitrose there, posing as shoppers! Then we sang the Drinking Song from La Traviata.
On Sunday we promenaded round the Barbican itself with the same programme. It was a wonderful experience and has helped to create a united and committed choir.